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Sister Rosie learns English to build bridges

February 18, 2014 1:15PM

Sister Rosalinda Lopez

Sister Rosalinda Lopez’s easy, infectious smile speaks volumes, in any language -- no translator required. “Sister Rosie” is working hard to make sure her English skills are as effective as her smile.

This energetic, cheerful nun spends part of each day at Pittsburg State University, improving her English in PSU’s Intensive English Program so she can better serve the southeast Kansas Spanish-speaking community that is her ministry.

Sister Rosie is one of four members of the order, Missionary Catechists of the Poor, who serve the region, rotating between Chanute, Coffeyville, Independence and Pittsburg, where they live.

“We are like a bridge between (the Spanish-speaking families) and the rest of the community,” Lopez said.

Sister Rosie is not the typical intensive English student, according to Christine Mekkaoui, director of the Intensive English Program (IEP). Most students in the program are younger and are studying English as a requisite to continuing a degree program at the university.

Sister Rosalinda Lopez in classFor many reasons, Sister Rosie stands out. In one class, she is surrounded by classmates from Saudi Arabia and China.

“I am the only Mexican. We are learning from each other,” Lopez said with a broad smile.

Mekkaoui said the other IEP students have developed a special fondness for Sister Rosie. For some students, she is something of a mother figure.

“They ask for advice,” Lopez said. “I like it. I feel like I am being a missionary here, too.”

Lopez said she keeps to a schedule in order to balance school, work and her religious life.

“My day starts at 5:15 a.m.,” she said, “when I take care of my religious life. Then I come here to study. In the afternoon, I take care of my ministry and at night I do my homework.”

Lopez doesn’t seem to mind the hard work or the full schedule.

“It is good sacrifice,” she said. “I know why I am doing this.”

©2014 Pittsburg State University