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Sister Ann Patrick Adams, S.C.
From Superior to Seoul,
Sister Ann Patrick Teaches and Serves

We wanted to profile Sister Ann Patrick because she grew up in Cleveland and is a great role model for us all, especially young girls. She dedicated her life to her faith and the service of other people.

Since she is in Korea, our typical face-to-face interview was not possible. So we e-mailed her many questions and Sister Ann Patrick responded so eloquently and so completely, that we found no reason to change a single word.

So, the following profile is in her own words, as she writes to us from her home in Korea.

I was born on Dec. 8, 1937 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. I am next to the youngest of nine siblings. (Four others died in infancy or miscarriage). Our family consisted of four boys and five girls.

Sister Ann Adams family

Young Ann's family

Both of my parents were born in Altoona. We moved to Cleveland on my sixth birthday; so that is where I spent my school years.

For my first two years I attended Immaculate Conception School on Superior Ave. In third grade the five of us in grade school transferred to St. Peter's where the three older siblings were in the High School. It seemed sensible (and I presume economical) to have us all attend the same school.

When we moved to the West Side, I attended St. Patrick School-Bridge Ave. and then I went to St. Boniface High School and graduated in 1955.

Ann Adams with parents

Ann with parents and two sisters

I grew up in a home where God and religion was an important part of our daily life. My mother's obvious love for children was a great influence. From the time I was about 9 or 10 years old, I would take neighborhood children for walks or to the park. I fussed over every baby I saw!

During my high school years I earned money by babysitting. My Dad had a very "easy-going" personality and I probably learned from him that there are very few things to get upset about. Many of the Sisters who taught me also left their mark!

When I was in first grade in Altoona, I remember the day I decided I would be just like my first grade teacher. I was very shy and she was so kind to me. I knew from that day I wanted to be a Sister. As I met more Sisters the conviction that this was a good life grew stronger.

When I was in sixth grade, my oldest sister entered the convent. Although the Sisters of Charity had taught me for only 3 months, this contact with my sister-as a Sister-and after reading the life of Elizabeth Seton, I knew this was the Community to which God was calling me.

My family had had many positive encounters with Sisters of different communities, so they were very supportive when I told them I had decided to go to the convent.

Sister Ann Patrick teaching a Korean girl

Sister Ann Patrick teaching a student in Korea

The early years in the convent were very busy and challenging. I had to adjust to a new lifestyle and a rather rigid schedule. Rising at 5 a.m. was not at all to my liking. Even though we were told we'd get used to rising that early, I never did. Fifty years later, I do not awaken automatically at 5 a.m.; I need an alarm clock! I still do not like it!

In those days, we were sent out to teach soon after entering and we earned our college degree by enrolling in college classes on Saturdays and going to Summer School, so it took several years to graduate.

We usually had a Sister in the house who was an experienced teacher who would guide us; sort of "on the job training." I learned many valuable lessons about being a good teacher from these sisters. This life is not always easy, but it is very rewarding. Today, an individual sister schedules herself, taking into account the obligations in her ministry. We also have more freedom to visit family and friends than in the early days.

I was a primary grade teacher for thirty-one years and I loved it! When there was a need for a principal in one of our schools, I volunteered for that position; and stayed there for seventeen years.

One year during that time, I volunteered to teach English Conversation at our high school in GangJin, South Korea. I had volunteered twice before, but another sister was selected each time; so "the third time was a charm"!

Sister Ann Patrick's school in Korea

Sister Ann Patrick's school in Korea

I loved everything about that year! My stress level went to "zero", my blood pressure was reasonable, and I lost about 20 lbs.! My work schedule was not heavy and the community life was so life-giving. I really hated to leave after a year, but I was expected back at my principal position.

I was not thinking of leaving SS. Peter and Paul just yet, but when I was asked to consider returning to Korea, I responded positively. I am in a different school, but the experience is just as wonderful. I am teaching English Conversation to Middle School and High School students. The numbers are sometimes overwhelming and it is frustrating that I cannot learn the students' names.

Beautiful Shrine in Korea

Beautiful Shrine in Korea

In the course of a month, I teach 450 high school students whom I meet once a week and about 350 middle school students who have a conversation class once a month. We all realize this is not often enough, but it gives the students an encounter with a native speaker. Many of them are very anxious to be able to speak English, and of course, there are some who would rather not be in the class.

