It seems that I have had four lives. I am 76 years of age and see that my life has had four tasks–first, my life at home growing up. Second, living as a member of a religious order for 18 years. Third was furthering my education to become a college professor, and fourth is my present life of developing a deeper spirituality and wisdom.
As the eighth child of a former Christian minister who had embraced Catholicism, I grew up in a chaotic household of four sisters and three brothers. Mother had to manage everything in a family of VERY strong-willed individuals. Our father worked as an associate editor of a Catholic newspaper. The marriage collapsed after many strains, and our parents divorced when I was five.
Through study of the life of St. Thomas Aquinas, I became attracted to his theology and the Dominican Order, so at 19 I joined up. At 20, I went out to teach with very little college or other preparation. It was strictly On the Job Training and we had larger classes of 55 or more in a Chicago suburb. People were moving out of the city into our area, and we were in a new parish with only a school building. At one point, I had 60 students in the morning for 3 hours, and 60 more in afternoon sessions. The children had lots of homework and most parents made sure they did it. It was difficult, but I was young and foolish! Nobody had told me the situation was impossible!
I taught 4 years in Chicago, 8 years in N.J., 3 years back in IL, and 3 years in Minneapolis. At the last place, I was having health problems and realized that overwork was covering up some basic dissatisfactions. I left the order and started to make my own way in the world.
While teaching in an elementary school, I got my MS degree and then went away for an Ed.D. for 2 years. Loans helped me do this. It was a luxury to study full-time, because I had always taught full-time and had gone to school on weekends and during summers. After getting my doctorate, I was hired as a college teacher at a state college in CO. That was my third life task, which lasted 20 years.
Now I’ve embarked on a more serene phase–concentrating on cultivating a deeper spirituality. I believe God gives us life tasks to accomplish. For many people it involves finding a life partner, raising a family, and pursuing a career. For me, it has occurred in 4 stages, each one having its own joys, hardships, and satisfactions. I have experienced God’s help and guidance in all four, and am grateful for it all, for it has brought me to this phase, the best one of all.