Sr. Cathy’s Story

I am a catholic nun from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and it is one of the priorities of my congregation to work with women that are in the margins. That is why I’m here and how I can be here, because my community supports me. I personally have a real passion for working with women and helping them see the gifts that they have and I believe SC LAMP is the perfect place for me to do that.

My favorite part about teaching English is encouraging the women to see that they already have the skills they need, it’s already in them by the time they reach level three which is what I teach. They just need to have the confidence to use it and I try my best to really pull it out of them and show them they already have the ability to speak it. Half of the problem is that they don’t have the confidence to use it, and when they do, they come and tell me stories of how they use their English and how their husbands were surprised that this English came out of them. You can just tell how thrilled they are, whether they were able to help someone on the bus or they go to these health fairs and they see how long the Spanish speaking line is, so they decide to give the English line a try because it’s so short and they are just thrilled that they had no problem understanding. Also, because I am about empowering women in total, I know this is going to have an impact on their lives in all aspects, that and because I think language, whatever language it is, I think we need to be able to articulate who we are. And so even if I were teaching them Spanish it would be to try to express who they are. In English, if they don’t have the words, it can be very frustrating and to have two languages that you could express who you are and be who you are is significant to me.

The most challenging part of what I do is when I know they have it in them, and I am talking about the ones who have the most motivation, but circumstances, whether it’s the discouragement they get from home, often their partners or other family members, the discouragement they get makes it difficult for them to do it. But most times, I find that they are really upbeat with me and I think it’s because the English is about them and not about their problems. They are usually very cheerful despite their problems.

By the time the women are ready to transition from the program, I hope to see that they have confidence and ease in speaking whatever English they speak. I’m always telling them that this is high level survival English but my goal is that what I do with them is to help them, if they so choose to pursue a GED or go to a community college. I would like to see them communicate who they are and live full lives.

Anytime I have the chance, I share with the people about how much I love being here. What I talk about, is the uniqueness of SC LAMP, the fact that the children and the mothers have the opportunity to be here together and that’s what makes the program so unique.

I recognize that this is a small organization and I recognize that it is harder to service a larger group given our situation and how the program is run, because it’s family literacy and you can only have so many people, but I really believe we do far more because these women, if this is how they feel about themselves then they will pass it on to their children and so forth. So, it is really much bigger than the cost effectiveness. I really do believe that.