On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, you will find Sister Mary Friel at Manchester Community College in Connecticut where she teaches psychology as an adjunct professor.
This semester, Sister Mary is teaching Introductory Psychology. The classes are interactive and the students who represent a cross section of different ages, cultures and experiences engage with her and with one another as they explore the different facets of the topics they are studying.
Sister Mary works to create a collaborative learning community to model what is possible within society. Always mindful of the importance of the mind/body connection, Sister Mary leads her students in a brief Tai Chi exercise during the break period-something she also does each year at the Notre Dame Mission Volunteer Mid –Year Conference where her Tai Chi classes are one of its most popular offerings.
Sister Mary joined MCC after retiring from Western Connecticut State University where she served as a full time psychology professor. “The Connecticut College System is very good and I enjoyed 28 years working there, but I am so impressed with community college education. Saint Julie was fond of saying, “teach them what they need to know for life.” The programs give the students the education and skills to enter a profession and make a good living for themselves and their families.
I feel the community college opportunity is a light under a bushel basket. I want to highlight it whenever I can and encourage others, particularly those who have retired from full time teaching to consider becoming an adjunct instructor. It is a wonderful experience.”
In addition to her ministry at MCC, Mary is a tutor at Grace Academy, a middle school for under-served girls in Hartford. She is a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, hikes weekly, leads periodically and serves as an Information Volunteer for a few days each summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Sister Mary grew up in Utica, New York and met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur through the wife of a family friend in Boston, who took her to Emmanuel College during her senior year of high school. The connection clicked and she enrolled at Emmanuel graduating with a degree in biology and chemistry.
After teaching in Alaska for a year, Mary returned to Boston and completed a graduate program at Boston College, which led to a position as a guidance counselor at Brocton High School in Massachusetts.
After working in high school for a few years, Mary felt she might be called to religious life “ I wasn’t sure if this was my calling, but I wanted to explore the possibility. I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and found that this was indeed where God was calling me. I feel very blessed. It is a wonderful life.”