Profiles in Ministry: Sister Kathleen McDonnell
I became interested in adult literacy as a ministry when I looked for an alternative to high school teaching. At Al-Anon Family Group meetings, a program where friends and family members share their experiences and learn how to apply the principles of the Al‑Anon program to their individual situations, many women said since joining the program they learned how to drive and earned their GED high school diploma. This “opened by eyes” to see how important receiving a GED diploma is for many people.
I have taught classes for several school systems and programs, including ABLE (Adult Basic Literacy Education). ABLE programs are varied. In some schools I taught the basic math, and in others, writing classes. I currently teach 3 or 4 classes twice a week for the Parma City Schools ABLE program in Parma, Ohio.
One of these classes is an intense preparation for the math and science sections of the 2014 GED test, which is at least as difficult as the Ohio Graduation tests. My classes are held in three Cuyahoga County Libraries. This brings students into the libraries where they can take advantage of the many services and resources such as career counseling or computer classes.
I find my ministry very inspiring. I love hearing, “If you were my teacher in high school, I would have never quit” and “Thank you” every day. Some students who “hated math” now tell me that math is “sort of fun.” It’s so rewarding to see students believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.
Many years ago, our SND Chardon Province had a directional statement that included the phrase, “To educate for justice and empower the poor.” This phrase resonated with me. Most of my students are poor, unemployed or underemployed. A GED diploma is the first step to getting a job.
I proclaim “God’s goodness and provident care” by being patient, kind, showing an interest in their lives and in general being supportive.