Sister Dorothea

She was a ghost of a woman with a pale white paper face wrapped in a black habit, cold blue eyes framed by horn rimmed glasses, and she was always watching even when she wasn’t looking. There was no escaping her between the hours from 8 am to 3 in the afternoon. From the first bell to the last, every kid at St Ignatius Elementary was hers.

But her reach extended further than that. She would notice if you weren’t at Mass on Sunday. She knew your family history. She had the power to discover all your sins, even ones you committed on the walk home from school, even ones you committed only in your mind.

She wasn’t all convent grade blue steel. She’d been known to cry, but only when telling gruesome and fantastic tales of the suffering of Capital S Saints of the canonized variety.

I witnessed this once when she read aloud a brief biography of Sainte Germaine who was treated cruelly and banished from her home by her stepmother. Sainte Germaine devoted her life to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, then died on a bed of vine twigs at the age of 22. Such is the life of saints. Occasionally they get to play with animals or write books, but they frequently meet a sad and/or grisly death.

Perhaps this is why Sister Dorothea had little affection for the well fed farm children of Lambert. They’re suffering was far too minuscule, but her devotion to rectifying these deficiencies was legendary in the hallway and on the playground of St Ignatius.

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