Patty Unleashed

Patty Unleashed: 4.5.17

I am not the most religious person, so it seems odd that two of the most influential people in my life are Sisters of Loretto. The first is Sr. Georgeann Hanson, who had the misfortune of being my teacher during my angst-filled high school years. I spent much of my time trying to figure out how I could single-handedly change the world so that we could be like the Coke commercial, you know, everyone in ‘perfect harmony.’

The second person is Sr. Barbara Roche. She didn’t come into my life until my mid-30s. By that time, I was well into a thriving career with a family and without much extra time, but somehow she convinced me I really wanted to help her raise money for my alma mater, Nerinx Hall. I didn’t, but I did it. If you are Catholic, you never say no to a nun.

Seventeen years ago, seven Catholic religious communities established Marian Middle School, and Sr. Barbara was one of the founding members. The school’s goal is to educate girls for life and “to break the cycle of poverty by fostering their spiritual, academic, social, moral, emotional and physical development.” Oh, and they do this at little or no cost to the parents. And by the way, they don’t have a single major donor but lots of smaller donors to make sure their budget is met each year. And the ‘educating for life’ is not something that is just printed on T-shirts; they are serious. Most of the girls move to a single-sex high school, then college, then a career. All while receiving support from Marian, whether it’s financial, academic or career-related.

I spent a few hours hanging out with the girls the other day, and instead of telling me everything they were learning in school (the students from Marian usually graduate a reading level higher than their own), they talked about their Quest projects. These allow them to explore outside interests. One student’s group is taking apart an old motorcycle and putting it back together again. Why? Well, to prove that they can! One is refinishing old furniture for people moving into their first homes. Another young woman is creating new pieces from unsalvageable furniture. Two are working on website development, and one young woman is knitting scarves for the homeless. And finally, there was a writer. Her group is learning about PR. She thought the initials stood for public restoration, and upon reflection, I think she has aptly renamed the field of public relations. Let me remind you, they are in middle school.

When I was in high school and I used to moan to Sr. Georgeann about my life, she would ask me two questions: What can I do about the problem and What will I do about the problem? Life was about choices. In many ways, those seven religious communities made the choice 17 years ago to stop talking about the importance of educating young women caught in a cycle of poverty and take care of it without a commitment from anyone other than themselves. Kind of gutsy for a bunch of nuns, don’t you think? They clearly are striving for that ‘perfect harmony.’ Check out marianmiddleschool.org.

This column may be light on laughs, but I hope it is informative. I do have to fulfill my promise of one chuckle a column, so here it is: What did one DNA say to the other DNA? Do these genes make my butt look big?

Contact Patty at phannum@townandstyle.com. 

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