Violeta Update

We’ve been filling you in relatively frequently, but mom’s with sick kids have them on their minds, so too, we here at school are a lot like moms: Violeta is on our mind.

Two days ago Violeta’s condition was grave.  She was put on a ventilator and her kidney function was compromised.  Her dad confirmed the report that yesterday was a much better day when he came by to pick up Violeta’s older sister.  He said she had a kidney stone lodged in the tube that led out of her kidney and nothing could get out.  She is unable to tolerate surgery due to the cancer treatment, so they put a small tube around the stone that successfully allowed her kidney to drain.

Violeta's kidneyAfter that the doctor said, the recovery will be up to Violeta.  Yesterday she became more responsive, her kidney function improved and she is breathing mostly on her own.  Her dad was so pleased, and so grateful for her turn toward recovery and for our prayers.

He said one other thing that struck me.  I asked if Maria had the baby, Rosa Maria, in Omaha or if the baby was here in Lincoln with him.  He said the baby is here with him.  Maria’s parents are here and help with the baby through the day.  He said, “When I wake up at night to feed her, I am just so grateful that we have her and for the prayers from you all here and so many people.”  That’s a dad open to God’s grace and goodness in the middle of the night, night after night, in the midst of sacrifice that has become a part of normal life.  May God bless him, Violeta, Maria and all their family.  Let us continue to keep them in our prayers.

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Whose Child is This?

Did your child ever get lost in a store?  If so, do you remember the sense of panic in your heart when you turned around and saw he/she was nowhere in sight?  After frantically looking through the aisles you likely went to a store employee and had your child paged on the intercom.  Many times, it ends up that the child is oblivious to all this and is simply enjoying a toy or item that they discovered somewhere.  But your feeling of relief and joy in finding him/her knows no bounds!

When it comes to our children, it’s always personal.  After all, they are our very flesh and blood.  We brought them into this world and are responsible for them.  They belong to us…or do they?saints line-up

This week is National Vocation Awareness Week.  A week in which we promote and encourage consideration of the calling that God has for many of His children to become priests, religious brothers or sisters.  At such times, it is easy as parents to think, “Oh, that’s great!  We need priests and Sisters.  I support vocations and love having Sisters in our school.”  But sometimes, it doesn’t strike home that God could be calling your son or daughter to dedicate his/her life totally to Him.  If He does so, how will your heart respond?  It’s not unusual for parents to feel like they are “losing” their child who is following a religious vocation.  After all, he/she won’t be able to be there for every family gathering, you may not get to see or talk to him/her as frequently, and, worst of all, there won’t be grandchildren to spoil! 🙂

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But the reality is, no matter what vocation your child is called to follow, you will need to let go.  After all, even married children sometimes move far away and you seldom see grandchildren.  The key is to look at your child and ask yourself, “Whose child is this?”  Deep in your heart you know the answer is, “God’s.”  You have been given a huge gift and responsibility in raising and forming your child, but ultimately, he/she does not belong to you.  And part of your role is to help your child realize this also.  The other key factor – actually, the most important one – is to remember that the vocation to which God calls your child is the one that will be the most fulfilling.

A very special “vocation” event to which you could bring your child is coming up the end of this month.  On Sunday, Nov. 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King, our entire Community of the School Sisters of Christ the King will be raised to the status of a religious institute of the Diocese of Lincoln.  This step is once-in-a-lifetime for a religious community and will be celebrated with a 2:00 p.m. Mass offered by Bishop Conley at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, during which each of the Sisters will proclaim her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.  (This Mass fulfills your Sunday obligation.) There will be a reception afterward as well.  I guarantee, you will never experience a ceremony like this again!

School Sisters of Christ the King

So, as parents, you can begin even now, no matter what the age of your child, to prepare him/her to respond to the vocation to which God is calling.  I came across this “ABCs of Fostering Vocations” which has very practical ideas (I especially like A, F, J, O, S and W):

A: Answer your children’s questions about priesthood or Religious life; never discourage them or ridicule them if they bring it up.

Ask your child to identify a talent which he or she has, and imagine together what work or ministry God might want someone to do with that type of talent. Also talk about what good things can be done with the talent right now. For instance, singing talent could be used to sing a baby brother or sister to sleep. Talent at soccer could be used to help someone on the team who needs extra practice.

