It is an honor for me to tell this story of a gracious lady during the week following Easter and Passover, who happens to be a Sister of Divine Providence at Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Solomons. Sister Carolyn Marie is truly loved by the children and families of this Parish and is always with a smile that reflects her happy disposition. Having been taught by nuns as a youngster, I learned long ago not to let that sweet appearance and charm fool you, for should you cross one of them by breaking rules or telling a fib, that smile can turn to instant terror for a young lad! Fortunately, this good Sister and I have always been on good terms since her arrival to “Our Lady” in 2012 and have always remained quite close.
Sister Carolyn Marie is a “Religious who happens to teach”. She was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and was taught by the same Sisters of Divine Providence Order that established the Solomons school in 1933. She comes from a large Catholic family and is the eldest of the seven children. As the oldest, she can remember at the age of eight of becoming their “teacher” during the summer months by holding class in the basement of their home. And it was this experience that played a big part in her decision to become a “real” teacher later in life.
While in elementary school, she became intrigued by “these mysterious, joyful women who she admired from a distance”. By sixth grade, little Carolyn had joined the Girl Scouts and often would stop by her church following meetings. She was curious to find the Sisters would be there with their arms extended in the form of a cross. She later realized this was how they prayed together and she started to feel a “connection”. Then in the eighth grade, she joined some of her friends on a tour of the convent and that is when she knew she wanted to “enter the convent” even though she had no clue of what she was getting into!!!
As a teenager, she attended high school at Our Lady of Providence Academy across the Ohio River in Kentucky. This school was run by the same order of nuns and they were making a lasting impression on her. She was attracted by their spirit and the joy they always showed the students and others. At the age of 14, with the blessing of her mom and dad, she entered the convent thinking she would instantaneously become a “Sister”! To her great surprise, it would take four years of high school, a year as a “novitiate” and another five or six years of work before taking her final vow. I learned from Sister there never really is a true “final” vow, rather it’s more of a series of daily “yeses” that produce a vocation. Looking back, she never has regretted her decision to follow Christ each day of her life. She still begins each day by asking the Lord “show me what you want me to do”.
Sister’s nearly forty four years as an educator has taken her from teaching positions in several Kentucky towns to Bethesda, Maryland and Savannah, Georgia, plus a month in Madagascar at a mission school run by her Order. And fortunately for the families here in the southern part of the County, her journey bought her to Solomons where she has served as a Fifth Grade teacher and Principal. This wonderful teacher has made a big difference since her arrival. Her students come from many varied backgrounds and many different Christian faiths and they all have done really well in this Christian based educational facility. The Our Lady Star of the Sea School “Ospreys” have gained a strong reputation each year in the County Spelling Bee, often earning one or more of the top three spots in this annual competition involving students from all the public and parochial schools throughout Calvert County. The school’s Science Fair produces really imaginative and creative projects, some that are at the high school level of expertise. And she has become one of the biggest boosters for the “Ospreys” athletic teams! Importantly, upon graduation from eighth grade, her students go on to great scholastic achievement and honors at St. Mary’s Ryken, Patuxent, and Calvert High Schools. She has truly been a positive influence on all these young people!
One of the biggest things that struck me as I delved into her background was to learn of her vast educational accomplishments. Carolyn Marie, like many religious men and women of all faiths, is well prepared for her role as an educator. Sister earned a BA in Education from Thomas More College and gained her Master’s in Education from Xavier University in Cincinnati. She also earned a Certificate in Administration from Northern Kentucky University and commented that all this work involved classroom teaching and old fashioned book learning. Obviously no internet or webinar credits for this lady! She is amazed that so many people do not realize the great amount of work, education and dedication it takes to respond to a religious vocation. Plus one needs to take into account the commitment and choice it takes to follow Christ each day of one’s life!
Sister Carolyn Marie, you have impressed me with your preparation and your abilities. I would like to confide in you that one of my greatest heroes and a huge influence on my life is Saint Elizabeth Seton, the co-founder, along with the 1st Catholic US Bishop John Carroll, of the Catholic education system in the States. Their efforts led to the first parochial schools in our country originating here in Maryland in the early part of the 18th Century. She is also the Patron Saint for our Navy as well. I credit her with helping me gain my education, permitting me to enjoy a good naval career. In many ways, your efforts are greatly in keeping with the example Mother Seton set so long ago. Thank you for all you do and permitting me to share your story with our friends here in Calvert County!
Dave Spigler resides in Lusby and has been a resident of Calvert County since 1979. He has been recognized many times for his years of community service. He received the “Calvert You Are Beautiful Award” for 2013 and recognized by the Knights of Columbus as the “Maryland Citizen of the Year” in 2011. He was a member of the HOGETTES, the Washington Redskins “Biggest Fans” for 22 years. If you know of an unsung citizen of Calvert County, please contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.