Due to pop-culture portrayals or personal experiences, many people imagine a nun-run Catholic school as a strict, humorless institution where even minor infractions are met with a swift rap on the knuckles with a ruler.
“If I had a dime for every time someone made a joke about carrying a ruler, I could build a wing onto the school,” says Sister Mary Juliana Cox, the principal of St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater and one of the four members of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation assigned to the school. “We encounter people all the time with that negative mindset, but it doesn’t take them long to be disarmed by our joy and love for the children.”
Unlike nuns, the sisters are not cloistered; they took vows when they entered the convent to follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic, traveling from their Nashville-based motherhouse on two- to three-year teaching assignments in schools across the country.
For 14 years, the sisters have been a vital part of St. Croix Catholic, encouraging students to find their unique gifts and act as confident leaders in and out of the classroom.
“Coming from Ireland and being reared by nuns, my first thought was, ‘I don’t think so,’” says Margaret Wachholz, who was apprehensive when her husband Rick took a teaching job at St. Croix Catholic, but she was so impressed with the sisters that she sent all three of her children to the school. “They just exemplify inclusiveness.”