A New Hero

This woman carries her cross, as does her  spouse, like nobody I’ve met recently.  Renee Bondi was a presenter at the Christ Our Life Conference in Des Moines a couple weeks ago.

Renee

A gifted musician and dynamic woman, her life changed profoundly shortly after she was engaged, when an accident resulted in injuries leaving her quadriplegic.  Thirty years later, she and the same fellow she was engaged to before the accident, Mike, gave a witness talk like few I’ve heard.  My heart received a profound message of:

  • Faith
  • Fidelity
  • HOPE
  • Positivity
  • Healthy Interdependence
  • Feminine Genius
  • Generosity
  • Service – in Mike’s masculine genius

At a small group session Renee spoke of the network of helpers, all friends and volunteers, that enable her to manage daily life.  One person in the group asked how she did that.  She had a few answers, but one profoundly hit my heart, I paraphrase as well as I can recall her words, “I need to be the kind of person people enjoy being around.  When I hear negativity in my own words, I need conversion.”  The room was really quiet as she said that.

I heard Jesus in her words talking to me, too.  Between her words and Mike’s fidelity, they hit it out of the park at that conference.  Mike and Renee were able to have a son, born naturally, which surprised us all.  Can you imagine Mike’s morning routine?  Primary caregiver of his wife’s special needs AND a newborn!  I’m recalculating what the word busy means in daily life.  That’s a good man, married to a good woman.  Daniel, their son, is now 20 some years old.  He and his mother sang together beautifully to close their talk.  A standing ovation followed.  I think I clapped the loudest!

Do any of you remember the Barrios family of happy memory?  They live in California now and Renee is the MUSIC TEACHER at their local Catholic School!  Small world.  Laura, tell Renee hello from me.  There were only 5,000 of us at the conference; I’m sure she will remember me.  I only bought one thing at the conference, Renee’s book, which she signed for us.  I was the 243rd one in line, if that helps her remember.

It is good to take inspiration from the Lord where He sends it.  Renee brought some to me, I hope I can pass a little of it along to you.  Thanks, Renee.  I’m praying for you.  Let us all build the Kingdom and help one another love Jesus and each other well.

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Gut Wrenching

Last night’s SFA presentation by the Adlers contained such good information, though difficult to hear.  While kindness moving forward is their emphasis, the road that brought them to the meeting was a very difficult one. 

adler familyTo summarize their journey, the Adler’s son, Reid, committed suicide after a girl posted a picture on social media which Reid should not have taken or sent to her.  She had used the picture to harass and blackmail him for a year before posting it.

The Adler’s message as I received it is three-fold (they said it much more articulately):

·        Keep open communication with your child, and assure them of your love.  Do not dismiss ANY sign of distress or questioning of the value of life.

·        Encourage kindness among children.

·        Only through faith are they able to go on, forgive and help others.

Lord, help us benefit from the experience and the cross the Adler’s shared with us.  If you missed the presentation, here is a news clip recap  I would also like to share a couple parent testimonials from THIS WEEK.

When asked how his daughters are doing a father said to me, “They are doing well, we are holding fast to the rule of no dating until 16.  It is not an easy road, but there are so many things the kids are involved in, but that is one non-negotiable.”  Earlier in a conversation with the same dad, he said, “I signed up to have all her texts copied to my phone, but that’s not working at all, do you know how many texts they send!”  I get buried!”  I wanted to say, bravo to you for trying!

Another parent whose child received a caustic text from another came in to ask assistance with finding the app that buried the dad above.  It isn’t easy, is it?

My heart is with you in this process.  After listening to the Adler’s story, my mind jumped to some of the safeguards we have been promoting in our school after consultation with Fr. Kilcawley, mental health professionals, and our faculty and administration:

·        Covenant Eyes – Reid would not have been able to send that picture if he had Covenant Eyes on his device.

·        Inaccessibility at night – the “Safe Box” on the counter with the timer that makes phones/devices inaccessible in the night.  The process ensures phones are charged for the next day, and that kids get a better night’s sleep.

·        Monitoring of material – do you have your kid’s passcodes?  When that phone is in the box before the lid goes on at night do you occasionally look at text strings?  That could work for the dad above that was buried by everything, he could occasionally check, but not have his phone clogged.

·        Technology-free times – like the dinner table and family times.

·        Dating – while 16 seems to be the accepted age to allow children to begin, even that seems young in our current climate which is putting marriage off until nearly 30.  Consider groups of guys and girls in activities, rather than one-on-one.  It sure takes off a lot of pressure.

·        We are working actively to notify you of particular curricula used to promote sound formation regarding the human person.  TOB, Safe Environment, programs like the one last night, and the one next Monday by Jason Evert.  We also inform you of particular incidents that could be formative opportunities for you and your child, or are signs of potential danger.  We appreciate the same if you have info we should have.

Sometimes it seems like we can never do enough, but instead of getting discouraged, just do the next best step.  I pray for you as you navigate your family through the maturation process.  Remember Jesus is Lord of All!  He also has particular grace for you as a spouse and a parent.  No one has the grace to make decisions for your specific family like you do.  Call upon the Lord and ask for enlightenment, be open to His counsel, and continue to just love your kids.

