Up Front and Personal

The Power of One Good Teacher

By Carol Powell

Another saint has gone to Heaven. She redefined for me the meaning of holiness. I met her when I was in the sixth grade. It was the year of my Confirmation and she was my sixth-grade teacher and catechist. The day we walked into sixth grade, my classmates and I were very disappointed because we were looking forward to having another teacher. Well, we weren’t disappointed for long. Sister Agnes Vincent, C.S.J., or Sister Anne Behre, C.S.J., (she later returned to her baptismal name) was the best teacher any of us ever had. Effervescent, lively beyond belief, blessed with a wonderful sense of humor and love of teaching, she made the school day as happy as it was educational. Once when I was sick, I actually begged my mother to let me go to school because I didn’t want to miss one minute of Sister Anne’s class.

This was testimony to how well she taught. When we were having final exams, my mother said to me, “You are having tests this week. How come I don’t see you studying?” I replied, “I don’t have to. I know everything.” To which my doubtful mother replied, “Let me see what you know.” She took the books, asked me questions and yes, I did know everything. It’s true, I was a good student, but in every other year, I had to study. Sister Anne made learning fun. She was encouraging and made us feel like we could accomplish anything.

But it was her devotion and her love of God, which moved me most. When she told stories from the Bible, she made them live for us. She moved me to want to love God as she did. She gave me a new understanding of what holiness is. She was holy in a marvelously down-to-earth way. She actually jumped rope with us. In the old habit, that was quite a sight.

We students followed her wherever she went and fought to carry her school bag. We were always arguing with each other over who could walk beside her. She’d laugh and quote the words of St. John, “Little children, love one another.” Then she would tell us that the biggest person was the one who apologized first. We’d argue over who was going to apologize first.

She told me that her life at that time had been very difficult since she had to go home after class to help her sick mother. She said she never had time to prepare her classes. What a wonderful example of how the Holy Spirit uses us, when we are not up to par, if we are open to the Spirit’s inspiration.

Sister Anne loved her God. She loved her students. She was a shining example of the Holy Spirit’s gift of joy. She inspired her students to be what she was, a true witness to the God of love.

The last time I saw Sister Anne was on Dec. 3, the feast of St. Francis Xavier. We reminisced about the past and I told her once gain how much she had inspired me. As I was leaving, I noticed an unbelievable sparkle in her beautiful eyes. I had a feeling this was our last meeting on Earth. Sadly, I was right. “Pray for me,” I said as I was walking out the door. “I always do,” she whispered softly.

Sister Anne died on Jan. 13.

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