B: Bring your family to the next ordination Mass or prayer vigil for religious.

C: Challenge teens and young adults to consider a Church-related vocation. Tell them about the gifts in ministry you see in them. Encourage them to participate in at least one special vocation event (ordination, vocation retreat, religious profession,  etc.).

Cultivate an attitude of service by responding as a family to the needs of others. Seek out those in need and find ways to care for them.

D: Discuss your own vocation to family life, explaining that God calls some people to priesthood or religious life, some to marriage, and some to life as single laypeople. You can talk about vocations firsthand!

E: Encourage your children to be involved in the liturgical life of the parish as servers, lectors, musicians, etc. (and see to it that they get there on time).

Explore the feelings you might experience should one of your children choose to give his or her life to Church ministry and discuss with your spouse your feelings and reactions if one of your children decided to become a priest or nun.

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F: Find opportunities to affirm the gifts and talents of your children, and help them relate their gifts to various career and life choices (including priesthood and religious life).

G: Guide your junior high child to pray that he or she might discover and use the gifts God has given.

H: Have a priest come and bless your home. Have your younger children make a cross to hang in each bedroom in your home.

I: Include the diocesan vocation prayer in your personal and family prayer, especially on Wednesdays. Invite a priest, brother or sister to dinner or to an outing with your family.

J: Join together in prayer as a family; include a short vocations prayer when you pray before meals (especially on Wednesday).

K: Keep an eye open for TV shows and movies that present Gospel-centered role models. Watch them with your children and engage in a discussion.

L: Let your children see their Baptism pictures. Have the children make and send a card or note to the priest who baptized them promising him they will pray for them.

Let your children notice an attitude of openness to God’s will in you.

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M: Make time for teenagers in your life: your children and their friends, nieces and nephews, babysitters, etc.

N: Name the gifts of each family member on their birthday. Express gratitude for these gifts.

O: On the date of your child’s baptism, talk about the life of the saint for whom the child is named (or the saint’s day it is). There is plenty of information about the background of saints on the Internet. The saints are people from all walks of life who tried to make a positive difference in the world–a goal as real today as it was for the saints.

P: Pray for the seminarians of the diocese by name if you can find out their names; you may want to “spiritually adopt” one of them.

Q: Quiz your children and discuss with them stories of calls in Scripture (e.g. Mary’s response to God in Luke 1:26-39, Jesus’ calling the Apostles in Mt 4:18-22, etc.).

R: Remember in prayer by name those who minister to your family and include in your family prayers petitions for those called to priesthood and consecrated life.

S: Set aside a “family time” each week for kids to talk about what is happening in lives. Let them share about their day.

Share the story of your own vocational choice with your children. Celebrate the occasion of your wedding anniversary as you share the story of your vocation to married life.

Support and participate in any school or parish vocation activities.

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T: Talk about your family’s ethnic or cultural heritage at supper, while driving in the car, or at some other time when family members are all together. Pass along memories of cultural aspects of holiday and other celebrations that you remember.

Talk positively and enthusiastically about the priests, sisters, brothers, and deacons in your parish and share with your children the stories of the priests or sisters who have inspired you and how (e.g. priest at your wedding, or baptized your children, priests or religious from school, etc.).

Tell your children why you chose your particular profession. Who helped you form your decision?

U: Use books and videos to familiarize your children with saints who are priests or vowed religious. Use these lives of the saints as a springboard for discussion on these lifestyles.

Utilize opportunities to share your vocation as parents: what you value, how you came to that decision, and the importance of faith in your life.

V: Visit Churches and Shrines while on vacation and offer prayers together as a family.

W: Witness to your own vocation by telling stories about how you fell in love. Let the children see the love and care that parents have for each other.

XYZ: The end of the alphabet, but certainly not the end of ways or ideas to foster vocations at home!

May God bless you in your vocation as parents and the in the future vocation of your child!

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Violeta’s Miracle?

Maria, Violeta’s mom, came into my office with Mr. May.  He said, “Maria has a story for you.”