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Sometimes You Are Hard to Tell Apart, Too

There is an aspect of every child that makes them my favorite.  Eli reinforced it today when, after I looked closely at him, and greeted him by name in the courtyard before school, he responded, “Sometimes you are hard to tell apart, too!”  Eli and his twin brother Ethan are among the cutest pair God has created. 

His comment back to me was in reference to being able to tell us apart as Sisters.  Eli and Ethan are in kindergarten and they do not have one of us Sisters regularly, so many of the kids in his shoes mix us up. 

RamackersFor a five-year-old to be able to apply the discernment used to call him by name to others…..that’s extraordinary.  But don’t stop reading, as the extraordinary for these little guys goes way back. 

About six years ago when their mom found out she was expecting twins, all was well until the middle of the pregnancy when one of the boy’s growth stagnated at about two pounds.  The other fellow was growing well.  To make a long story short we prayed like crazy when mom went to California for a surgery.  In her placenta there were three sets of vessels.  One for baby A, one set for baby B, and a set that went to both babies.  In the surgery, the doctor cut and cauterized all the shared vessels on the big baby side!  Surgery on a placenta!  I can hardly imagine!  A couple months later both boys were born between four and five pounds each.  Mom gave me permission to tell her story in the blog.  Every morning when I see the boys joyfully bounding into school, I thank God for the miracle of life that is every one of us, but these two have a little extra miracle. 

God be praised.

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Children of God

When I was little, probably six or seven years old, I can still remember the nasty thing I did to one of my high school brothers.  It was winter and our large family was crowded in the living room of our small farmhouse.  I don’t recall all the details, but it seemed like everyone was in high spirits and there was laughing and joking going on.  For some reason I was down on the floor and came crawling around the back of the easy chair where Gene was sitting.  I can still see his bare arm stretched straight out over the side of the chair and as I came up behind him, the clever idea popped into my mind, “Wouldn’t it be funny to hit it (at the joint) as hard as I can?”  So, I did.  The last thing I remember was his howling and anger, and suddenly it wasn’t funny any more…

I recalled this incident as I reflected on PeaceMakers Week and the core concepts that we reinforced with the children last week, especially empathy.  Empathy is being able to feel what another person would feel and showing kindness to them in their situation.  I would like to blame it on my age, but I didn’t have a very strong sense of empathy when I was little!

The good news is that empathy, along with kindness, resilience, friendship, conflict resolution and teamwork, are all concepts that can be taught and reinforced, even at the youngest age, as is evidenced by these kindergarten and second graders.  Peacemakers KB

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One way we also emphasized empathy and kindness was through presentations by Brenda Daum from Kids on the Block.  Her puppets put on skits about children with autism, blindness and Down Syndrome.  These little scenarios showed our children in grades PreK-4 that everyone is to be accepted and treated with respect.

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Students in grades 5 and 6 had the privilege of hearing the story of Bob Deschaine and his 38-year friendship with Jim Logan, a man with special needs.  The students were touched by his story. (click on link)WIN_20180917_090456.jpg

The junior high got the opportunity to put social skills in action with a social leadership seminar conducted by Mary Beth Rice.  From learning how to introduce another person, to the art of conversation and navigating family relationships, the students learned practical tips on how to prepare for upcoming years in high school as well as skills they need for life.

All of these aspects of PeaceMakers Week are just the tip of the iceberg.  Our goal is to help the children recognize, develop and live the skills and virtues that lead to being PeaceMakers in our world.  By doing so, they will reap the rewards that God promises in this Beatitude, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

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PS – Saturday is the feast of the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.  As a means of WIN_20180926_10_02_21_Pro (2)asking for the peace of God to descend upon your homes, we will be sending home St. Michael home blessing kits to each family on Friday.  Please take a few minutes to gather the family and ask the protection of St. Michael on your family and home.

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Three Things to Live By

Back in the ‘80s when I was in formation in the convent there was a burlap banner with felt letters on our directress’s door.  The content was as good as the presentation was dated.  It said, “If you are humble and grateful you will always be happy.”  Over the years I have found truth in that so often.  I find it reflected back to me often in God’s Word and people’s lives. 

So there’s two concepts: humble and grateful.  The third, which probably should flow from the others, but needs to be stated, is faithful.  An underlying foundation of Christianity supports these three, and without it, or rather Him, I think they would be impossible in the culture today.

Jesus is the reason for our school. He is the reason I show up every morning, (and stay through the day).  He is the One Who helps me find gratitude around many corners.  He reminds me I am a Beloved Daughter, who is also His Spouse, and in need of mercy around many corners.

ThesFaith Hope Lovee are simple things to live by, not always easy, but relatively simple.  Stated another way, all is gift, let us respond accordingly. 

God bless us all and may we, along with the children, learn humility, gratitude and fidelity.

