About Me


Welcome, Class!

I am a Master Catechist for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and earned a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Education from Duquesne University. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and formerly taught Spanish at St. Mary's University, in Leavenworth, Kansas. I joined SJHS in 2017. ************************************************************************** That's the "in a nutshell" about me, however, I would really like to share my story with you regarding how I got here to Saint Joseph High School. So, if you want the long version, hang on and keep reading! *******************But first, I have to give you some background information. Ready? Here goes! . . . *************************************************************************** . . . For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. As a kid I used to teach my stuffed animals, putting them in rows, making tests, filling them out with correct and incorrect answers and then going back and randomly putting on the names of the animal-students, so that I could then grade the tests and record them in my ‘gradebook.’ When I got into high school and people asked me what I wanted to do, I told them either a teacher or a writer. Lots of people said to me, “Oh, you don’t want to do that. There’s no money in teaching (or writing).”**************** Unfortunately, I listened to those people. But, that’s fodder for another story. Let it suffice to say that I did not follow my dream. Instead, I majored in Criminology and Spanish thinking I would be a border guard. That plan changed early in my college career, and after working security and a couple other related positions, I discovered that I hated every job I worked in Criminology. After living and studying for a summer in Mexico and a semester in Spain, I ended up graduating with a double Bachelor’s degree: Criminology and Spanish. Later I took some Master’s courses in Spanish and eventually taught some college courses in Spanish at St. Mary College in Leavenworth, KS. (It’s now called St. Mary University.) . . . ************************ The interim is yet another story, but let me fast forward to recent history: In 2015 I finished my Master’s Degree for Religious Education at Duquesne University. Last year, after 10 years of working as the Program Manager and then Director of Religious Education in my home parish of Mater Dolorosa, in Chicora, and its sister parish, St. Joseph in North Oakland, (both in Butler County) I discerned that it was time for me to do something different. ***************** For the past year, I have been working at a bank. I have enjoyed it a lot. I have loved the conversations with many many people, the chance to show my colleagues another way of handling the stress that comes with customer service, and I have especially loved the opportunities this job gave me to minister in a different way to people in varying points of their walk. I also especially appreciated that I got to attend Mass as a regular person in the pew. I found myself not being distracted by the concerns which regularly came out of the religious education program. I am thrilled to say that for the first time in about ten years, I actually get to HEAR the WORD of God, and the sermon, and the music, and … you get it. **************************** Around March of this year, a busload of our parishioners went to hear Matthew Kelly speak. He’s a renowned speaker on Catholicism and the founder of Dynamic Catholic. He encourages Catholics around the world to be the best version of themselves that they can be. We went on a Saturday night. I had worked that day and by the time it came to go catch the bus I didn’t feel very energetic. I considered opting out, but because I had committed to go or else forfeit my “promise money,” I dragged myself out of the house and went. Boy, am I glad I did. He was astounding! He covered so many exciting ideas. Specifically he said this, “Tell God that you are one hundred percent available and see what happens.” WOW. 100%? I knew there was no way I could ever say that. I mean, I could not give myself totally to Him. No. No, I really couldn’t. I went home and that statement kept gnawing at me. I tried to ignore it, but you know how God doesn't give up, so eventually I told Him what I thought. I said, “God, I’m terrified to make myself 100% available to You. I’m afraid of what You will call me to do.” He didn't back down, so I argued with Him, “Look, You’ve already given me a dead child, a yucky divorce, and a horrible custody battle. I don’t want whatever else You might give me.” He still wouldn't let me alone, so I exposed my innermost self, “God, I’m afraid You’ll give me something worse and I won’t be able to bear it.” ******************************** God was gentle then. He waited. And He eventually led me to realize that bad things could still happen to me. However, that didn’t mean that He GAVE those bad things to me. He helped me remember that sin happens. And because of sin, life gets unpleasant. He brought me to the realization that He had held my hand, and even cradled me and carried me through my past adversities. Eventually, I came to the realization that if something bad was going to happen, it would happen whether I made myself available to Him or not. I decided that I much prefer for God & me to be a team rather than for me to stand alone. So, with much trepidation I prayed, “Alright. Please, God, help me become 100% available to You.” After many days of asking to be willing to be avaiIable to Him, I finally got up enough nerve to take the plunge, “OK, God. I am 100% available. I’m afraid, but I’m available. 