Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish School (OLG) was established in Oxnard, Calif. in 1906 in response to the great increase in the Mexican population there. The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet staffed the school for the better part of the next two decades. Today, the school is nationally ranked in math and reading, and serves over 250 students from pre-K through eighth grade.
Three Sisters of Notre Dame recently accepted teaching positions at OLG. Sister Shawn Marie Doyle teaches kindergarten, Sister Mary Frances Wahl teaches middle school, and Sister Florette Marie Adams teaches music to all grade levels.
The solid Catholic foundation of OLG stood out to Sister Shawn Marie when she first started there in October of 2014. She takes her students to Mass each Thursday and notices their good behavior.
“The children are taught to kneel down and spend a little time that way after Communion. Things like that mark the school as having a strong sense of religion,” she said.
Teaching kindergarten five days per week requires energy and patience from Sister Shawn Marie, who draws strength from her daily prayers.
“Sitting before the Lord every day gives me the wisdom and strength I need to work with the children. The fact that I’ve been with the Lord that day makes me calmer,” she said. She has 20 years of primary teaching experience on her side as well.
Sister Shawn Marie also connects with the other Sisters of Notre Dame at OLG during the school week.
“Sister Mary Frances and I carpool, and Sister Florette Marie and I have lunch together in the faculty room sometimes,” she said.
Sister Florette Marie maintains a busy schedule, buzzing from classroom to classroom for music lessons. She visits all grade levels, spending about 45 minutes in each room every week. She became a Sister of Notre Dame in 1960, and started teaching soon after.
“It took years before I really felt that I wanted to do music,” said Sister Florette Marie, who now believes that almost anything can be taught and learned through rhythm and music. It doesn’t bother her when her students sing off-key or forget the words to a song.
“Children make a lot of mistakes, but they can learn if they are patient with themselves. When I see them getting frustrated, I back off and go slower. We laugh and have fun together,” she said.
Her youngest students enjoy musical games, and the older ones like to work on “virtue songs” that go along with what they are learning. OLG students focus on one important virtue per month such as respect, charity and steadfastness.
OLG Principal Julio Tellez, who was installed in the fall of 2014, felt it was important to include music in every level at the school.
“We’ve been without music in the classroom for a couple of years, so restoring that was an important goal for me. Having Sister Florette Marie has given us access to music, which has been phenomenal,” he said.
The tight-knit Catholic community at OLG was one of the first things he appreciated about the school as well.
“You walk on campus and feel like family even after only being here for a few minutes,” he said. He attributes part of that spirit to the presence of the sisters.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe is very blessed to have three religious sisters teaching at our school. Their presence contributes to a strong sense of spirituality. The faculty and the students are affected by that,” Principal Tellez said.
He added that after a period when religious sisters were absent from Catholic schools, he is happy to see them returning to their roots in Catholic education.