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New assistant principal and IHM sister returns to the diocese

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Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Kathryn Teresa Clemmer decorated both bulletin boards in her new office. One features a drawing of St. Joseph set against a dark green background and the other has the St. Joseph novena prayer.

Pope Francis declared this the year of St. Joseph and Pope Pius IX proclaimed him the patron of the universal church more than 100 years ago. But the new assistant principal of St. James School in Falls Church also has a personal connection to the earthly father of Jesus. “St. Joseph is one of my favorites because he helped me along my journey,” she said.

Sister Kathryn grew up in Maryland and attended The Catholic University of America in Washington. While there, she became friends with an IHM sister and spent some time discerning her vocation. But after college, her prayer life became “lukewarm,” she said. She earned a master's in special education from Providence College in Providence, R.I., in 2010 while teaching for two years in Fall River, Mass.

She didn’t know what to do after completing the program, so her friend suggested praying a novena to St. Joseph. After attending an Arlington diocesan job fair, she got a call from St. Joseph School in Herndon. “At first I didn’t realize the connection, but then I hung up the phone and said, ‘Oh my goodness, this has to be a sign,’ ” she said. “I interviewed at a few different places but when I went to St. Joe’s, it definitely felt like the right place to be.”

While teaching fifth grade at St. Joseph, she began volunteering at the youth ministry program at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. Her sister and brother-in-law used to volunteer but after having a baby, they needed to step back and asked her to help out in their stead. Spending time in adoration and on retreats with the high schoolers kick-started her faith life. “This fire was lit in me again and I just felt God calling me and pulling me toward something,” she said. “As I rebuilt my prayer life, it became very clear that God was calling me to religious life.”

In 2012, she entered the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary community. During her formation, she spent 12 weeks at St. James. She has spent the past several years teaching at Catholic schools in Pennsylvania. In her new role as assistant principal alongside Sister Mary Sue Carwile, principal, she replaces Sister Melissa Mastrangelo, who will be principal of St. Monica School in Philadelphia this school year. 

“I’m looking forward to getting to know people, to building relationships and learning about the school,” she said. “I hope to make a positive impact, bringing more of our IHM spirit and mission.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021