Much to the kindergartners’ delight during catechism class, Sister Judy gets dramatic using an owl-shaped whiteboard eraser as a phone to talk to God.

Emerson, a first-grader, absorbs the special attention she receives from Sister Judy.

SCL is where God wants her to be

Sister Judy Hayes never wanted to be anything but a teacher. With only a few hours’ advance notice, she began her first teaching assignment as a young Sister of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL) in 1961. She’s been at it – and loving it – ever since.

“I’m where God wants me to be,” Sister Judy says. And the faculty and staff of St. Patrick Catholic School, Kansas City, Mo., want God to keep her there as a mentor to teachers, friend to students and jack of all trades who willingly does whatever is needed.

Four days a week, Sister Judy teaches religion to kindergarteners. She walks into the classroom throwing props to the floor to help frame the lesson. The young students get the message loud and clear: People and things – all part of God’s creation – matter.

From Sister Judy’s perspective, every child matters. “Every child is somebody’s treasure,” she says. “Kids are so close to God, they can reach out and touch God’s face. Yet so many kids, teachers and parents need somebody in their corner.”

Sister Judy has years of experience as advocate and cheerleader, especially for students who may be hurting or neglected. One boy who seemed to be raising himself asked Sister Judy, “Will you teach me how to be a nun of charity?” A sixth-grader who wanted someone to pray with her at the time of her grandmother’s illness found a prayer partner in Sister Judy who replied, “That’s my specialty.” Another little boy needs periodic “Sister breaks” to help him learn by listening.

All of the above and more fill the four days a week Sister Judy volunteers at St. Patrick. She teaches first-grade religion one day a week and does sacramental preparation for second-graders.

In her first year at the school, Lindsy Alexander, kindergarten teacher, brought all of her questions to Sister and bounced ideas off her. “I don’t know what we would do without Sister Judy,” Lindsy says.

The SCL brings history and experience to her role. Principal Kaci Monaghan adds, “She is a blessing to us, and we’ll keep her here.”

Over the span of her teaching ministry, Sister Judy served on the faculty at St. Patrick twice for a total of 25 years. She transitioned to a volunteer four years ago. She is very proud of her association with the school and the parish. “I get more from the experience than I give,” she says. “I am blessed.”

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