A blessed life enriched in Catholic education

| Posted on TrentonMonitor.com May 8, 2015 |

By Sister Dorothy Payne – Lent 2015 presented me with a unique opportunity for more reflection and “think time” as I began cancer treatments and had to cut back on my ministry time as president of Trenton Catholic Academy.  When asked to write an article for The Monitor, I was tempted to respond, “I’m just not up to it.”  But my life as a Sister of St. Joseph has been richly “blessed,” so I really had no excuse.

Unlike many young women, I did not enter religious life right after high school as my family wanted me to be exposed to other opportunities.  So I waited.

I truly felt that God was calling me to religious life.   I was extremely involved in high school and parish activities, spending many hours doing community service.

A major decision I faced was the choice of a religious community.  At first I considered foreign missions but realized this was not the right choice for me.  I was a city girl. My home parish was staffed by the Felician Sisters and my high school, Holy Family Academy, was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  I seriously considered both religious orders before making my final decision.

When I told my friends I was going to enter religious life, they thought I would not stay long because I was so active and involved in life.  God had different plans for me!

For more than five decades, as a Sister of St. Joseph, God’s hand has held me close and guided me in various missions and Catholic education opportunities.  As a teacher, principal, associate superintendent and school president, I have had the opportunity to instruct, lead and share my experiences with numerous individuals in various dioceses.

I believe very strongly that quality Catholic education is vital to the life and future of our Church. As a woman religious who has been blessed to grow throughout  the many changes in our Church, I believe it is necessary for women religious to continue their presence in schools; providing students with educational opportunities to better themselves, encouraging them to give back to their Church their talents and treasures and making this world a better place for future generations.

The reality of life is that with its blessing also comes challenges.  Religious life is no different. Adjusting to living with other women can present chances for growth and dependence on God. I can honestly say no matter how hard the situation I encountered, I also found peace, happiness and support.  While serving as principal of a school, I was close enough to drive home nightly to care for my dying mother.  Our nightly chats were sacred moments for me as my mother, from her bed, strengthened my faith, gave me courage and taught me acceptance of God’s will.

I often quote her words today to individuals who share their concerns with me. As young religious, we learned from our older sisters teaching techniques and methods that permitted us to teach the huge number of students in our classrooms.  Someone was always there to help us with any problem.   When speaking with new teachers today I remind them of the privilege and responsibility they have to teach in a Catholic school and how important good role modeling is for today’s students.

I truly love being involved in Catholic education.  I am grateful for the many blessings that God has given to me and want to share it with as many people as possible. When I receive a phone call, note, email or Facebook message from a former student or parent I feel richly rewarded.  These messages let me know that the hours I spent preparing classes, marking papers, encouraging and yes, even correcting students, was all worth it.

After five decades, I still love what I do, am blessed to be a Sister of St. Joseph and strongly believe that quality Catholic education is essential to changing the world.  I encourage all young women today who think they may have a religious vocation to pray, seek spiritual guidance and be open to the call of God in their lives.

Sister Dorothy Payne is a former associate superintendent of the Diocese of Trenton and president of Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton.

Pride and Joy

Serving in Catholic education has been the focal point of Sister Dorothy Payne’s ministry in religious life. In this 2013 photo, she joyfully congratulates a graduating senior from Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton. Joe Moore photo

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