Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora shares about her experience at St. Lawrence Seminary High School, Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin. As St. Lawrence Seminary High School occupies the highest point in Mt Calvary, it is referred to locally as “The Hill”.
“One of the greatest manifestations of God’s love for me this year has been landing me in what amounts to a mini-United Nations deep in the heart of Wisconsin farm country! Who would have thought that such a vibrantly international community existed in Mt. Calvary? The confirmation liturgy was blessed with students who led intercessions in eight different languages from every continent on the globe.” -Sister Marie Kolbe
Teaching high school again was the furthest thing from Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora’s mind. However, when the chance arose to collaborate with the Capuchins at St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin, she felt the Lord’s lead and so sent her curriculum vitae. Two interviews later, she was hired to 1) become the new Latin teacher, 2) teach sophomore religion, and 3) “help out” with Spiritual Direction—a requirement for all Juniors and Seniors—Sister has seven students who see her for Spiritual Direction. “When the letter hiring me arrived, I noticed right away that it led with me being the new ‘Latin Teacher’ after which it mentioned that I would teach sophomore religion. That was my first clue that the teaching of Latin was bigger than I imagined.”
Indeed, Sister Marie Kolbe is responsible for teaching four levels of Latin to students from all four classes. Preparing for Latin has her treading water most of the time, but as the year proceeds, preparation is improving and becoming easier. “Next year should be 100% better!” While Latin meets every day in the afternoon, Religion meets only three days a week in the mornings. Sophomore religion in the Fall was an examination of Jesus in the Gospels, and in the Spring is a study of the sacraments.
More About the Students
100% of the students are Catholic and all of them are required to board on campus. This means that the formative program (which is central to the St. Lawrence experience) is a 24 hour / 7 days a week experience for the students (and their supervisors / the Principal). The dorm directors, who are often young alumni of St. Lawrence, will be good fathers of their own children after their tenure as dorm director! They have almost no time off and are extremely helpful with students who fail to turn in homework or who need tutoring. “It is wonderful to experience high school boys in an atmosphere where they are not worrying about the girls in the room. Because they are free to be themselves, they are generally at ease, delightfully sincere, smart and funny. What a joy it is to have entertaining stories to share at supper with the Sisters!”
St. Lawrence students are explicitly trained in virtue and in the building up of community. Each week there is a specific social skill in which the students are explicitly trained following the methods used at Boys’ Town. The social skill for the last week of the semester was “showing gratitude.” “Many of my freshmen took advantage of this time to come in on their own to say thank you for any number of things! Imagine!!” One other perk to teaching at St. Lawrence has been an engaged and competent Dean of Students who takes care of all disciplinary matters. “When Mr. Beulow (the Dean of Students) said to me that he did not want me to discipline, just to teach, I hardly knew how to respond! He does indeed take care of all disciplinary matters, freeing me to ‘just teach!’”
Commuting to Mt. Calvary
The Fall drive to Mt. Calvary was 45 minutes, one-way. That has increased to just at an hour in the Winter. Because the first period of the day begins at 7:25 (after morning prayer and announcements), Sister Marie Kolbe is out the door anywhere between 5:15 and 5:45 a.m. “I pray in the car on the way to school. The land, light and moisture blend to give an every-changing aspect to the places I pass each day. In addition, this is the first time I have been able to watch the “end” of the crop cycle in a sustained way for myself (a big deal for me since I grew up in Houston.)!”
Finally, the COVID protocols that St. Lawrence adopted in order to stay open and be able to meet face to face have been so successful that there was zero on-campus transmission of COVID in the Fall, even though classes met face to face all semester. “There was a period of two weeks that I was required to teach my classes from home because of COVID exposure at home. St. Lawrence made it easy to do so by pro-actively providing me the tools necessary to distance-teach.” Because of the COVID protocols in place at St. Lawrence, Sister Marie Kolbe feels safe going to school, but also feels that she returns home safely.
“It has been a joy to have a job that is work, even lots of work, but is not stressful. The professional culture at St. Lawrence is unparalleled in my experience. Each day finds me thanking God for the opportunity to enjoy the students, collaborate with the Capuchins, and contribute to our Community. Once COVID is behind us, it will be a joy to take Sisters to school with me!”