Meet Sister Mary Grace (Jennifer) Watson, Class of 1995! Sister Mary Grace attended the Lafayette Catholic Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, graduating from Central Catholic in 1995. She attended Saint Mary’s College in South Bend for two years to study elementary education. In 1997, she transferred to Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, where she seriously began discerning a religious vocation.
After a year in Music City, she made it her lifelong home by entering the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Sister received her new name and the Dominican habit in 1999 and professed her first vows as a Dominican sister in the Jubilee Year of 2000. Sister completed her bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in 2002 and began teaching second grade at St. Mary’s School in Jackson, Tennessee. In 2005, she professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Sister taught second grade for eight years in several different schools in Tennessee, Maryland, and Georgia while pursuing her Masters of Education at Xavier University and Certification in Administration at Christian Brothers University during the summers. In 2011, she became the Assistant Principal of Mission at John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries, Virginia. Three years later, Sister moved back to Tennessee to become principal of St. Patrick School, an elementary school just west of Nashville. This is her sixth year at St. Patrick, which is the oldest school in the Diocese of Nashville and most probably the only school with its own secret barbecue sauce recipe! Sister will complete her Masters in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in the spring of 2020.
How did your education at LCSS prepare you for college and your vocation?
I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to attend Catholic schools my entire life (with the exception of one graduate-level course!). When I was growing up, I took it for granted that the faith was part of every day. It became part of who I was. When I began college, I felt very prepared to do well not only academically, but most importantly, to be able to stand up for what I believed in and to hold on to what I knew was important. I sought out friends that shared my faith. I am so grateful to the Lafayette Catholic Schools and to my family for providing this firm foundation. From this foundation, I was then also more open and receptive to a religious vocation.
What did you like most about your experience at LCSS?
Looking back, the two things that I most value now about my years at St. Mary’s, St. Boniface, and Central Catholic were the excellent teachers and the close community. These are two of the things that I most treasure as a principal at St. Patrick’s, and I do not think that is a coincidence! I remember every one of my teachers. Each of them taught me so much, and so much more than just the subject matter. I remember Mrs. Hill preparing us for first communion, Mrs. Berghoff helping us feel so special and making learning so much fun, Mr. Overton unlocking the mysteries of geometry, and Mr. Branson making us sound musical! As the principal of a small school with a close community, I treasure the experiences I had as a child and try to create those same kinds of experiences for my school community now. Having those first-hand experiences growing up makes this much easier!
What is your favorite memory from your years at LCSS?
My favorite memories from my years at LCSS have a common theme; they are all events that brought us together as a community. I loved Fall Festivals at St. Mary’s, dressing up as saints, Christmas plays, May Crownings, field trips to Chicago and Camp Tecumseh, cheering on the Knights at football and basketball games, participating in the school musicals—especially The Wizard of Oz and Bye, Bye, Birdie, singing in and accompanying the choir with Mr. Butz and Mr. Branson, and “Sharing Days” at CC during Catholic Schools Week. I could list many more!
I am so grateful for the gift of thirteen years of Catholic education in LCSS (and many, many more after that!). A Catholic education is a treasure and I feel truly blessed to be called to now also give this gift to others. When I speak to families, I quote what Fr. Dick Weisenberger used to always say, “Catholic education is a sacrifice, but it is worth it!” Yes! Let us continue making the sacrifices, with Christ as our model, so that many more can receive this gift!