Whoever Teaches Learns Twice

In her heyday 94-year old Sister of Charity Sarita Cordova taught Spanish, English, Latin, biology, and dramatic arts. Mentally sharp as a tack, she recites word for word a poem she learned years ago expressing that a teacher’s purpose is to build a temple that will house the child’s immortal soul.

Growing up speaking Spanish in New Mexico, she admired the nuns at her Catholic high school and knew at seventeen that her life’s mission was to be a Sister of Charity.

Having spent over seventy-five years as a Sister, she lives contentedly on the nursing floor of the Sister of Charity’s Motherhouse in Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati.

When she arrived here in 1994 at the age of 80, she continued her gift for teaching by instructing senior citizens in Spanish. “I had such a good time,” she recalls. “Those two hour classes were full of laughter!” Still a jovial sort, she prescribes daily laughing to keep a person young.

With teaching always her passion, she says she has learned a lot about human nature from being with her students. “In Spanish we have a saying,” she adds. “Whoever teaches learns twice.”

“When I was young, I never imagined getting old,” Sister Sarita reflects. She has had to adjust to reading restrictions because of the loss of some vision in her left eye and to using a walker because of poor circulation, muscle spasms, and restless leg syndrome. “One just has to accept it,” she pronounces. Enjoying listening to religious or classical tapes has substituted for her former reading zeal.

Keen on keeping informed about world events, she follows the latest news of the presidential contest and has always voted. Being of Hispanic origin, she is sensitive to cultural inclusion. “The wonderful thing,” she expresses, “is that we’re all under the same roof with the Lord.”

Sarita has one sibling still living, her 92-year old sister Adele, who resides at the nearby Bayley Place, a retirement center run by the Sisters of Charity for laypeople. They see each other twice a week.

Sarita is glad that she came to Mt. St. Joseph to live among her fellow sisters. “I love people,” she enthuses, and she enjoys getting together with her neighbors and the nurses and aides for socializing. Often former students contact her and express their appreciation and gratitude for all she did for them. When she gets monthly packages from a former student now living in California, she eagerly shares the treats with her friends.

She also reaches out to people who are bed-ridden and reads to those who are sick. Yet Sarita preserves sufficient private time for her own devotion to prayer. In one of her favorite prayers she entreats: “Please save me the light of my reason, my faith, and my eyes.”

Sarita is delighted that not only are there two chapels within close proximity --one in the Motherhouse and another at Mt. St. Joseph -- but from the comfort of her own room she can dial up chapel services on two television stations.

She admits to being curious about what God and heaven are really like but waits dutifully for the time she will find out. “I depend on the Lord to call me,” she adds. “One day He’s going to come for me.”

[Sadly, Sarita died in the fall of 2010.]

Sister Sarita