Sister Peggy Bradley, DMJ retired from teaching at Our Lady of the Rosary School in Paramount, California four years ago. Sister Peggy and the three “retired” Sisters she lives with remain active in parish activities and are known and much loved by the people there.

Sister Peggy smiles with children at Our Lady of the Rosary School.

Sister Peggy smiles with children at Our Lady of the Rosary School.

When she was in grammar school, Sister Peggy Bradley, 78, remembers how it broke her heart to see children bullied. One day she made a promise to God: “I promise you, I will do whatever I have in my power to protect them.”

She didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a turning point in her life.

Sister Peggy soon joined the Daughters of Mary and Joseph in 1956 and began teaching two years later, at just 19 years old. Altogether, she spent 53 years in the classroom, teaching first, second and third grades. And over the years, whenever there were problems with the children, school staff would say, “‘Never mind, when they go to Sister Peggy’s class, she’ll straighten them up.’”

And she did.

“You are special,” Sister Peggy always told the children. “Look around, boys and girls. You are just the way God made you. You are special.”

If any child picked on another, she would say, “You mess with him, you’re messing with me. He is my friend.” Her greatest joy, she said, was helping to teach them God’s love. After she planted the seed of His goodness, she saw them modeling it in turn.

Sister Peggy stopped teaching four years ago, but even though they’re now retirees, she and the three Sisters she lives with are still busy. Sister Anna and Sister Ellen Mary visit the sick at the local hospital. Sister Brigid Mary helps students prepare for school liturgies.

As for Sister Peggy, she still spends time with the three and four-year-olds at her parish school, Our Lady of the Rosary School. She reads to them and chases them and devises little games with them at recess. She also visits her younger sister, who has dementia and Alzheimer’s, and cares for her, and she calls people on the phone who need the conversation. She goes for long walks and chats with the people she meets; sometimes all they need is a smile to pick them up, she said.

And of course, Sister Peggy spends time in prayer.

“I spend more time with the Lord and pray and I do a lot of prayer for our work because it needs our prayers,” she said. “I have a great time talking back and forth with the Lord because he’s very real.”

In 2016, the Daughters of Mary and Joseph received a grant from SOAR! for four electric recliner chairs; the Sisters now find it painful to get up from their old sofas. The Sisters had never owned recliner chairs before, Sister Peggy said.

“For us, we’ve never had them,” Sister Peggy said. “We wouldn’t have time to enjoy them.”

Now, for all her years of working, she said, the Lord has repaid her more than 100-fold. Thanks in part to SOAR! and its donors, she said, “I have more than money would count.”