Martha Brennan: Trusting in Providence
“Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful.” — Saint Mother Theodore Guerin
“I like this quote because it’s realistic and down to earth. Mother Theodore had a very good sense of just how hard — and great — life was and her words and wisdom speak to me about enduring life’s struggle in order to realize life’s rewards. And sometimes the way is just not clear and the best we can do is grope,” reflected Martha Brennan, a planned giver to the Congregation who resides in Louisville, Ky.
Martha sees life’s struggles every day in her job as a high school English teacher at Waggener Traditional High School in Louisville.
“Waggener is a Title I school, and the majority of my students are at-risk students — many ‘free and reduced lunch,’ non-native English speakers and other minorities,” said Martha, a 1986 English graduate of Saint Maryof- the-Woods College (SMWC). “It’s hard, demanding, messy work, but I am constantly amazed that I ‘get’ from my students more than I will ever be able to ‘give’ to them,” continued Martha, who was first introduced to the Sisters of Providence as a student at Cathedral High School, Indianapolis.
Martha had to grope along slowly in order to find a career for which she is passionate. After graduating from SMWC in 1986, she worked for the Congregation’s Communications Office, the forerunner of the Mission Advancement office (OCA).
“It was through this work that I came to understand my ‘calling’ to share the gifts and talents I have been given and have developed,” said Martha, whose lifepartner, Sheila Galvin, is a 1987 SMWC graduate and a special education teacher.
Martha soon understood that her calling was in the classroom. But before she could follow this calling, she returned to SMWC to earn an education certificate. Martha commenced teaching in 2005 and during four summers, she earned a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College in Vermont.
Due to her passion about teaching at-risk students, Martha is very interested in the Congregation’s Indianapolis ministry at Providence Cristo Rey High School.
“The current education problems within our society are the symptoms of our country’s growing problem with poverty — the growing gap between the rich and the poor. I see it every day in my classroom and my school. To me, Cristo Rey is a ministry that is trying, in a small way, to provide quality education to the most neediest in our society which can only be a positive effort in closing the gap between the rich and poor, educated and uneducated,” said Martha. She could also be speaking about what she and her Waggener colleagues strive to do every day, too.
Martha’s Catholic faith, her parents and the Sisters of Providence have all helped to form her into the person and teacher that she is. “Fortunately, both my parents and the Sisters of Providence bestowed a value system in me that nurtured a sense of how to treat others fairly and justly in this world and share the gifts and talents that were given to me from a divine source,” said Martha. “The sisters provided me, and still provide today, a model of how to ‘be’ in this world through their acts of love, mercy and justice,” said Martha, who generously supports the Congregation and has remembered the sisters in her will.
“It’s one of the ways that I can possibly give back all that I have received from them and help [them] to sustain their mission. The SPs do vitally important work in this world.”
Martha’s life isn’t all seriousness. Yes, she likes to read, and she also enjoys traveling, playing a little golf, walking and doing genealogical work. She recently purchased a motor scooter that she affectionately calls her “Mid-life Crisis Toy” that she tools around on.
Just like most everyone else, Martha’s path hasn’t always been clear, but she gropes along slowly and trusts in Providence.