A Woman for All Seasons
When it comes to a woman for all seasons, Pat Lenhart definitely qualifies. A former nun, nurse, semi-pro softball player and educator of 63 years, this 80-year-old dynamo is not slowing down or retiring.
“I told my family I was going to teach until I was eighty,” says Lenhart, whose smile lets you know there is an unspoken message in those words. “So next year I am going to half-day teaching instead of full days.” And what will she do with the rest of her day? “I’m going to volunteer at Ida Freeman three afternoons a week and tutor. I plan to retire completely when I am ninety.” She pauses. “Maybe!”
Lenhart began her teaching career at the tender age of seventeen while a novice with the Benedictine Order of Sisters, teaching band for fifth and sixth graders. She has since taught every grade and subject possible and has served as a principal, girl’s basketball coach, and taught home economics on the university level in her 63 years of teaching. She was voted Catholic Teacher of the Year for Oklahoma in 1983 and Site Teacher of the Year for Ida Freeman Elementary in Edmond in 2004. Lenhart has taught multi-generations of children in Edmond and says, “I’ve taught some of my students’ grandchildren.”
Being a nun was not something Lenhart planned, but at sixteen she felt God call her to enter the Benedictine Community as a postulant. One year later, dressed as the bride of Christ, she took her final vows, exchanging her white postulant’s veil for the black veil of a novice and a gold wedding band. “We gave up all worldly possessions, including our names,” says Lenhart, who became Sister Edith.
“It was a beautiful ceremony and I loved being a nun, even if I was a little ornery at times.” She recalls when the sisters lived in a convent in Guthrie where they had a farm and a milk cow named Cherry. She was asked to teach the sisters how to milk a cow since she was raised on a farm. Lenhart tried sitting on a T-stool with a bucket below but found it too awkward. “I stood up, jerked my habit up, tucked it in at the waist and sat down on the ground with my legs stretched out, holding the milk bucket between my knees. I was determined to get that cow to cooperate.” Unfortunately, Ole Cherry was as stubborn as the young nun who was trying to milk her and suddenly lay down on Lenhart’s legs. It took several sisters to get the cow to move.
After twenty-two years with the Benedictine Community, and teaching in numerous parochial schools, Lenhart felt a stirring in her spirit. After much prayer and meditation, she decided to leave the Benedictine Order of Sisters. “My greatest desire was to do the Lord’s work, but I came to a point that I felt I could do more for the Lord outside the convent than within. That was my only reason for leaving,” she says. “I just wanted to minister to others in the best way I could.” The former nun still stays in touch with many of her convent sisters.
After leaving the Benedictine Community in 1964, Pat moved to Cashion to live with her family. The following year she accepted an invitation from her brother, Mike, to attend the car races with him and his friend, Dale Lenhart. Mike’s friend quickly became Pat’s friend. “We just hit it off,” says Pat. “We enjoyed the same things. We both loved to fish and camp.” The friendship blossomed into a relationship and in 1967 they married and moved to Edmond. The Lenharts celebrated 33 years of marriage before Dale’s death and raised a daughter, Mary. Pat is now a grandmother of two and great-grandmother of four.
Lenhart also enjoys music. “My husband and I played in a country western band for several years,” she says. “He played the guitar and I played the keyboard.” While serving as a nun she was a member of a jazz band, playing the saxophone in jam sessions with her sisters. She also plays the accordion, which fascinates her young students.
Pat attends Saint Monica Catholic Church in Edmond and believes every person is a gift from God and meant to share their lives with others. “I get up at 4:30 every morning,” says Pat. “Even with that, the days aren’t long enough.” Pat Lenhart is definitely a gift to those around her, especially the children she continues to teach.