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My Poet Model lives Online

September 6, 2011

By Sister Anne P.

Great poetry never dies, nor do great poets.  I relearned this lesson recently when I discovered that a poem written by my fifth grade teacher in 1954 is still circulating.  It is Sr. Julian Baird’s “Communion of Reparation (for Our Mother of Sorrows)” opening with the unforgettable line, “Great as the sea is thy sorrow”.

Julie probably never saw a blog, but her words have been on the Internet on several blogs recently, and not long ago were set to music by a popular composer musician. Before any of that happened, she planted the seeds of my Mercy vocation.

At age 24, she was on her third teaching assignment. My classmates and I were 10 and responded happily to her vitality and creativity.  Not only did she endure us, she stimulated us and directed the energy with which we overflowed. When we moved on to the sixth and seventh grades, we rejoiced that she was promoted with us.

In addition to innovative approaches to the three Rs, like games before they were considered teaching tools, Sr. Julian imbued in us a desire to be holy.  One practice she promoted was mentally saying ejaculations constantly, something I now recognize as a means of staying in God’s presence. For years I never walked anywhere without praying “My Jesus mercy,” or “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” or “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.”   That was like tweeting or texting God. She transmitted to us her bedrock devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through her litany and through the rosary.  To focus us on the mysteries of the rosary, she suggested we mention a petition as we began each decade, a practice of mine to this day.

We did not know, and wouldn’t have cared, that our lovable teacher was a poet-mystic much ahead of her time, like her patron Julian of Norwich, nor that she was a comprehensive reader and a prolific writer whose lifelong dedication was to serve Jesus. She did so as had his mother, quietly, completely, and passionately.

Surprisingly to me, that service as teacher, counselor and advocate for prisoners continues now through her poetry. “Communion of Reparation (for Our Mother of Sorrows)” was printed as recently as March 28, 2011 on Medjugorje Forum.    A year earlier the poem was the lyrics for a four part acapella composition by Australian Matthew Orlovich.   Another, “Mary Stands Beneath the Cross” was printed on the blog “How can I keep from singing?” on May 7, 2010.

My beloved fifth grade teacher who called me “my Annie” died at age 84 in 2000.  I’m sure she is pleased that her poetry is still honoring Our Blessed Mother.

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