She began in her broken English, pausing frequently to find the right word.  Occasionally, I guessed at the next word, until she said, “Just wait, you listen.”  I shut up and listened.

She continued slowly, “In January, when I found out I was expecting, I thought, ‘Oh, Lord, I have three girls, how can we manage another baby?’ and I cried for three months.  Then in March, we found out Violeta had leukemia, and I cried for two more months.  Then the doctors were trying to figure things out and who might be the best match for treating Violeta……and guess what……even though the baby was not born yet, the baby is the best match.  Rosa Maria is the best match!  So when she was born…”  There was a very long pause….

At his point the Holy Spirit is buzzing every bone in my body, and I can’t stay quiet and I said, “They saved the umbilical cord blood rich in stem cells and will use it for the transplant!”  Her smile and tears confirmed the blessing.  We smiled, laughed and hugged all at the same time.  Maria continued, “I said to the Lord, ‘Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

Lord, thank you for using two crosses to bless one another, and thank you for reminding us to trust in You.  Thank you for Violeta and Maria Rosa, who is now about two months old.   Her stem cells were given to Violeta on Monday, October 23rd, after the chemotherapy in which all her potentially diseased blood cells were killed.  I just spoke to Maria and she said, “Right now Violeta isn’t feeling well, but the doctors say it is all good.  We have to be very careful she does not get sick, but it is all perfect.”  (This story is retold with Maria’s permission.)  Violeta will not be back to school for a long time yet, but the road to recovery is unfolding.  Let’s thank God for His goodness!

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Fun Fatima Friday!

That was the response of a child when during Friday’s homily Father Danek asked what was going on special today.  I hadn’t named it that, but, oh, does it fit!

The day began with special events even before Mass.  The Bishop sent Miraculous Medals for all the children, which we strung on Blue Cord and distributed to the children with the recommendation to “Love your Mother” or “Listen to your Mother”.

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Special events continued with the Living Rosary.  The third graders always do it well, but this was particularly beautiful.  Not only did we pray the rosary, but with visuals of each bead and meditations articulately read with a precision of which Mary’s Blue Army would be proud.  The crowd knelt and sat alternately with each decade as directed by the third graders, making it particularly good for the kids who should not be expected to stay in one spot for too long.  I hope they enjoyed it half as much as I did.

We do the Living Rosary annually, but we don’t always follow it with a helium balloon Rosary launch!  What do you think a helium balloon Rosary will look like?  No idea?  Me, either.  It was gorgeous.  Kudos to the committee who farmed the job out to the right group!  In the hallway by the music room as the kids were lining up, we were popping the water balloons which hold it down while waiting for the carriers.  We asked any children named Jacinta, Lucia, Francisco or Mary to help carry out the Rosary.  (We also recruited a few student council members at the last minute when we needed a couple more students, lest those of you who know them think we don’t know their names.)

Our kids are used to the honor guard line-up from our Eucharistic Processions.   This one was different in one big way.

No need for silence this time.  We told the kids to give a cheer for Mary and her Rosary as the Rosary went by.  They then followed in line as the end of the line came by and we all got to the new parking lot.  It was delightful to hear the children’s exclamations as the rosary bobbed through the lines.  Wasn’t the cross on the end particularly well done?  Its scale, color and variation on shape compared to the beads gave it just what was needed.

Once all were in place, we sang the Hail Holy Queen and let ‘er go!  A countdown seemed just the way to go to help everyone be sure to focus on the launch.  Here’s a two minute video of the launch and a few more pictures.

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After the launch we came inside to enjoy excerpts of the movie, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.  Made in the 50s, the movie has some humorous scenes, as well as some that helped us understand the children and what it was like in the grotto that day.  Sister Mary Angela carefully selected the scenes so the story could be followed and enjoyed.  Of course you have to have a little popcorn if you have a movie.

In honor of the Miracle of the Sun we followed up with ice cream SUNdaes.  We had to send the Sun Chips home with the kids lest we make some of them ill from too much indulgence.  Our Lady’s message has a good deal to do with penance in life, but Lent is coming, (lest you think we were just partying and not listening to what Mary had to say.)

