Attempting to follow in Our Lady’s footsteps, Sarah Deegan places the utmost emphasis on our common foundation as children of God, whether it’s in her work as a secondary school teacher or in her work with the Legion of Mary. Her faith is wrapped up in the Legion, with her parents being strong proponents of the work it does and fostering a Marian spirituality in their own home.
“I grew up in a Catholic household anyway to begin with. Both my parents were and are in the Legion of Mary, they have been for most of their lives – they actually met in the Legion of Mary, so the Legion of Mary is going to be mentioned a lot during this interview,” she laughs.
“We grew up as a practicing Catholic family. Our family life consisted of daily, for the most part, but then over the years, weekly, rosaries together, so we always try to pray it together at least once a week. Going to Mass every Sunday, so it was, I suppose, handed to me on a silver platter in many ways.”
Asked whether she always took her faith as seriously as she does now, she offered a “no”, before explaining the necessary steps her faith went through in order for it to blossom into its current form.
“It was more, you know, growing up as a kid it was just something that we did, it was just habitual. That it was something I’d taken for granted in many ways, but what changed for me was over the, just the last couple of years really, of being in college doing my undergraduate. There I met the Faith community that I think is just so important on your journey in the Faith.
“What really changed it for me because I suppose with growing up in a Catholic family, outside of the walls of your home, that sense of Catholicism isn’t so much there when you’re in school for a lot of people. But it was then in university that I found, of course, the Legion of Mary in my university, and I got to know people of like mind and that’s what changed it for me. It not only became then just something that I did – it was in the walls of my home – but then something that I did in my life with friends. And, of course, your family is where your foundations are set, but it’s so important to be able to be the person that you are outside the walls of your home. And that’s what helped me big time, was being able to be that person that I was with friends and then of course, with that as well, being able to be that person of faith with your friends. It’s just so important.”
With the faith well established in her, Sarah described the renewed confidence she found in dealing with those of all faiths and none. A common report these days is that young people of faith struggle to get by without slander or social hostility coming from different quarters – Sarah observed differently.
“Maybe I’m just blessed, but I’ve found that with the group of friends that I have, I’ve found just, my confidence as a Catholic began to grow because, like I was saying, I was practicing my faith at home, but then also outside with my friends so what ends up happening really was that I started to build this confidence that it didn’t really seem to matter who I was with, I was just so comfortable with who I was. With that, I noticed that a lot of people who, say, wouldn’t share the same faith or ideals as me were very tolerant, very tolerant of my beliefs and a lot of them seemed to actually admire that.”
This openness and willingness to share God with those of different backgrounds makes Sarah ideal for the job she finds herself doing – a secondary school teacher. Initially planning on primary teaching, an experience of teaching high school students in Spain with whom she could “relate” proved decisive in reorienting her towards secondary teaching. Far from forcing her beliefs on her students, Sarah sees her proximity to her students as providing her with an ideal opportunity to show them God in her actions and attitudes towards them.
“The school that I’m in at the moment – it’s a very small school. It is a secular school, so it’s a non-denominational school, so initially I was a bit nervous about that, you know, I wondered about what position might that leave me in in particular, but actually it’s been a huge blessing because of course, I wouldn’t, say, openly address my faith in the sense of, you know, saying a prayer at the start of class or anything like that…it’s more just being like that – a witness, in a way, to the Faith through just, I suppose, little comments here and there, that they seem to take onboard. But I think the biggest thing that has helped me in the school with my faith is being able to take each student as a child of God and to treat them accordingly which has helped me big time.
“It’s more important to them to be treated with love and respect than, you know, to actually be taught the school subjects, so it’s just been a wonderful blessing in bringing out the best in me in being able to treat them that way, and then also to be able to bring them that sense of God’s love in the best way that I can. It’s been a wonderful journey so far I have to say.”