Those blessed to know Sr. Betty Ann Clifford (formerly Sr. Mary Kenneth) agree – “Sister is a child’s delight!” After 64 years as a Sister of the Divine Compassion (RDC), Sr. Betty Ann remains a delight and blessing to numerous elementary and high school students who now have children and grandchildren of their own.
Originally introduced to the RDCs when she was a student at Preston High School in the Bronx, Sr. Betty Ann remembers her days there fondly, including the love and support from the Sisters as well as the close friends she still has from those days.
“The Sisters were always interested in us, and what we had to say,” Sr. Betty Ann explains, and “I had a wonderful group of friends. In fact, three of us became RDCs. We just had a feeling that God wanted us to be Sisters.”
For Sr. Betty Ann Clifford, her ministry in teaching has been a glorious gift in her life. When asked to share some of her favorite memories of her years in education, Sister remembers the countless times the children and teenagers brought her incredible joy. “From the first moment I began teaching, I fell in love with the children!”
Sister recalled her first experience teaching when she was just 20 years old. As she and a group of RDCs filed out of the Congregation’s station wagon to teach at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel elementary school in Elmsford, they were greeted excitingly by a group of students asking, “Who is Sr. Mary Kenneth?” Upon identifying herself, she learned she was “Tommy’s cousin!” Tommy was not too happy about their connection, but was soon relieved as Sister promised they would have great fun together. And that they did, as Sr. Betty Ann shared in the students’ sense of joy and wonder.
Another fond memory Sister shared was being directed to keep her class of 57 second graders walking to their classroom in silence. As she contemplated that challenge, an idea came to her. She turned around to the child following behind her, put her finger to her lips and whispered, “shhhh…pass it down.” It worked! Silence prevailed all the way to their second-floor classroom.
She remembers with sadness the day President Kennedy was killed. The Sisters gathered all of the 400 students in the church to pray that God would welcome him with open arms. You could hear a pin drop in the church that day.
With a heavy heart, Sister Betty Ann departed from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel after seven years, but recalls the immediate joy she felt when she was assigned to teach the first grade class at St. Mary’s in Katonah! She loved her life at St. Mary’s as the children and their families were so welcoming and loving!
Sister recalls the transition to “open classroom teaching,” when students would be assigned different tasks at different times of the day. She always set aside time for prayer, instructing the children to “sit in silence and talk to God, and listen to what God was telling them.” One day during prayer time, one of the students who was usually a bit rambunctious was unusually quiet and seemed deep in thought. When Sister asked him what was the matter, he looked at her and said, “Nothing Sister. I’m just talking to God!”
Sister lights up when she talks about being transferred to her alma mater to teach. “Attending Preston High School was the light of my life as a teenager. It was an incredible joy to return as a teacher!”
Sr. Betty Ann is grateful to God for her family, her calling to religious life, and for the countless memories of “her children and their families” at Divine Compassion schools.
“I am blessed to have grown up during a time when life was much less complicated. My parents made it clear to my brother, sister and me that “God will be the center of our lives, and we will always be there for one another.”
Sister Betty Ann describes herself as a happy, joyful person, and thanks God every day for calling her to religious life. Whether you were her student, a family member of a student or anyone else lucky enough to know her, it is us that are thankful to God for having Sr. Betty Ann in our lives!
Click on the photo gallery below to view pictures of Sr. Betty Ann through the years, as well as some of her beautiful photography and original art.