A blessing of 41 years in Catholic education

October 11, 2011

HOUSTON — Sister Judy Scheffler, the principal of Holy Ghost School in Houston, vividly remembers telling her parents when she wanted to become a religious sister.

The youngest of four children growing up in San Antonio, she was a fourth grade student at the time of her declaration, taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Gerard, a Redemptorist parish school.

“At the age of 14, I left home to enter the community of the School Sisters of Notre Dame as a freshman aspirant,” she said. “It meant that I had to go to St. Louis, and my parents supported me in this decision.”

She credits her only brother for being a great influence in this decision, as he chose to become a Redemptorist priest and left home at the same age.

Six years after entering the community, Sister Scheffler professed her vows – 44 years ago this past summer.

“As a teenager, I entered religious life knowing so little of what choosing such a vocation for me would mean,” Sister Scheffler said. “And I have to say with each year passing, that understanding took on greater depth.”

Sister Scheffler shared more about her life with the Texas Catholic Herald, including her passion for being a Catholic school educator. 

Texas Catholic Herald: What drew you to the School Sisters of Notre Dame? How did your affiliation with Catholic education begin?

Sister Judy Scheffler: As a child I only knew of two religious orders, the Benedictines and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I wanted greatly to be a teacher and it was with the latter community that I chose to live my life. I have been in formal education throughout all these years as teacher and principal. I have been blessed to have been able to serve in six different Catholic schools in both the states of Louisiana and Texas, totaling a number of 41 years in all. For the past 22 years, God has blessed me with the position of serving as a principal; nevertheless, I so look forward to the day when I will be back in the classroom. I can’t imagine myself ministering in any other way and I pray that I will never lose my deep passion and love for teaching God’s little ones.

TCH: You have a special connection with those affected by Hurricane Katrina at your own school and in corresponding with communities in Louisiana. How have you grown from this relationship?

Sister Scheffler: I am in my eighth year here in Houston as the principal of Holy Ghost School and not one year has been the same. During this time our school was affected deeply by Hurricane Katrina. The week after it occurred, our pastor, Father Greg May, C.Ss.R., gave me permission to take in any children whose family was here because of the devastation and not to worry about the cost. Within a week we had doubled in enrollment. I interviewed every family we took in and the stories truly wrenched at one’s heart — what they experienced and how they survived is in itself a miracle. And to think that we were able to be a part of their journey —how awesome is that!
St. Dominic’s School in New Orleans experienced 10 feet of water in their school and lost everything on the entire first floors in three of their buildings. This has been one school that would send donations to us at various times during the year and now we were able to respond to them. We raised close to $2,000 to send them to help purchase educational materials for their kindergarten classrooms. 

TCH: Do you have any time to pursue hobbies — if so, what are some of your favorites?

Sister Scheffler: During the last four or five years of my mother’s life, she was finally able to teach me how to crochet and I love it dearly. Both my parents gave me a love for creating beautiful things, and that’s what I find myself doing whenever I can. I also love to cook especially when I am not rushed. Italian cooking has become a rush for me ever since I have been in Houston. An Italian dinner for six has now become one of the auction items in our school’s annual gala. 

TCH: What else would you want to share about your own experiences with the School Sisters of Notre Dame?

Sister Scheffler: As I look back over these past 64 years, I have to say, I have truly been blessed. My parents rooted me in my faith and throughout all my life, have showed me how to love without counting the cost. I have been blessed with a vocation that has indeed given me so much and brought me such joy and a sense of fulfillment. For young women today searching for a life that will be filled with meaning, and purpose, I strongly recommend that you consider religious life with a community that speaks to your passion in life. Each year has been so fulfilling and I anxiously await what God has in store for me this year. †