Meet Sister Sarah

Sister Sarah works in her classroom. (Photo by Erik M. Lunsford

Sister Sarah Heger cut through a tray of raw chicken with a knife and let her fifth-grade class of girls squirm for only a second.

A science exam loomed, and the petite nun didn’t waste time preparing them. She wrangled the meat with her bare hands, pointing to tendons and showing how muscles relax and contract.

“Lord, I am traumatized,” said Mariah Favell, one of the students. Heger knew it was drama and probed deeper. “What’s this white rubbery stuff between the bones?” she asked about the cartilage.

The raw chicken was one of several stations Heger set up around the room to teach about muscles and bones. Even Heger was a walking lesson. She had stickers all over her body indicating specific parts of anatomy: abdominals, sternum, deltoid, phalanges…

Like scores of nuns before her, teaching is a passion for Heger.

But Heger, 30, is a rarity, especially at a time when the number of nuns in the U.S. has fallen dramatically.

She is the only nun teaching at Marian Middle School, a private Catholic school for girls near Tower Grove Park. But visually, she doesn’t stand apart from her co-workers. She doesn’t wear a traditional habit. On this day, black pants and a pink blouse outlined the same slim physique that she had playing volleyball at Fontbonne University. She wore her blondish-brown hair in a ponytail. Her independent spirit flowed freely.

On the inside, however, there is something different. Not long ago, in a paddle boat at Forest Park, she politely turned down a marriage proposal from a friend. That she could have the same teaching job without being a nun also speaks to her faith and goals.

“Our bodies are made to give birth, but this was the life I wanted to lead,” Heger said. “It’s bigger.”

Much more here.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.