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Ellen Baker-Longawa, Hammond, Indiana: “Good example is the best teacher.”

This Rooted for Tomorrow story was contributed by Ellen Baker-Longawa, Hammond, Indiana, for the 175th anniversary of the Sisters of Providence arriving in Indiana.

My favorite Sister of Providence was Sr. Marie Annette Doody. Sr. Marie Annette was my teacher for both fifth and sixth grade at St. Joseph Grade School in Hammond, Indiana.

I was sent to first grade when I was very young, mostly because I could read and write by the time I was four. As a result, I was very immature compared to my classmates. Sister always found little things for me to do to help her around the classroom to keep me from getting into trouble. She was very progressive for her time in the way that she taught religion. It is because of her that I became a Theology teacher myself, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology through the WED program at SMWC and a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Theology from Loyola University, Chicago. Sister Marie Annette really loved the Lord and communicated that to all of her students.

When I was in fourth grade I told her I wanted to be a sister and she told me to go to college first, fall in love, and then decide if I wanted to be a sister. If I still wanted to become a sister then I would know I had a vocation to religious life if, among all my life choices, religious life still beckoned. That was incredibly wise advice. Rather than let me lock myself into a particular future when I was only eight or nine years old, she invited me to grow up, explore my options and chose from a variety of them.

Sister’s favorite line in the classroom was, “Good example is the best teacher.” So wise, and so simple.

The Sisters of Providence supported and enriched my Catholic upbringing. I remember learning about the “anecdotal / foundational religious myth” interpretation of the Book of Genesis way back in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the mid-1960’s. The Second Vatican Council was inviting people to look at Scripture in a new way and the Sisters of Providence who taught me were well prepared to instruct their students in the newest theological teaching.

I owe so much of who I am and what I have done to the Sisters of Providence, particularly Sister Marie Annette Doody. Through the prayers and spiritual exercises she practiced with her classes, she made me want to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus. For that I am eternally grateful.

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Paul Beel

Paul worked for the Sisters of Providence for 10 years, first as a Systems Analyst in the Information Technology department and as a photographer/digital media/web developer in the Missions Advancement office. He is a graduate of Indiana State University with a degree in electronics technology.

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