Now that’s a Catholic School celebration done well if I’ve ever been part of one!  There was enjoyment for body, mind and soul!  Special kudos to those who contributed to the fundraiser Messages 4 Mary, and for the parents who helped with the process and the event.  It was a witness to community also!  God be praised in the event and for His goodness in making it possible, complete with good weather and a Catholic School full of kids to enjoy it all.  I can just picture our Blessed Mother smiling upon us all.

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Miracle Overshadows Eclipse

God in His providence has put us in the “zone of totality” for the recent solar eclipse in the same year as the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima Portugal.  If you aren’t familiar with those three little children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, and our Blessed Mother’s six visits to them, the story of God’s love for us is evident in His message.  We’ve been preparing in various ways for the culmination of the hundredth anniversary on Oct. 13, the actual day of the Miracle in the grotto at Fatima.

The eclipse and the Miracle have many similarities as well as differences.  Some children have constructed Venn Diagrams comparing and contrasting the two events.

 

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In the final analysis there surely is no debate about the greater.  In the Miracle that day at the Grotto in Fatima, not only did the sun spin and move about in the sky, but it grew in size and appeared to be coming rapidly toward the earth.  The people in attendance screamed thinking the world was coming to an end.  Some saw the Holy Family, but all saw the sun’s movement, even those who came as agnostics to mock the event, as they thought nothing would happen.  Though convinced by the visual, the instantaneous drying of their soaked clothes as well as the mud all around them confirmed their new found faith.  I love the magnitude of the Miracle and how God shed his grace on all, believer and non-believer.  (Though after the event, there were no non-believers left in that grotto. God be praised)

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Among my favorite pictures taken that day in 1917 is this one of a policeman carrying Jacinta to the event.  He was there to protect her, as they feared the crowd would harm her if there was no miracle.

Jacinta with policemanIf I had access to a planetarium and accomplished multimedia special effects experts, I would recreate what was described by those present in that Grotto.  Stephen Spielberg where are you when we need you.

I loved being on that parking lot with all the children taking in the eclipse with sight, sound and temperature change.  But when I consider our eclipse experience, and let it lead me to consider what those present at Fatima saw that day in that muddy grotto, the eclipse is overwhelmingly overshadowed.  Our loving Father has a history of overshadowing the natural with the supernatural on occasion to bring His love to us and get our attention.  Amen.  Alleluia.

Join us if you are able on Oct. 13, we will be celebrating, and observing some of the directives of Our Lady, particularly praying the Rosary. We will also be doing several other activities that afternoon to celebrate the day and pray for our benefactors.

We pray for those we love often, but we will be intentional about praying for them repeatedly, but especially on Oct. 13, too, as we celebrate the end of our Message for Mary promotion.  Here’s what we have lined up for the day:

  • 12:45 Living Rosary – led by the third graders in the church
  • 1:15 Rosary Launch – we will have a helium balloon Rosary, which we will watch ascend to the heavens like our prayers.  The new parking lot is the place.
  • 1:45 Movie excerpts – “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima” with SUN Chips, and popcorn to munch on in the gym or take home.
  • 2:45 SUNdaes to celebrate the Miracle of the SUN

Thanks to all of you who made M4M a success and also to Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother for that gift at Fatima 100 years ago.  Help us listen well!

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Make Me a Channel of Your Peace…

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The Before School Huddle

When you see a group of adolescents in a huddle before school, wise crowd control monitors check it out.  There have been two lately:

  • Girls – Fifth graders to be exact. It was a tight group, obviously quite taken with a common focal point.  It was their first day to lead the rosary before Mass and they were looking at one another’s rosaries and making sure they had the prayer leaflet well examined so they could find the right spot, as “You get nervous when you lead,” they told me.

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  • Boys – This one was fifth graders, too. They were a couple people deep.  They were clearly intent upon something on the bench.  Band instruments!  It was one of the first days of band and the shine of the new musical tools had them captivated.  It was good to see the mutual sharing.IMG_4533

God be praised that we have a school where kids are gathered in huddles sharing truly good things (sometimes anyway, I ain’t no fool to think know it isn’t always this way, but let’s praise God when it is, and take reparative steps when it is not.)

May God continue to bless us all, which He surely will, may we receive well his grace.

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