Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sr. Ruth Marie Behrend (OSU), My First Grade Teacher at St. William's, 1954-55

In one of the miracles of the internet, Tim Behrend, who has worked and lived in Indonesia and New Zealand, has sent me a photo of his aunt, Sister Ruth Marie Behrend, my first grade teacher at St. William's in Euclid. Sr. Ruth Marie is an Ursuline nun and she taught me during the academic year of 1954-55, when I was six years old. There were about 60 kids in our first grade class. These were the baby boom years, and there were lots of kids in Euclid, Ohio. Families were larger then, especially Catholic families. We had five children in our family, along with Mom and Dad, living in a one-bathroom bungalow on East 266 Street --our situation was made even more crowded when our alcoholic uncles, the twins Dick and Don Fitzpatrick, and Uncle Jack Coughlin, lived with us (they lived with all the relatives, until they were kicked out; and then they eventually came back--the cycle went on and on).

How did Sr. Ruth Marie handle 60 squirming little six-year-olds? Tim Behrend tells me that Sr. Ruth Marie herself had not even graduated from college at the time. It's possible she was only 20 years old or so when she had this heavy teaching responsibility.

I cannot say exactly what she did for me--that we can never know precisely. But between my parents, my wider family, and my teachers, I became a well-educated person and a person who passionately cares about justice and about the poor. Also, I became a thoughtful (though not mindless) Catholic-Christian. Some of that must be thanks to Sr. Ruth Marie and the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland. They took on an impossible task and did a fine job with it. Thank You! Deo Gratias!

Sr. Ruth Marie Behrend, OSU (1950s?)

Postscript. For parts of my adult life, I have worked with the poor, and now the homeless and hungry. I wonder if my experience with my beloved (yet alcoholic) uncles, Dick, Don, and Jack, helped me to see the goodness in such people.

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