Sister Nadine Flott awakes before 6 a.m. each day and says her prayers in the quiet of the pre-dawn light that filters through her blinds. She arrives at St. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Boonville about an hour later, taking her customary post at the school’s side door to greet each arriving student, most of them by name. “Here comes my best friend,” Sister Nadine hails first-grader Morgan Browning.
“No jacket, today?” she asks another student who is wearing short sleeves on a chilly March morning. “Aren’t you going to be cold during recess?”
Keeping watch over the arrival and departure of her students is a ritual Sister Nadine has practiced throughout her four decades as an educator. “It’s an important thing to do,” she says. “I don’t want anything happening to any of the children.”
In addition to watching over their safety, the practice also allows her to greet and speak with many of the students’ parents: members of the Catholic community in Boonville.
Sister Nadine kindly corrects those who call her a nun. “I’m not cloistered, and I haven’t taken solemn vows,” she says. “I’m a sister, not a nun.”
Sister Nadine’s career has been quite adventurous. She has held a variety of positions in her nearly 50 years with the order, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. In 1964, she was offered the chance to work at an English school in Finland, and she eventually spent 20 years teaching and working as a principal there. The large silver cross she sometimes wears is her mission cross, a reminder of her time in Finland, and she occasionally punctuates her conversation with Finnish phrases.
Following her time as a missionary, Sister Nadine returned to the United States to work for six years as an administrator for her religious community in her order’s mother house in O’Fallon. The mother house functions as both home base for the sisters and a home for them in retirement. The sisters of the order, which traces its roots back to Baden, Germany, in 1845, have been primarily devoted to teaching throughout its history. Sister Nadine has been educating children, she likes to say, longer than some of the teachers at St. Peter and Paul School have been alive. She earned her undergraduate teaching degree while still a novitiate sister and then went on to earn a master’s degree in educational administration at MU.
In the summer of 2004, Sister Nadine was asked to take over as principal of St. Peter and Paul School, and she happily accepted the new position.
“I came back to the schools just as soon as I had the opportunity,” she says.
In July, she moved into the duplex adjacent to St. Peter and Paul church . Although she misses her community in O’Fallon, she remains connected to them through regular visits, e-mail, and the ritual of thrice-daily prayer that sisters all share. The large ring Sister Nadine wears on her left hand serves as a symbol of her commitment to her order. The ring, which she received upon taking final vows in 1963, incorporates the color red to symbolize the blood of Christ and has a “chiro” as a symbol of Christ, as well as three roses to symbolize the vows of consecrated celibacy, obedience and poverty.
The parents and parishioners of St. Peter and Paul say that Sister Nadine’s effect on the school was almost immediate and overwhelmingly positive. “There’s a real sense of respect, now, that there wasn’t before,” says Flo Howard, parish secretary.
“The kids know to behave,” says Stephanie Adams, parish director of religious education and the mother of three pupils at St. Peter and Paul. “She’s strict as can be, but they love her. She’s very fair, but she’s no nonsense.”
Howard and Adams respect Sister Nadine for what they refer to as her hands-on approach to education. They say they appreciate a principal who takes the time each day to greet students by name and who saves administrative paperwork for home so she can use the time at school to tutor students individually in her office. Although she has only been principal at St. Peter and Paul for less than a year, the members of Boonville’s Catholic community have already come to see her as an integral member of their parish.
“We feel very lucky to have Sister Nadine,” Howard says, “and we hope we can keep her for a long time.”