By Elsa Baughman
CHATAWA – Sister Dorothy Ann Balser, a retired School Sister of Notre Dame (SSND) living at St. Mary of the Pines, is busy selling her children’s book “Bitsy Bee with the Allergy” to raise funds for schools for girls in Ghana, West Africa, where she spent 11 years in ministry. She said many of the female population in that country has been deprived of education because of poverty or other inequalities.
In 1985, Sister Balser was one of four sisters who volunteered to begin a girls secondary school in Sunyani, Ghana, and later a primary school for boys and girls in Cape Coast. Now 87, and unable to actively teach, Sister Balser continues her ministry of helping girls in West Africa by selling her book and sending all the proceeds to the schools where more than 73 SSND sisters are working.
The 31-page book is about bees. She said she had been reading about the extreme importance of honeybees and learned that they are slowly disappearing in parts of our country.
“I was prompted to help young readers to learn about honeybees, their service to people by pollination, and to develop an appreciation for the bees and how they also serve us humans with their delicious honey,” she noted.
She explained that the bees’ lives as community members can teach children how we should work and take care of and help one another, be grateful for the gifts given, and the understanding that we all have our own individual gifts and talents.
“I had a lot of fun writing this story,” said Sister Balser. “It has a lot of useful information and is written in a delightful fairy tale manner that catches the attention of the young child. Hopefully, it will give them a deeper respect and love for the bees.”
The illustrations are the work of Sister Theresa Marie Dietz, SSND, who has a master’s in art from Notre Dame University. She taught art and math for 43 years in high schools in several different states. According to the credits in the book, “when asked to illustrate the book she said she was happy to help with the project knowing that the proceeds would go to very worthy causes.”
She has received encouraging and supportive notes from many people as far as Japan, telling her that, they, themselves, enjoyed reading the book and even learned several things that they didn’t know about the honeybees.
Another says, “I read a copy of your book at my mother’s house on Sunday and found it perfectly charming. I found it meaningful on so many different levels – facts about bees, overcoming handicaps and being yourself, and praying to God for help. I am ordering several copies to give to Vicksburg Catholic School, St Aloysius, and to our church library.”
She still has about eight or nine hundred books to sell and then she plans to write another book, perhaps about ants. “I do not know much about ants, but I know it is time to start my research soon. Some of us consider the little insects just pests and try to get rid of them. They do have a value in our world or otherwise God would not have made them,” she noted.
Sister Balser have had some generous donors who have encouraged her to continue her project. One of her nephews ordered l00 books just a week before Christmas and gave many of them away to his friends as gifts, she said. The printer donated 100 copies too, to help with the expense of printing.
The cost of the book is $11 plus tax. All proceeds will benefit the “Educate a Girl in Africa” project.
This book is also available at the Carmelite Gift Shop in Jackson, 601-373-1460, and at the Our Lady’s Corner Gift Shop at Meridian St. Patrick Parish, 601-693-1321. Call to ask about availability.
To order a book or for information contact Sister Balser at St. Mary of the Pines Retreat Center, 3167 Old Highway 51 South, Osyka, MS, 39657, 601-783-3494, firstname.lastname@example.org.