The faculty and staff gathered together last Monday for the first time this year for our annual retreat. We decided to focus our retreat this year on better understanding our students. We tend to forget some of the struggles and anxieties some of them face as well as some of the tough home lives some have. St. John Baptist de la Salle said that students are teacher's salvation. If they are our salvation, we should know them well! So we began our time together by watching the 2010 film "It's Kind of a Funny Story." It's based on a book by the same name by an author who spent a brief period of time in a hospital psychiatric ward as a teenager. In the film, a boy named Craig, facing a great deal of pressure in his competitive New York City high school, contemplates suicide. But, he instead checks himself into the hospital where he learns to live life with passion and to follow his dreams. It's not as sappy as it sounds, it's a very funny movie yet shows how much pressure many teenagers feel, pressure to get into a good college which translates into a good life which translates into money, etc, etc.
Following the film and a break, Mr. Maurier '72 of our science department gave a fascinating presentation on the teenage brain as well as how nonverbal communication can impact how a student feels about his or her academic potential. We then moved to our chapel for our prayer service and commissioning. Together we listened to the hymn "The Servant Song", prayed Psalm 139, listened to a reflection by St. John Baptist de la Salle, I offered a reflection, and then Mr. Mailloux '72 commissioned the faculty and staff.
As has become our custom, we then presented candles to our new teachers and to those celebrating a milestone anniversary. The candles are inscribed with quotes by St. John Baptist de la Salle, namely "God has chosen you to do his work" (new teachers) and "Miracles happen by touching hearts" (anniversary teachers).
We have one new teacher this year but three new members who started last year after the start of the academic year:
Mrs. Brearley who joined our English department in March
Mr. Clossick, a new member of our theology department
Mrs. Dupont, our main office assistant who joined us last fall
Mr. Gray, our technology coordinator who joined us last fall
Our anniversary teachers and staff are:
Mr. Arnold of our math department - 5 years
Mr. Forkey of our social studies department - 5 years
Mrs. Krassowski of our art department - 5 years
Mr. Poisson of our facilities department - 5 years
Mrs. Twomey, our business manager - 5 years
Me - 10 years
Mr. Connell '90, our development director - 10 years
Mr. Gadecki, our assistant principal - 15 years
Mrs. O'Leary P'07 of our social studies department - 35 years
Mr. Mailloux '72, our principal - 40 years
Mr. Maurier '72 of our science department - 40 years
Below is my reflection from the prayer service. Here's to year 46!
Last April, our fellow Pioneer Cardinal Gerald Lacroix received the Saint Anselm Medal at a Mass at Saint Anselm Abbey Church. In his homily, Cardinal Lacroix spoke of the gospel story of the shepherd who would be willing to leave his 99 sheep to go find 1 that was lost. In modern day Quebec, where Cardinal Lacroix is archbishop, he said about 5% of Catholics attend Mass regularly and he feels like he has to leave the 1 to find the 99.
It’s no secret that we are going through a period of intense change in the Catholic Church. Our students who attend Mass or practice their faith are now the exception rather than the norm. Two Catholic elementary schools in the diocese closed their doors for the final time this summer and not a single priest was ordained for the diocese this year. Two weeks ago, I was at a birthday party for a family of five and there must have been 25-30 kids there, every single one of them from devoutly and passionately Catholic families (so much so that the host had a priest come and celebrate Mass in the living room). However, of those 25-30 Catholic kids, only five attend Catholic school - my two older children and three children from another family. My children attend the same school as the other three - St. Louis School in Lowell - and when the school opens next week, it will open with fewer students than last year as many left to attend charter schools. The school is down to one class per grade and had to cut their art program.
But although times are changing in the Church, Jesus has not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and He has promised to be with us “until the end of the age.” It’s up to use, His ambassadors, to carry out His mission and to try our best to reach a generation that is more and more skeptical and reluctant to follow Him. It’s a good challenge and I think we have a lot going on this year that will help in our efforts. Three things stand out right away to me:
- Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States as well as his recent encyclical on the environment are amazing opportunities for us to evangelize our students
- Next month we will be visited by three members of the Christian Brother’s District of Eastern North America for the first stage of our potential re-association with the Christian Brothers
- Our theology department is implementing experiential opportunities for our students can not only learn theology but also put what they learn into practice
Today let us we recommit ourselves to our vocation as Catholic school teachers and staff and to our students entrusted to our care. In the words of Blessed Mother Teresa “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”