Sister Corda connects students with the Lord
by Greg Eckerle
Ask Sister Corda Trouy, in her 56th year of teaching religion education, how long she intends to keep going and she chuckles, “Some people call me the Energizer Bunny. But we stay young here at the monastery, with God’s grace.”
She also credits the teaching itself with giving her much of the energy, along with the support of her fellow sisters. “I’m not the greatest teacher, but I love teaching,” she says. “I try to use the gifts the dear Lord gave me. I’m so grateful; may God be glorified.
“I love working with all the kids. They give me joy, and energy. I enjoy helping the kids learn more about God and making better choices, and learning to be happy with who they are, to encourage them to be the person God made them to be, and using their gifts. When they’re struggling, I see that side of me, too, because God’s not finished with me yet, either. That helps me be patient with them, because God isn’t finished with any of us.”
Sister Corda has taught several grade school classes for St. Ferdinand (Indiana) Parish the past 19 years. This year she is teaching third, fifth, and seventh grades.
One of the gifts the Lord gave her is a knack for connecting with students. That much is readily apparent to Father Jack Durcholz and Mickie Paulin, the parish’s former director of religious education.
Father Jack points to her Benedictine life as helping spur that connection. “It’s a whole different spirituality. And it’s just who she is, too. She has a simple, powerful, child-like faith in God. Kids trust that. When you know you’re truly loved, that makes the difference. And she truly loves the children.
“She’s a real joy. We’re so fortunate to have her. She has such joy in her heart, a joy that transcends most people I know, and that reflects to the kids. She brings herself to their level. I see how the kids love her. They know she wants what’s best for them. She’s just a special lady.”
Paulin feels that Sister Corda “really is the face of Christ for these kids. She comes at everything from a prayerful angle. She has a way of making each child feel special, and loved. I just love how she approaches life with child-like fun.”
Sister Corda also has a definite approach to building students’ attention: “letting them know that you care about them, then you can teach them something.” Even for the ones that cause trouble. And if some never really listen, she prays for them anyway. And she particularly likes to reach out to the kids having a bad day.
“I affirm them when they do things well. You can always find something to say positive about them. It makes them feel good about themselves.”
One of her philosophies is to reach into the students’ hearts, because then she can engage with their minds. One of her favorite routines for all classes is the “heart room prayer.” She has the children turn their chairs to face the wall, so there are no distractions, and instructs them to “talk to Jesus in your own words.” She suggests a variety of topics to talk about, from school to summer activities to friends to families, and who they could pray for. Parents have mentioned their children appreciate the prayer, and some even use it at home. Sister Corda encourages them to say the prayer anytime, anywhere. She repeatedly tells students that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Mary are there for them 24/7 – all they have to do is ask. She teaches the children how to have a personal relationship with Jesus, so they can go to God at any time. Her fervent desire is that the students will treasure and keep their faith.
Sister Corda slips in prayers, and hints for the children, throughout her classroom activities –
“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being with us all this time, 24/7 . . .
“Help that these children will grow closer in love for you and your Blessed Mother every day . . .
“Tell Jesus how much you love him. Ask him to help you know what you want to be when you get older . . .
“Let me see you smile. A smile sets everything straight . . .
“When you say your night prayers tonight, pray for our prayer sponsors. I pray for them every night . . .
“What can we say in our thank you cards to our prayer sponsors? I need some help. You all have a wonderful brain, what can you say to your prayer sponsors?
“Pray for all those you love, and for all the people who don’t know Jesus, that they will get to know Jesus. . .”
If she hears the siren of a nearby ambulance or fire truck, she will ask the students to pray for the people who are working and who are affected by the emergency. Years later, some still remember those compassionate requests. Or her saying that if it’s raining on the outside, you can still have sunshine on the inside.
Noah Lindeman, upon his graduation from Forest Park High School last spring, sent Sister Corda a note thanking her “for guiding me spiritually.” He recalled her caring personality and how she always kept class fun. “She knew how to teach us in ways we could understand. She helped mold our young minds. She knew how to help kids grow spiritually and connect with the Lord.”
Another former student, Amy Metz, said, “Sister Corda kept everyone’s attention by telling stories, and taught how faith was important to her, and why it should be a center point of our lives as well. She always found a way to brighten everyone’s day.” Amy’s sister, Rachel, termed Sister Corda “one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met; she cared a lot about what you had to say.”
Dolores Lueken, who has taught with Sister Corda for years, marvels at the special connection and rapport Sister Corda engineers with students. “When she teaches religion, that is her life, to teach about God. God always comes first. She teaches that to children. She tries to impress children about how they need God in their life.”
Sister Corda takes advantage of every teaching moment, even as children are walking out the door. At the end of a second-grade class last spring, after singing “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, down in my heart,” she told the students who were leaving, “Boys and girls, have a wonderful week. Get ready for Pentecost.”
A small boy replied, “I am.”
Sister Corda smiled and whispered to him, “God bless you.”