The world is overflowing with questions just waiting for someone to answer them. Kathy Sherman, Ursuline theology teacher and inquisitive answer seeker, strives to clarify any theological, spiritual or moral questions that may linger in any of her students’ minds during her monthly sessions of Coffee with Kathy.
As the third year of Coffee with Kathy commences with more questions than ever, Sherman reflectes on the early development of these sessions. “My juniors in 2017 would overflow with questions that we couldn’t fit into class time, so I made a moment to develop a tutorial time dedicated to answering the theological questions that came to my students,” she said.
Her sessions range from a more personal setting of a group of three to four students up to a packed classroom of 45 students. Each student attends the session for a different purpose, but all of the students attend to further their knowledge and grow as both a student and a person.
Sherman says that her hope is for students to leave the session “excited about the faith and satisfied in the areas of curiosity that have answers that we can find together.”
One point that Sherman strongly stresses is that there are no stupid or shameful questions. Teenage girls often struggle between desiring either independence or reassurance, so they shy away from asking questions in fear of being judged. However, Sherman provides a space in which Ursuline girls can feel comfortable in the fact that asking questions is how we find acceptance through finding our own answers.
These questions and answers, however, stem from many different sources. Sherman recalls her strangest questions and said, “If people were to see my search history, especially when discussing morality, they would be confused to say the least.”
She spoke of the “crazy, bizarre, interesting and random” topics that she has had to research in order to offer an answer. Most of these crazy and bizarre questions derive from bioethics and moral phenomena that she discusses with her junior morality class.
Besides the strange queries, Sherman says that her favorite and most studied topic is the spiritual realities of angels and demons and how all humans are spiritual beings.
This deep and confusing topic is one not typically discussed in a high school setting, but Sherman acknowledges the curiosity and wonder of her students by striving to satisfy their interest through offering them her own fascinating knowledge.
By answering the various and original questions of her students, Sherman admits that she herself is also learning new facts, ideas and perspectives. She said, “The questions of my students help me be more understanding of the human person as I get to see how others see or believe things differently.”
Sherman also learns through her inability to answer many of the questions that her students bring to her. “Not every question has a black and white answer. There’s not always a straightforward response. Sometimes I just don’t know, and sometimes even the church just doesn’t know,” she said.
However, even if she comes up empty-handed facing a complicated question, Sherman will not hesitate to consult her mini network of priests, medical professionals, doctorates, psychologists and religious monks and nuns to find the best answer possible.
Sherman said, “I get excited when my students come up with questions that I have never thought of because it fuels my love for learning and provides opportunities my students and me to discover the answers together.”
Image courtesy of Ella Hudson ’21