100%”. ********************************** Two days later, I kid you not, I got an email from a friend. It said, “Hello, Joanne, Sending you this. Just in case you may be interested.” It was a screenshot of an online ad, just 2 hours old, for a full time Religion Teacher/Campus Minister at St. Joseph High School beginning the 2017/2018 school year. I wondered if this had anything to do with my 100% thing. (OK, so I'm a little slow on the "show me a sign" thing!) Because it was from my friend, and I wasn't sure about the 100% thing, I figured that I should research a little. When I looked for more details in St. Joe’s website I noticed that they were also hiring a part time Spanish teacher. Those two openings made it very obvious to me. I felt sure that God was telling me, “Yes, Joanne, I want you to GO to St. Joseph’s!” ***************** I told God that He’d have to make this happen. Things would have to fall into place. I was not searching for a job. I wasn’t thinking of leaving the bank. As a matter of fact, I was content: I was beginning to get more leadership responsibilities and was enjoying them. But, because I had told God I was 100% available, I applied for the Religion position, and also offered my Spanish skills towards Campus Ministry. And guess what? I got a telephone call! *************************** I interviewed with the Diocese, got approval to be interviewed by St. Joe’s, and then got an email from St. Joe’s telling me that circumstances had changed and the religion position was no longer a full time one, but a part time one. They could not offer me both the Religion and the Spanish jobs because it would be too many classes to teach per week per the diocesan union. If I was still interested in working part time, they would be happy to interview me. ************************************ After praying, and discussing it with my husband, we determined that if God was calling me, then part time was what I needed to do. It would be another cut in pay, but God has always worked our money concerns out for us, so we weren’t going to worry about that. Then I thought, 'Who knows, maybe God just wants to see if I really am 100% available, and this isn’t the call He has for me, but rather a test to see if I mean that I’m 100% available like I said I was.' ********************************* I let Mrs. Minick know that I would consider part time and we scheduled an interview. We spoke about what had happened to change the Religion position. We spoke about the Spanish position and what it entailed. This year, they wanted to offer, for the 1st time, a College in the High school for Spanish. Oh? I taught college Spanish. The very class they wanted to offer! We had a wonderful visit. *************************** By the time we were finished with the interview I thought she might ask me which position I would prefer to teach. Instead, she pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote down the classroom hours. She spoke of the Religion course: how many classes, how many days, making so many hours a week. Spanish how many classes, how many days, making so many hours a week. Totaled up, both of the positions came to 40 minutes over the diocesan permitted hours per week. ********************************* Together we said, “40 minutes too much.” Yes, I could see that it was impossible to make both part- time positions a single full-time one. ************************************ She then said that if we could somehow work out just one class, on just one day a week, we could pull that time to the right number of hours. I looked at her and basically said, “I know where too! I taught that College Spanish course and we met 3 days a week for one semester. We’d be meeting for a full year here and could do the same work in four days a week for two semesters and still be on target to finish the course in a year!” ****************************************** She said, “You wouldn’t have a homeroom and you wouldn’t have a study hall [to proctor] because there would be no time in your schedule for that.” Then she offered me both part time jobs! Ha! And … the kicker?! She told me that when the previous Spanish teacher had given her notice last April, she (Mrs. Minick) had said to Mrs. Kaniecki, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the person we hired for Religion could also be the Spanish teacher too, or maybe vice versa?” Then they laughed, wondering how they might ever find a person who could teach both of those. And, in Pittsburgh, PA? … ! Ha ha! ****************************** Well, come to find out, I was the answer to their prayers! And SJHS is the result to my 100% availability challenge. And, I am going to be in the classroom full time! My dream job for sure! There is no question in my mind that God had this ordained for both St. Joseph High School and for me since the 1980s – when I was an undergrad. I get the giggles when I think about how tickled He must be that I recognize His orchestration of this. He must be gleefully laughing. ************************************** I’m excited to take this journey. And, I’m excited to share it with the students, staff, and faculty of Saint Joseph High School. It for sure is the beginning of something beautiful. Where it goes from here is God's design. It always was His, but at least now I’m 100% available to wherever He leads me. *********************** Thanks for letting me tell you all about it. Joyfully yours, Mrs. Brown 