Each year, the 6th grade teachers at St. Christopher's School in Nashua generously invite me to speak at their class retreat and to attend their graduation lunch. This year's retreat was this past Wednesday and the lunch was the following afternoon. St. Christopher's is one of the strongest schools in the Diocese of Manchester and their principal Mrs. Clarke is one of the finest principals we have. I have developed a real fondness for the school, the teachers, and the pastor Father Richard Kelley.
I got to the school around 11am as my oldest daughter was graduating from kindergarten at St. Louis School in Lowell that morning. I spoke with the students in the fall at their Vocation Day as well as the previous year so I know them well. The focus of the talk was friendship but I also used the occasion to have them look at my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade yearbook pictures and to laugh at how I looked and evolved over the course of junior high. The point was how much people change and the person you are now isn't the person you will be later. I then had them write down on cards the thing(s) that they are more nervous about and most excited about as they prepare for junior high school. I read them outloud (no names of course) so they would know they're not alone in their fears, hopes, and dreams. I also had some Trinity High School students write down some advice and things they wish they knew going into 7th grade and read those out.
Following this, I had the students read three gospel passages about how Jesus treated people - the story of Jesus calling Matthew the tax collector, the story of Zacchaeus, and the story of the woman caught in adultery. In each of these, people questioned why Jesus was spending time with these "sinners" or being kind to them. We also discussed the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. The point I was trying to make is that Jesus is the ultimate model of friendship - loyal, merciful, inclusive, and a servant. We, I said, have a model to follow in Him. We then wrapped up with a prayer service where we prayed sayings from the book of Proverbs and then listened to the song "Safe" by Phil Wickham.
We had a little time before lunch we we went outside as the kids played baseball (with a giant jelly ball) and I chatted with Ms. Wefers and Mrs. Edmond, the amazing 6th grade teachers. We were then treated to a nice lunch and Mrs. Edmond gave me an order of buffalo wings! They know me well!!
The following afternoon was the 6th grade lunch and Awards Ceremony. I had a nice chat with the pastor, Fr. Kelley and the 5th grade teachers. Mrs. Clarke made some nice remarks and as always choked up! You can tell how much she loves her students. Tonight the students "graduate" from the school. There are 38 students in the 6th grade and 36 are going to Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School. Most will then go to Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua but I encouraged them to think of us too!
Best wishes to all the students.