My vocation story spans 51 years of Mercy life, and all but nine of them were spent in Florida. My entering religious life was due in no small way to the inspiration and encouragement of Sister Brigid Magee who was teaching in the infant school in Ardee where I also taught a class of junior infants. Her spirituality, kindness, and wonderful sense of humor were qualities that appealed to me at that particular time.
On September 24, 1957 I entered the Convent of Mercy, Ardee, and being the second eldest of a family of eight, I felt lonely leaving my younger siblings. I continued to teach for six months when I was received into the Community. A year of spiritual growth and development followed, after which I returned to teaching in the Infant School. In 1961, I went to U.C.D. to pursue a degree and H. Dip in teaching for secondary school. In 1960 I made first profession and took final vows in 1963. After completing my education, I returned to Ardee to teach in Our Lady’s School. The following year I was assigned to Florida to teach with our Sisters in Holy Name School in Satellite Beach. I enjoyed the children and the parents there and adjusted easily to this new situation. For me, the heat and humidity took much longer to grow accustomed to, as we did not have air-conditioning or fans in those days.
Sr. Joseph Barden
In 1971 I was asked to become Principal of Ascension School in Melbourne where our sisters also taught. In 1974 the Bishop asked us to concentrate on one school, and we chose to live and work in Ascension Parish in Melbourne. I found the work of administration really challenging, but the people were welcoming and encouraging. With a new sense of enthusiasm, I set about raising enrollment, and getting the school accredited for the first time in 1973. Each year brought new learning experiences, but maintaining the Catholic identity of our school and the practice of the faith became high priorities. With the help of our sisters and many dedicated lay people, we managed to build an outstanding reputation for our school. One of my proudest moments was when Ascension school was designated a ‘National Exemplary School’ in 1986. This brought us recognition from the U.S Department of Education in Washington, and created wide interest in Catholic education in our area. I enjoyed working with teachers, students, and parents to build up a school community of faith, while remembering to reach out to the poor and less fortunate.
As well as being Principal, I was involved with preparing the childrens choir for their weekly mass and other important occasions. I taught Religion to Public School children each Wednesday evening for 21 years, preparing them for the sacraments. Since the year 2000, when I retired from teaching, I became involved in fundraising for the school. Through this ministry I feel that, in some small way, I am helping to keep Catholic education alive and well at Ascension. Looking back, I thank God and the Sisters of Mercy for the opportunities given to spread His message and be involved in the Church’s teaching ministry, directly and indirectly. I am enjoying my work here in Ascension, as long as God gives me the health to continue.