Education: Q&A With Sister Teresa Cecelia Lowe
When did you join the Sisters of the Holy Names?
I entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names in Oakland, Calif., on July 22, 1948, shortly after graduating from the Convent of Mary Immaculate in Key West, Fla. My maternal grandmother was among the first pupils there. My mother attended “the Convent” as well, and my father was a pupil at St. Joseph’s School, where he reveled in our Sisters.
My family members were all Methodists, but listening in religion class led me to become a Catholic when I was in high school. When the Sisters celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the community, we all had to read a biography of our foundress, Blessed Marie Rose, and every student in the high school took part in an elaborate pageant about her and the works of the community. It did not bother me a bit that I represented education in the classics by being part of a dance called “the Grecian Drill,” which was designed for all the klutzy girls. This year-long celebration was determinative in my decision to become a Sister of the Holy Names. Though I knew Sisters of St. Joseph when I spent some months in the 6th and 7th grades at Gesu School in Miami, there was never any question about where I belonged.
Where have you served and in what capacity?
I began teaching at the Academy in Tampa, with double grades, 5th and 6th. I was very young! Then, I went to Sacred Heart, St. Gabriel’s in Washington, D.C., Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Opa-Locka, FL, and to my Alma Mater in Key West, where I had three stints. I also taught at AHN in Silver Spring, MD, and at Santa Fe High School in Lakeland before returning to the Academy. During these years in elementary and secondary schools, I taught a variety of subjects. In 1980, I began teaching only English at the University of South Florida, Barry University in Miami and Gainsville State College in Georgia. My principal ministry was always teaching, though sometimes I also had resident students, and the enjoyable task of food shopping, meal planning and cooking. When I retired from full-time work in 2001, after 50 years in the classroom, I still tutored part-time for a while. Before I entered, I never thought about being a teacher. I only wanted to be a Sister of the Holy Names, but fortunately, I loved every level and every subject I ever taught, and I loved the lifelong study that my community allowed me to pursue to fulfill my desire to become a better teacher.
I know I have a true religious vocation because I enjoyed all the institutions in which I ministered.
What is something about you that might surprise our readers?
I love musical theatre and know the lyrics of many shows by heart. The Weather Channel gets my attention several times a day and more often during hurricane season. Though I don’t have a drop of Latin blood, I “cooked Cuban” whenever I could, and these days in Albany, N.Y., I yearn for a trip to Arco Iris!
What would you like to say to your former students?
I hope that they can forgive me my inadequacies; they sprang from ignorance and inexperience. There was a too chatty 6th-grader that I disciplined during my first year at the Academy by making her memorize “The melancholy days have come ...” If she doesn’t remember, I do, and I trust that I did not destroy the future love for poetry! It was a joy to meet many of my former students during the years I lived in Tampa and to see how well they have kept the faith. I hope that they will pray for us and support the Academy in whatever way they can.
What do you hope your legacy will be?
I have never given my legacy any thought. I have always just wanted to be part of the legacy of our foundress in her love for educating and living out her religious commitment. The joy and privilege of my life has been to be a Sister of the Holy Names.
Note: This article was first published as a “Sister Spotlight” feature in the Summer 2013 issue of Accord magazine, published by Holy Names Academy, Tampa, and is reprinted by permission.