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Sister Virginia Honish’s 2023 Birthday Reflection

In celebration of our sisters’ birthdays in 2023, we asked them to share an age they would like to go back to. On her birthday, Sister Virginia shares her reflection on multiple ages that provided her with great challenges and great blessings.

By Sister Virginia Honish, SDS
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Reflecting on my life, I realized there are a number of ages I found great joy in. At 19, I discovered my love for teaching as I educated my first class of 57 second graders in Schofield, Wisconsin. At 37, I began my long-term service as a member of the provincial administration. At 53, I began as an academic administrator for Divine Savior Holy Angels High School (DSHA) and soon principal. And lastly, at 71, I traveled to Tanzania to help our young sisters improve their English.

Principal at DSHA

My life as a teacher, elementary and secondary principal, and a member of the provincial administration for many years had many blessings as well as challenges. I have to say that I really liked all the ministries of which I was a part. I have enjoyed working with groups of people who strive to implement the same goals – this challenge was life giving and energizing for me. As an administrator in a school or the community we strived to work with the faculty, parents, students, and the community to work together to implement the goals identified each year which flow from our Mission as Sisters of the Divine Savior . . . to make known the goodness and kindness of Jesus, our Savior in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, or our Community.

The most unusual challenge was the invitation I received to go to Tanzania, Africa, to establish a curriculum to help our young Sisters improve their English. Even though they were familiar with the English language through their own schooling, the country had issued a new requirement. Students had to be able to pass certain exams in English to pass state exams. If they successfully completed these exams, they would be qualified to apply for a government job of teaching, nursing, etc. and receive an adequate salary from the state. It was important for our sisters in Africa to be able to grow in ability to financially support themselves, so this was an extremely important challenge.

Sister Virginia with two Tanzanian Salvatorian Sisters

I loved the challenge and the experience. Most of all, I learned how happy people can be, even though they have so little. They are also very grateful for opportunities to grow and learn. I think that I received more than I gave. The experience of witnessing young women in their early 20’s growing in self confidence in their ability to read, write and speak English was the best “reward” ever. They also loved the new way of learning. They didn’t just read a paragraph, memorize it, and then recite it back to me. They grew confident enough to offer their opinion on an issue, make suggestions about a problem posed to them, enter a process of discovering a solution, or make a suggestion of how to improve something.

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