August 19, 2013

Back in the saddle

Today Trinity High School's faculty and staff returned for the 2013-2014 academic year.  We elected to begin the year with a retreat and the day revolved around our unique vocation as Catholic school teachers.  Unfortunately the day was also a solemn one as we all recalled our good friend Mr. Gorski '58.  Mrs. Henning put together a wonderful video tribute to Mr. Gorski that we all watched after enjoying some breakfast together and a very emotional talk by Mr. Mailloux '72.  Mr. Mailloux was a student teacher under Mr. Gorski and worked with him for 38 years (plus the four years he was a student at Bishop Bradley/Trinity High School). There weren't many dry eyes in the chapel after his thoughts and Mrs. Henning's film (you can watch it here).

We then moved into Mass celebrated by our former colleague Father Andrew Nelson.  Father Andrew completed his summer assignment at his parish in Dover yesterday and will be heading back to Baltimore next week to finish some academic work.  He will be back full-time in the diocese in January.  I had asked Father Andrew to celebrate the Mass about a month ago but it was so fitting that he would be the celebrant on the day we mourned Mr. Gorski.  Andrew and Stan were good friends and it was comforting to have him with us today.

Following Mass I sent the faculty off to do a couple of hours of works of mercy.  They assisted at agencies that we work with during the year and I wanted them to have a better connection with them and the work our students do to help them.  They went to:

Blessed Sacrament Parish Food Pantry
Families in Transition
New Hampshire Food Bank
New Horizons of New Hampshire
Our Place
Saint Raphael's Parish Food Pantry

When they returned we had lunch and then one person from each group explained what they did at their site and gave a brief explanation of what the agency does.  They all seemed pretty excited with this work and they had some nice ideas to expand upon our outreach. For example, the folks at both food pantries spoke of their constant need of peanut butter.  I think it might be a nice idea to have a different theology class collect peanut butter each week and deliver it to the food pantries.  We do many, many big events, it would be nice to have small ones too.

We then moved into our final prayer service where we prayed Psalm 139, recommitted ourselves to our work, received a blessing from Father Andrew, and distributed candles to the new teachers and the teachers celebrating milestone anniversaries.  The candles had quotes on them from Saint John Baptist de la Salle, the patron saint of teachers.  The new teachers got candles that said, "God has chosen you to do His work" and the candles for the anniversary teachers said "Miracles happen by touching hearts."

Our new teachers are:

Andrea Degulis - World Language
Megan Guerra - World Language
Josh Hobart - Math
Bryan Kwasnik - Theology
Donna Martel - Main Office
Chip Polak - Athletic Director

Our teachers celebrating anniversaries are:

Miranda Comiskey (World Language) - 5 years
Deb Leblond (Math) - 10 years
Mike Martinez (Science) - 10 years
Theressa Risdal (Guidance) - 10 years
Steve Heifetz (Science) - 15 years
Joanne Belliveau '62 (Registrar) - 25 years

During the prayer service I also offered this reflection:

This summer I watched season 1 of the series “Call the Midwife”, a British TV show that chronicles the lives of a group of Anglican nuns and laywomen who work as nurses and midwives in 1957 London.  The show is based on the memoirs of one of the nurses, Jenny Lee, who moved to the East End of London to work amongst the poor and downtrodden in an area that was still rebuilding from World War II.  Nurse Lee had lived a sheltered live before arriving in the East End and was shocked by the poverty, disease, and squalor.  But by the end of the first season, Nurse Lee had adapted and grown to love what she was doing:

In the East End, I found grace and faith and hope, hidden in the darkest corners. I found tenderness and squalor and laughter amid filth. I found a purpose and a path and I worked with a passion for the best reason of all.  I did it for love.

While I don’t think any of us have found filth and dark corners here at Trinity High School, I do think we have all found (or will find) grace, faith, hope, tenderness, laughter, purpose, and a path.  I am also confident that we do what we do with passion and I know we all do it for love:

Love of our Catholic mission
Love of our students
Love of our community

I’ve said it many times before.  Each of us could be in a public school taking home a larger pay check, counting down the days until perhaps we could retire in our 50’s, and collect a pension for the rest of our lives.  But yet again, here we all are.  I think we all fundamentally understand what Saint John Baptist de la Salle taught his brothers - we don’t just fill the brains of our students, we touch their hearts.  Our students, he said, are our salvation and help us be Christ.  Stan Gorski understood that better than any of us.

Years ago a bishop hired a new secretary for his office.  On one of her first days she called the bishop on his office phone and said, “There is a man here who says he is Jesus Christ, what should I do?”  The bishop said, “Look busy.”

Last week, Bill, Carolyn, and I took a group of students to Saint Francis Inn, a meal center in Philadelphia, for a week of service.  We have been going to Saint Francis Inn for many years and it is one of our most popular trips.  There is a back door at the inn that guests go to for food or to ask to see someone.  There is a sign on the inside of that door that says “Smile, Jesus is at the door.”  It is a reminder to the people who work at the inn that they are to see Jesus in everyone who comes to them for help, especially the ones who drive them crazy.  Saint John Baptist de la Salle would say to you and me, “Smile, Jesus is in your classroom.”  

And so today...let us begin anew, let us recommit ourselves to our mission, let us recommit ourselves to our students and families, to one another.  Let us beg for the blessing of God the Father, as we look to be like God the Son, all with the help and guidance of God the Holy Spirit.  Amen.    

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