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A Piece of Peace

I can’t tell you how many times, when people have stopped by the convent and we have them make a visit to Jesus in our chapel, they come out and say, “Oh, it’s so peaceful here!”  Our convent is beautiful and the chapel is a wonderful haven from the “noise” of the world around us (even when we hear the neighbors mowing their yards).  It’s a reminder to me that every human heart seeks peace and it’s important to cultivate such opportunities.

Yesterday, Fr. LaRue offered a Mass for Peace and Justice on the anniversary of 9/11.  He reminded the children, and me, that if we desire peace in the world, it starts with my own choices and helping to build peace in my own interactions. PeaceMakers Logo

Next Monday, we will begin celebrating PeaceMakers Week in our school.  This is our week-long initiative, coupled with ongoing teaching throughout the year, to help the children understand what it means to be a peace-maker and learn concrete ways of going about this.  We do so by focusing on and teaching specific social/emotional skills each day of the week:

  • M – Kindness/Empathy/Awareness
  • Tu – Leadership/Responsibility/Resilience
  • W – Friendship
  • Th – Conflict Resolution
  • F – Teamwork

Research has shown that the greatest factor in preventing aggressive behavior is building a sense of empathy (understanding the pain of others) in individuals (https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/files/gse-mcc/files/empathy.pdf).  By the same token, the most important factor in helping individuals who are targets of aggression is to build resiliency (being able to bounce back and take things in stride) (http://www.virtuebase.org/2016/05/14/why-teaching-resiliency-matters/).  If we can empower our children to be empathetic and resilient, we are helping them socially and emotionally to be happier people – and to be peace-makers.  Building friendships, navigating conflict resolution and working as a team are also key factors in this endeavor.

Some special events to look forward to include grades PreK-4 attending presentations on Monday from Kids on the Block, sponsored by Nebraska Elks Club (https://nebraskaelkskob.weebly.com/programs.html). This is a troupe of puppets that educate students on a variety of topics, including how to relate to children with autism, Down syndrome and other disabilities.  Also on Monday, the 5th and 6th grade students will get to hear from parishioner and former teacher, Bob Deschaine, as he shares about his 20-year friendship with and advocacy for a man with special needs.  On Thursday, the Junior High will have an opportunity to participate in a workshop by Mary Beth Rice on social leadership.

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I encourage you to have your child(ren) share with you the various lessons and experiences of the week ahead.  It promises to be a fun and grace-filled time!  But also remember that our greatest peace is found in the quiet of time spent with Jesus in the Eucharist.  When Fr. Kelleher recently spoke to our students about Eucharistic adoration, 107 of them committed to making a 10-15 minute visit to Jesus on a weekly basis.  I hope that, with your help, they are able to keep that commitment.  By doing so, they can experience what Jesus told us at the Last Supper, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Jn.14: 27

God bless you and peace be with you!

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Odd Timing

A few days ago, one of our Sisters was visiting with a Protestant friend of hers. Having not seen each other in a long time, they had a joyful, lively exchange.  The Sister was surprised to hear her friend say, “I’m thinking about becoming Catholic.” She was eager to hear how God had brought her to this. In telling about her journey, the friend remarked, “It seems like the Catholic Church is really under attack now. It must have the truth, if Satan is attacking it.”   Sometimes the Lord leaves me scratching my head in confusion for a bit.  I love it when the scratch is followed by enlightenment and an inner sense of truth and goodness amidst the cross.

We are under an attack that will result in purification, change, and please God, rededication to the primacy of Jesus.  In the midst of it let us not be complacent, but fight.  My fight looks like this:

  •        First and foremost, we need much prayer:
    •    for innocent victims, that they might be healed of their wounds
    •    for all victims of any form of abuse
    •    for enlightenment for those who have to sort all this out, that they may be able to do so promptly and justly
    •     for structures that will enable the Church to grow in holiness
    •    for priests, especially the faithful priests who suffer from the fault of their brothers
    •    for conversion of those who have sinned gravely, that through repentance and penance, souls might be saved
    •    for those who are responsible for the good of all may we be especially vigilant for the most defenseless.
  •         We also need some corporal penance for all of the above.  Let us put our bodies to work on this, too!

Father Barron recently reminded us we are not Catholic because of the moral excellence of our leaders.  I am Catholic because of Jesus Christ.  In His Word and His Church, wounded though her followers are, He is present and lives and loves. 

He lives and loves in us all, but He is so easily seen in children.  He highlights our need to care for them well when we see their innocence, goodness and joy.  (We need to care for them when all those are absent, too, lest our care be conditional, which it is not.)  Here are a few examples of what is in our halls at the present moment. 

 

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Lord you promise to bring good from all things if we put them in Your hands.  Jesus, we need You!  We hope in You!  We have faith in You!  We love You! 

We also need to make our amendment personal!  Jesus, I need You!  I hope in You!  I have faith in You!  I love You!  I’m still scratching my head, but I can see blessing coming on the horizon, and I have confidence in Him.

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PS  By the way, Lord, could you quit washing us with this rain.  While we are not yet entirely clean, I don’t think more rain will help.

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