Catholic sister offers the gift of literacy to immigrant women

Posted by Katie Loftus
Monday 08, September 2014 | Category:   Consecrated Life
“There are two kinds of people — battery chargers and battery drainers,” says Amy Manion of Sugar Grove, Ill. “Sister Kathleen (Ryan) is a battery charger. She inspires the students and tutors.”

Sister Kathleen Ryan, O.P., a Springfield Domincan, saw a need for literacy among immigrant women and took matters into her own hands, reports the Chicago Tribune’s Leslie Mann. Sr. Kathleen is founder of the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora, Illinois, where she teaches female immigrants to speak, read, and write in English. Ryan started the program in 1993 using her experience as a former school teacher and principal.” When asked why the program caters only to women, Ryan said, “the men learn English at work and the children learn it at school.”

With support from the Springfield Dominican sisters, Sr. Kathleen and other tutors began to teach in a church basement.

Now, the program is housed in an old convent. Ryan and her staff have taught more than 2,500 students and about 500 have graduated, according to the Tribune report. She and her staff teach women from all over the world, and students in the program can also attend sessions where tutors “read the paper and talk about getting mortgages, good credit scores, car loans, child care, transportation, jobs, kids’ vaccinations.” These are questions that many would not have answered if they did not have Sr. Kathleen or the Dominican Literacy Center.

Sr. Kathleen works hard and has helped so many in the community, but says she tries to find the joy in work. When asked about her life motto she exclaimed, “Life doesn’t have to be dreary. Work can be hard and painful, but if you try to be playful, it can be fun.”

Click here to learn more about the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.


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