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Giving her whole self to music

This article is reprinted from the summer 2009 issue of HOPE.

Sister Carol assists a student with the proper fingering technique for playing the violin.

A Sister of Providence since 1951, Sister Carol Nolan has been teaching music since 1953. She was the first music teacher at Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove, Ill., taught at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for 29 years and in elementary schools for 12 years.

“One thing that has kept me energized is having been able to teach at several levels,” she said. “This is very enriching and has helped me see how music is entwined with everything — history, language, math and science — every aspect of culture.”

However, she is surprised to be teaching music in her current ministry, Providence in the Desert in the Coachella Valley, Calif. As she talked with people in this Hispanic community while she was building the ministry the parents requested music lessons for their children. “I surely didn’t expect to teach it here! I think they understand that music and the arts give children something that they can’t get any other way.”

Sister Carol teaches three small instrumental classes a week. She also teaches music to more than 100 third-grade students each week.

“Listening to music is like praying: you have to give your whole self to it,” said Sister Carol. She thinks teaching music gives an awareness of beauty, especially aural beauty.

“Children like to hear a good sound,” she said. “And they like to know they are making one.”

Developing a relationship with everyone in her life, especially students and family, is important to her. This is evident as one energetic fifth-grade violin student shows Sister Carol photos of her infant sibling as she pulls out her notebook for music class.

The student talks about how she’s worried about her mother and father who had not returned from a trip to Mexico. Sister Carol offers comfort to the young violinist and then it’s off to tuning instruments and leading the class in practicing the notes.

“To me, children are like budding flowers, beautiful and fragile. It is a great honor and a responsibility to work with them.”

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Cheryl Casselman

Cheryl Casselman worked as a marketing manager for the Sisters of Providence for twenty years. She grew up in Camby, Indiana and now lives in Sullivan County, Indiana. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Indiana State University and master's degree in Leadership Development from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

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