Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sister Carla OP & Sister Mary Jacob OP

Sister Mary Carla OP & Sister Mary Jacob OP (commonly referred to as "Sleepy & "Grumpy" respectively) were not the usual run of the mill, bullies. They weren't really malicious but they certainly possessed (no pun intended) peculiar qualities.
Sister Carla taught freshman Biolgy in St. Mary's High School, an all girls Catholic school. She was tall, serious looking as well as a quiet demeanor, and I mean quiet.
On the first day of class, in a new school, Sr. Carla waltzed into the classroom, introduced herself and immediately took roll call. Okay so far. She then proceeded to elaborate on what we would be learning that year in Biology. I was looking forward to her descriptions of what we would be doing, dissection of frogs, labs twice a week, working with microscopes, studying cells, ect. We would finally be working with something exciting off the beaten path of the stilted Catholic school curriculum.
That was until she suggested we "go round the room" and introduce ourselves. Ok-no problem. I was in the "P's" and I would just say basically what the other girls were saying. As the roll call progressed around the room, I happened to glance up at Sister Carla. She was sitting upon her perch, a platform raised about a foot above everyone else. I'm sure it was meant to be a pedestal, which all the nuns wanted to be placed on. The student's seats were 5 students across a row with laboratory benches serving as our desks.
As I watched her sitting there, I noticed her eyes were closed. I figured that she was probably really concentrating on learning about us and good for her! I was impressed, until I realized that after we had roll called about 30 students, her eyes were still closed. Being freshman on the first day of class in a new school, no one had the courage to say anything. After a 15 minute uncomfortable silence, a couple of students began to cough. Miraculously, Sister Carla opened her eyes and began talking as if nothing had happened. Okay I thought, we're back on track.
After elaborating on other details of the course, Sister Carla then asked us to open our text books and begin reading the first chapter,and explained there would be a brief discussion after the 15 minute reading period.
As soon as we began our first assignment, Sister Carla's eyes were once again closed-shut. The allotted reading time of 15 minutes had come and gone. Everyone had finished and were waiting for our discussion. It never happened. Sister Carla's eyes remained closed until the change of class bell rang 25 minutes later, at which point Sister Carla immediately opened her eyes and conveyed what our homework would be for that night. After class, as good Catholic had always been instructed, we never asked questions, no matter what the circumstance were.
To make a long story short, this continued throughout the year, every day, every class. Sister Carla had narcolepsy. You could count on Sister Carla's naps for at least 20 minutes of the 45 minute class. Any pause in the teaching curriculum and Sister Carla would be off in sleep mode, just like a computer. Any movement or sound and her lithe body would awaken.
Most times we just sat there enjoying the free time and silence. Sometimes we dropped text books on the floor just to test her reaction time. But sometimes believe it or not, it was detrimental to our education, such as the times we were in the middle of dissecting frogs, and she would drift off to sleepyland, while rigormortus set in for the poor frog.
The other nuns had to know. Everyone knew. She fell asleep in Church, in assembly and one time at a luncheon. Why didn't someone tell us? Why didn't someone tell her? But she never once yelled at anyone. She was too busy sleeping. I often wonder what became of Sister Carla. She's probably resting somewhere. Poor thing.

Sister Mary Jacob who taught Earth Science in the next class in the same room, was the exact opposite. Talk about Yin/Yang! Fast talking, swift moving, and obnoxious were her trademarks.
She would ask you a question with a smirk on her face and then answer herself just as sarcastically as she posed it. It was like she was having a conversation with herself or talking out loud, so you weren't really insulted.
Sister Jacob appeared in my life some 15 years later in camouflage. She was pretending to be a person. She had left the convent, been de-nunned or de-vowed or un-habited or whatever the terminology was.
I was at my photography exhibit at the Yale Divinity School. A friend of mine who was instrumental in acquiring the space for me, came by to introduce a friend of his.
Her face was somewhat familiar. I certainly didn't recognize her name, but as soon as she opened her mouth and said her first sentence, I was thrown back to a different place and time. Her first words to me were, "Humph, I certainly didn't think you would amount to anything, but maybe I should rethink that". BINGO!
Sister Mary Jacob. What a piece of work.
I saw her after that in a few social situations. Her inappropriate manner had followed her into civilization where it really wasn't tolerated or understood. People shunned her and were embarrassed to be with her. She said all the wrong things to the wrong people. I actually felt sorry for her. Poor thing.


Blogger Go Mama said...

I see you went with the picture. Nice. But I missed the commentary on your experience googling "Demonic Nun Photos." Could be rich.

I have one question, how does one de-nun, de-vow or de-robe? Is that like getting a divorce from Jesus?


7:01 PM  
Blogger serenity said...

Geez, how thoughtful of her to share how she never thought you would amount to anything. Thanks for the wisdom, sister. The detail you provide with your storytelling is so wonderful and so gripping. Thank you for sharing so much of your memories, and your heartache. It is a blessing to follow along with you on your journey.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...

The picture! Wow! Totally worth a thousand words! Your writing brings us right along with you, Suzy, what a gift you have. Huh? You really DID amount to something, that's the best revenge ever.

12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this come as a surprise to you???? I went to catholic school for eight years - they were all insane!!!!!!

Once going down the stairs in line and out of the blue this crow pulled my braid - hard and for no reason.

4:20 PM  

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