Rosemary, a retired second and third grade teacher from Sacramento City Unified, has been volunteering at Wellspring for a year.
On a sun dappled Monday morning, she had just come back from a retreat at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur where hospitality is a spiritual practice.
In Oak Park, she greets guests at Wellspring’s front door and says goodbye to them when they leave the center for the day. As a third-order Benedictine, she lives in the secular world in communion with Calmaldolese monks and nuns.
“Bye mom,” she says to a woman with a toddler curled in her arms.
In her classroom, Rosemary witnessed poverty’s effect on her students.
“I saw how kids in their learning styles were affected by poverty and the instability of food and housing insecurity,” she said.
She describes her former teaching style as radical. She engaged her students in music, dance, drama and art. Her classroom flourished with physical exercise.
“My test scores were very good and they went up, but I was always at loggerheads with the administration about focusing on the reading, the math and the common core curriculum and the standards,” Rosemary said. “I found it to be a real challenge to stay within the system, but I sure loved the kids. I think for me the philosophy I had is that teaching is an art, not a science. You can have the science, you can have the expertise, but it is really a question of being in the moment. You have to know your kids and their parents so that you can adjust everything moment to moment with what their needs are and then if they trust you whatever level that they are, they will learn.”
How has your faith impacted the way you view community?
“I have good support and I feel my spirituality invites me to give back and to share because I have received so many graces,” she said. “I feel really called to support the hungry and feed the poor. The reality is that it changes me; the people who I help feed me. I feel so blessed to be doing what I do that something in me is stirred – the work gives me a deeper gratitude and a deeper peace.”
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
“I will just reiterate that giving is receiving,” she said. “There is a Franciscan prayer that says “May I seek not so much as to be consoled as to console, to be loved as to love, to be understood as to understand, for it is in giving that we receive.”