“Nuns! Nuns! Nuns!”

As a teacher at a Catholic school in Long Beach, California, I feel greatly blessed to be able to discuss Christ in the classroom. In fact, the moments I look forward to the most are the religious encounters I share with my students...

As a teacher at a Catholic school in Long Beach, California, I feel greatly blessed to be able to discuss Christ in the classroom. In fact, the moments I look forward to the most are the religious encounters I share with my students and the questions that arise from them for us all.

November 17th was such a day. Guido and Nancy proposed that two Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo visit my students for the morning. I started preparing the students for this visit by asking them to think of questions they would want to ask Sr. Elena and Sr. Maria Anna. The list was practically endless, as each class of sixth, seventh, or eighth graders tried to outdo the other classes by asking the most questions. They ranged from questions about vocation to the sisters’ interests. Such questions included “Are you happy being a religious sister?” “Why did you choose to become a Missionary Sister of St. Charles Borromeo? What inspired you to do so?” “Who is your favorite saint?” “Why do you wear the clothes you wear?” “Have you read the whole Bible? Do you know it really, really well?” “How often do you eat pizza?” “What’s your favorite type of eggs” and “Do you like polar bears?” The final three questions were of the variety that were saved in case there was extra time to discuss, and, in spite of their random nature, I find them beautiful because they demonstrate the dynamism and endless curiosity of my students.

As the morning began, each class started with similar questions about the sisters’ place of birth and choice of their religious order. The students were taken by the sisters’ presence and words. They desired deeply to know what drives one to become a religious sister. Sr. Maria Anna’s words depicted her experience in Communion and Liberation and her desire to stay with the friends that had brought her so much joy. This led her to choose to be a Missionary Sister of St. Charles Borromeo. Sr. Elena shared with us that they became nuns to follow their vocation. It is the manner through which they live what they have been called by God to do. Both shared their favorite saints, which really resonated with the students to the point that they still bring these saints up as “the nuns' favorites.” The eight graders especially remembered the sisters’ sharing that prayer comes before anything in their day, the sixth graders still bring up what Sr. Elena shared about her guardian angel, and the seventh graders were amazed at the sacrifices accompanying the vows taken by the sisters.

During recess, the three of us received a surprise that can only come from an encounter students had with Christ’s presence through the sisters. As we walked down the hallway, a dozen third grade girls began to exclaim, “Nuns! Nuns! Nuns!” in their adorable, high-pitched voices. The smiles on all our faces grew as the girls asked the sisters various questions and were enthralled by their presence. Little Lauren said to the three of us, “I was a nun in the Sound of Music last year, and this is the best day of my life because I met a nun!” She meant those words with all her heart. Last week, I was surprised by a hug by Lauren as I walked down the hallway and I asked her if she still thought about the nuns. She nodded with a big smile and said, “All the time!” Lauren and so many other students that morning experienced what is True; they were able to meet two women who have been so moved by the love of God that they are dedicating their lives to sharing that love with everyone.

Following this wonderful meeting, I took the sisters to visit the third grade classroom. As soon as they walked in, the entire class gasped and the several students started bounding in their chairs, giddy with excitement at their presence.

After the sisters concluded with third grade, the seventh graders were able to ask them their various questions. By the time lunchtime began, the seventh grade girls were so captivated by the sisters that most of them stayed on the playground outside with the sisters during their lunchtime and asked more questions for another half hour.

The sisters’ visit was followed by creative and thoughtful thank you cards made by the students, as well as profound reflections on how they were impacted to “try to be a better Christian” and “get more involved with [their] Catholic community.”

There are some instances and people that remain with a person for a lifetime and forever mark the heart. This was such a moment for many of my students, and I pray that it continues to inspire them in their lives as they recall how they encountered Christ’s love on that day.