SISTER CATHY WITH a family in Nicaragua
SISTER CATHY WITH a family in Nicaragua
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When Sister Catherine Kruegler, CSJ, graduated from high school and entered religious life in 1968, she wasn't too keen on leaving the Albany Diocese.

Little did she know that she would end up traveling to and becoming an advocate for Central American countries such as Nicaragua and Guatemala.

"Justice has been a consistent part of my life since the early '70s," Sister Cathy told The Evangelist.

From an early age, the Troy native had positive Catholic influences in her life. Her aunt and uncle were both Maryknoll missionaries; her Uncle Bill was martyred in Bolivia in 1962.

Relatives tried to entice her to visit them so she would witness their work and become interested in Maryknoll, but young Cathy thought that traveling far from home was too much of an adventure for her. Joining the Sisters of St. Joseph, an order in which many sisters became teachers, seemed right for her.

Many ministries
Sister Cathy began her ministry as a kindergarten teacher. For a while, she worked in the Syracuse Diocese; then she ministered in Texas, where she was introduced to the needs of the people of Mexico, especially involving immigration issues.

Even after she moved on to teach at Saratoga Central Catholic High School and the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, "I stayed involved," Sister Cathy said.

She encouraged her students to become active in social justice causes, urging Spa Catholic students to donate to schools in India and Africa and bringing Holy Names students on service trips to Nicaragua.

Educating people about the culture and struggles in Latin and Central American countries became Sister Cathy's mission -- so much so that she became a Spanish teacher.

Currently, she teaches the Spanish language at St. Kateri Tekakwitha School in Schenectady, a pre-kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school.

Spanish spoken here
"What I am teaching them is material they can use," she said, noting that her students learn not just a few words, but how to greet one another and even how to talk about their emotions.

There are a few students at the school who speak Spanish at home, Sister Cathy said. She encourages them to hang onto their families' heritage: "We should never have to let go of our language. The culture and the structure of their language is so spiritual."

She cited the large celebrations in Spanish-speaking countries of saints' feast days, and the many celebrations around Christmastime.

"It's wonderful to be able to teach spirituality though the language and culture," said the teacher.

Earth and immigrants
She also stays informed about current issues around refugees and immigration.

"I have a friend working in El Paso and I'm staying in touch with that issue. I'll never let go of that," she said. But "my mission is justice, not politics. I don't really want to be political."

Sister Cathy tells her students that, even at a young age, they can make a difference. She tries to get them excited about the possibility of going on a mission trip to Central America.

She's also on the social justice committee at her parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Albany.

"It's a way of staying connected with the environment," too, she said, since there are so many environmental issues connected to labor laws and fair treatment of workers in Central America.

Advocacy for the rights of Central American people is her ministry, said Sister Cathy -- and it's also her duty as a woman religious.