Sister Ann Patrick teaching in Korea

Sister Ann Patrick teaching in Korea

My first teaching assignment was in Johnstown, PA where I taught a double grade - 3rd and 4th. In 1956, the children were not as difficult to handle as in more recent years! Also, the parents were very cooperative.

This was a wonderful experience for me! The Sisters with whom I lived were so helpful and caring. They were willing to help me with lesson-planning as well as becoming accustomed to community living. I could not have had a better introduction to this new life.

I live and work in Bucheon which is about forty-five minutes from Seoul by Subway. The city is quite large, but I'm not sure of the population. The last I heard the population of Seoul was 11,000,000 - about one-fourth of the population of South Korea! (I think they are all out shopping on the few days that I have gone to the market!)

Sister Ann Patrick with other sisters and students in Korea

Sister Ann Patrick with friends in Korea

The Korean people are very warm and hospitable. I think what has really impressed me is the respect they have for one another, but especially for the elderly.

In many ways, life in Korea is not much different from community life in the States. I live in a local community with twelve Korean Sisters. Most of them can speak some English, although they say they can't because it is not always perfect. We manage to communicate pretty well.

I have access to some English programs on TV and we are able to rent CDs or Videos. If the Sisters are watching Korean TV, I usually read, crochet, or watch a CD in my room on the computer.

My school schedule is busy enough, but not bad. This semester, I have been having conversation sessions with the English teachers to help them become more comfortable speaking English. At the present time, they teach their English classes using Korean. But beginning in 2010, they will be required to teach using English. The sessions are time consuming, but very interesting. It also helps me to know the teachers better.

Sister Ann Patrick teaching in Korea

Sister Ann Patrick teaching class

The students are like students anywhere. However, they have a very long school day 8:30-5:00 and many stay at school and study until 10:00! After they leave school, many go to "an academy" for more classes until 12:00 or 12:30! The need for a good education is high priority in Korea.

I have found most of the changes in the Church to be a positive thing. During those years when some were experimenting or "doing their own thing", I think we caused a lot of confusion for the laity. I found that a bit unsettling, but I tried to "keep my head" and follow the regulations of the Church. It was a great relief when things began to settle down.

Sister Ann Patrick in Church

Sister Ann Patrick in Church

I wear a modified habit. I think it is a witness that I am living a life that is a special calling. Several people have stopped me and thanked me for being recognized as a Religious. It doesn't make me a better person, but in some ways, I think it gives hope to others. It is also much more comfortable to wear and does not take so much time to launder.

Although there is a decline in religious vocation, the work of the Church is continuing with many laymen and women. Many Religious have been involved in training them, and now our concentration is in other areas of need. For many years we were teachers or nurses. Now we have Religious Ed. Directors, Pastoral Associates, Layers, Daycare Directors for both children and adults.

One of Mother Seton's last admonitions to her sisters was, "Be children of the Church." Where there is a need in the Church, there seem to be Religious ready to fill it. So even with fewer numbers, Religious are still having an impact on the growth of the Church.

Sister Ann Patrick assisting at Mass

Sister Ann Patrick assisting at Mass

Yes, I would encourage a young woman to follow in my footsteps if she feels God is calling her. It is not always an easy life, but it is very rewarding. If I was just beginning my life, I would do exactly the same thing! I love being a Religious. I love being a teacher. I love being in Korea!

Over the years, we have helped to support our work in Korea by making Mission Appeals at various parishes in the United States through the Propagation of the Faith Mission Co-operative. A Congregation is given certain areas of the country where we are assigned to make these appeals.

Sisters volunteer to visit the Churches and speak at the weekend Masses. The parish has a collection to be sent to the Mission Co-op and a percentage is sent to our Congregation for our work in the foreign countries.

We also have a Korean Card Party held in the Fall every year. For many years it was held in Pittsburgh, but recently we have moved it to our Motherhouse Complex in Greensburg. Since our Korean Sisters are now working in China, we now have the Far- East Asian Card Party!

Sister Ann Patrick in Korea

Sister Ann Patrick in Korea

The future? Who knows? I would like to continue teaching here in Korea for a few more years. However, my superiors may have other ideas.

When I do return to the States, I would like to tutor young children or work in one of our schools a teacher aide. I will not be looking for anything too strenuous!

Editor's Note: Many people are called to service in both the secular and religious worlds. Some ignore that calling. Some, like Sr. Ann Patrick, face it head on. She not only embraced the challenge she was confronted with, but also has become an excellent example for all of us. She faces her life with smiles and prayer. She is a humble woman with a lot to be proud of.

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