From health crisis to classroom

Nancy Rosebush Schertzing | Photography Tom Gennar

Kathy brings her faith to teaching

Kathy Ferguson’s face glows as she recounts 3-year-old Eleanor’s story about adoration of the Eucharist. “She told her mom she visited Jesus in the chapel. She couldn’t see him, but she explained, ‘He’s behind the door, but he’s not hiding. He’s there, silly Jesus!’

The teacher at St. John School in Fenton shakes her head as Eleanor did and laughs with delight. “I take my pre-kindergarten class to Mass and adoration. We’re not quiet, I’ll be the first to admit it! We sing to Jesus and talk to him about what we’re thankful for. Before we enter the chapel, we ask ourselves, ‘Is there something I could change?’ If so, we ask Jesus and our Blessed Mother to come into our hearts to help.

“It’s not work! I get to go to school every day and see the miracle of life through the eyes of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. We talk about Jesus being alive in our hearts, and how they can develop a friendship with Christ. I don’t talk to them as if he is gone, because he’s not gone! He’s right there with us.”

Kathy Ferguson teaches what she truly believes. “I waited a long time to do this. I was a wife and mother first, but my vocation was always teaching. When our youngest was in middle school, I enrolled in an elementary education program at the University of Michigan-Flint.

“In 2006, I had appendicitis and my doctor found a growth on my pancreas. He recommended a procedure called a Whipple operation, which removes the tumor and adjacent parts of the pancreas, liver, small intestine, stomach and gall bladder.

“As soon as I came out of surgery, I felt something was wrong. I couldn’t eat anything and I was in pain that I can’t even describe. The surgeon said I’d be fine and sent me home. Even though we kept saying something must be wrong, my surgeon insisted it was in my head.

“Then the bottom dropped out of the economy. [Kathy’s husband] Don lost his job and our health insurance with it. He took a night cleaning job for cash and took care of me.

“Boy, it’s times like this when you certainly put into perspective what’s important! We lost our home, but that’s OK. We rented a house, and families from our parish, St. Joseph in Lake Orion, and our Everest Academy community made sure we had meals on the table and financial support to start over. These wonderful friends covered our children’s tuition so they could continue their Catholic education at Everest. They even paid my health insurance premiums!

“At first, I said ‘No, no. We’ll figure this out.’ But as we went on, I came to understand that God puts people in our paths for a reason. The families obviously felt called to help out of love. I realized it was important for me to accept their help and love with gratitude.

“One November day, I was in really bad shape, and I ended up at the emergency room at Henry Ford hospital. The ER doctor asked if I was Christian. Irritated, I snapped that I was Catholic, but I didn’t see what that had to do with anything. He left and came back in a few minutes with a little round relic from Father Solanus Casey and a novena. He told me to say the novena and hold onto the relic – a piece of thread from the Detroit friar’s robe. That night, I slept for the first time in years.

“We scheduled another surgery to address whatever was causing the pain. When the surgeons went back into my abdomen, they found that during the Whipple operation my first doctor had cut the main nerve to my stomach. For three years, my stomach hadn’t worked right.

“With this operation, the doctors at Henry Ford gave me a new life in so many ways. Once I was strong enough, I went back to classes and earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with an early childhood endorsement. I started teaching at St. John School, Fenton in 2013. Don got another job in the mortgage field, and we now own a home in a lovely neighborhood in Flint.

“After it was over, I learned that my operation had fallen on Father Solanus Casey’s birthday. In hindsight, I can see that I am only here because of miracles. God put me in place for a reason. I used to lay awake at night believing God wasn’t there. But I know now he was with me, protecting me even though I couldn’t see it.

“I am thankful for every day. When little ones like Eleanor say, ‘Jesus is not hiding, he’s there,’ I know she’s right. It is a privilege to be with these little ones who share that knowing in the miracle of God’s love.”


To find out about Great Starts in Catholic Education, go to www.dolcatholicschools.com