Doing the right thing is not always easy; knowing the right thing to do can be even harder.
Sister Juanita Nadicksbernd was faced with a difficult situation in 2008 while serving as principal of St. Camillus Academy in Corbin, Kentucky. The school building, dating from 1914 and on the National Register of Historic Places, had become an expensive burden. Its antique plumbing and wiring had made it impractical for classroom use years prior. A new building was constructed on campus in 2004 to serve that purpose.
A local paper carried the story and the photo under the headline Divine Sign?
Sister Juanita expressed to the Times Tribune that the image gave some indication, some reassurance, that the Sisters had made the right decision.
From her first profession in 1958 (and her very first teaching post that year in Wheeling, West Virginia), Sister Juanita has always focused on mission first. She was in the vanguard of CDPs teaching in a two-room school in Martin, Kentucky. There were just 35 students in the whole school, but area doctors agreed to provide treatment for them only if someone could guarantee a good-quality education for them, so the Sisters took up residence.
After two years, she and another Sister opened St. Matthias School in Lanham, Maryland. "That was a fun time," Sister Juanita recalls. "I was young and the school was new--not even completed yet."
After just two years in Maryland, it was back to tiny Martin, just in time for one of the town's perennial floods. "It is in the mountains, on a creek subject to flash floods. It came up into the hospital, where we were staying with the Sisters who worked there. The water didn't last very long, but the cleanup did," she remembers.
After that, "I was so many places," Sister Juanita says. "St. Vincent de Paul in Newport, St. Michael in Kalida (Ohio), Holy Spirit in Newport for 16 years, Corbin for 8, St. Philip here in Melbourne for 2 years, St. Aloysius in Covington for 2, St. Bernard in Dayton.... I was principal for 31 years and taught every grade from first to eighth."
Sister Juanita's primary concern has always been for her students. When four Newport schools were being merged, she recruited teachers from each of the closing schools to work at the junior high, where she was principal. "That was a lot of work, and a lot of heartbreak for the kids. They needed to feel wanted and loved. I wanted to make sure they had at least one familiar face among the staff after the merger."
Through the years, Sister Juanita has collected a wall full of awards and a scrapbook of accolades. She was named Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky in 1997 and received an outstanding service award from the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky. The schools where she worked were likewise showered with honors, for everything from academic achievement to multicultural events.