The Education of Our Young Religious Teachers (1949)
Presented at the Forty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the National Catholic Educational Association in 1949, this article by Sister M. Madeleva, C.S.C., argues for better professional training of sister-teachers. The article is centered around a hypothetical high school graduate poised to enter religious life whom Sister Madeleva calls “Lucy Young.”
Please read the following excerpts, or follow this link to the full text.
“Let us consider a hypothetical high school graduate. Let us call her Lucy Young. She wants to be a teacher. To realize her desire on any level she knows that she will have to have a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s license. [...] She expects to fulfill the minimum professional requirements for teaching. Any other procedure would be a sort of treason disqualifying her for the thing she wishes to do. Before she begins her preparation she finds that she would rather be a teacher for God’s sake than for two hundred dollars a month. She enters the novitiate of a religous community dedicated to education” (p. 253).
“Lucy and her companions are our most priceless and irreplaceable materials in the whole world of education. Let us treat them with much more than the care and caution bestowed on centers of atomic energy. Let us keep them out of the categories of our vacuum cleaners and our Bendix washers” (p. 254).
“We need but consider for a moment that the material in our habits is some of the most expensive cloth made. We argue that it wears a long time. So does education. If we can afford to clothe Lucy’s body, we can also afford to clothe her mind” (p. 255).
“If all our religious communities begin this year to complete the education of our young sisters before sending them out to teach, practically all of the immediate generation will have their degrees and licenses in two years. [...] Summer schools thereafter can be devoted to graduate work, particularly in theology, and Sister Lucy will still be “young Sister Lucy” when her teacher training has been completed. She will have the vitality, the enthusiasm, the quick mind and generosity of youth to give to her best years of teaching. How shortsighted, how stupidly extravagant we have been in squandering these!” (p. 255).
“We would not be permitted to put a sister who is half prepared or unprepared on duty as a nurse. The care of minds is of much greater importance than the care of bodies. If we can take time to complete the professional training of our sister-nurses we can take time to complete the professional training of our sister-teachers” (p. 256).
“Let us remember that Lucy and her generation have been fed on the Blessed Sacrament all their lives. They have grown up on the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. They are militant in Catholic action. They think and move with the instancies of aviation and television. They think in terms of super-atomic power. They are in spirit and in truth children of God. We must form and educate them in terms of these potencies. We must not frustrate the magnificence of their qualities by our low-geared Victorian traditions and training” (p. 256).
1. On page 253, Sister Madeleva states that Lucy “would rather be a teacher for God’s sake than for two hundred dollars a month.” How does this statement help illuminate one of the differences between religious and lay teachers?
2. What does Sister Madeleva mean when she writes on page 254, “Let us keep them [Sister Lucy and her companions] out of the categories of our vacuum cleaners and our Bendix washers”? (Note: Bendix was a brand of automatic washing machine for laundry.) What does the author imply about how sister-teachers are treated?
3. On page 255, Sister Madeleva brings up the expensive fabric out of which habits are traditionally made. She argues, “If we can afford to clothe Lucy’s body, we can also afford to clothe her mind.” In this metaphor, what is the “clothing” for Lucy’s mind?
4. Does Sister Madeleva belong to the same generation as Sister Lucy? Provide textual support for your answer.
5. In your opinion, is the analogy to nursing on page 256 appropriate? Why or why not?
6. Sister Madeleva makes serveral references to contemporary technology (e.g., on pages 254 and 256). Does she see technology as a positive or a negative force?