Faith – the Currency of Heaven

Father Doty used this line in a homily last week.  It was about the time Sister Mary Angela’s mom was dying.  Her mom was a woman of faith; a simple woman and probably one of the most hardworking women I have ever known.  Sister Mary Angela is the youngest of 13, not counting two who died at birth and three more who were miscarried.  The Rosary was a part of daily life, “Like it or not” as Sister Mary Angela recalls as a child, “we all prayed it together every night.”  And Sister’s mom was not just a one-Rosary-a-day woman.  When I think of how many times she must have prayed to our Blessed Mother, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” it must have been millions.

Faith is the currency of heaven.  She had a lot to bargain with.  We figure she wanted to die on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, being so devoted to Our Lady.  But then there is the Sacred Heart and First Fridays which she also loved.  Only Monda could die on a First Friday after 4:00 making it the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception.  God has His fingerprints all over her passage to eternity.

We go today, Wednesday, to lay her tired body to rest, but her spirit surely soars.  She not only loved Our Lady, but was kind to those in need, was anointed shortly before death, AND RAISED 13 CHILDREN.  Now that’s a nice load to take to the Lord along with her faith.

Here’s her holy card.  She drew and painted the picture on the front. 

Monda

The photo is from her 90th birthday celebration back in May.  And the Rosary prayer, which the family approved by popular acclamation, describes her beautifully.

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Monda, put a good word in for us, will you?  May the Good Lord bless you and your family, especially today as they lay your body to rest.

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The REAL St. Nick

“Mom, this isn’t the fake Santa like at the mall, this is the REAL ONE!” the child said.  Funny thing is, with this one there are no presents around, no telling him what you want, only a silent presence.

We don’t want to feed the make-believe stories and materialism of our age, but children and Christmas are a delight. We want to help them know St. Nicholas’ origin and witness to his thoughtfulness and giving, hoping we will all learn to give in imitation of Jesus as he did.

We work hard at walking the fine line of saying only that which is true, yet not “leaking the secret” in any way. Fr. Christensen blazed the trail with very carefully chosen words.  We have modified the process a bit: the elves are no longer with us, or the book of naughty and nice, but the vocal point remains constant.  St. Nick leans on his bishop’s crosier as he enters dressed in a dalmatic, cope, and miter.  He is typically wearing the oldest shoes on earth, and comes in at a pace appropriate for one about 1600 years old, very slowly, very, very slowly.  Never have I seen such silent, focused attention by 400 children.  St. Nicholas slowly enters the church, processes down the aisle, steps into the sanctuary, stops, turns around and stands while a two-minute biography is read.  (I feel like the background voice in Charlie Brown cartoons, as I relay his history.  I read the real words, but let’s face it, they are so focused on watching, that for most the sound is, “Wa, wa, wa, wa-wa….” in the background).

st. Nicholas

Here is the bio we read, taken from www.stnicholascenter.org :

The real Santa lived a long time ago in the country of Turkey. His name was Nicholas.

Nicholas’ parents died when he was just a teenager. His parents left him a lot of money which made him a rich young man. He went to live with his uncle who was a priest.

Nicholas heard about a man who had lost all his money. He had three daughters who were old enough to get married. But in those days young women had to have money in order to get married. This money was a dowry and it was used to help the new family get started. If you didn’t have dowry money, you couldn’t get married.

This family was so poor they had nothing to eat. The daughters were going to be sold as slaves because they couldn’t provide for them at home any longer. They were very sad. They wouldn’t be able to have families of their own. And they would have to be slaves—no longer able to decide where they would live or what they would do.

The night before the oldest daughter was to be sold, she washed her stockings and put them in front of the fire to dry through the night.

In the morning the daughter saw a lump in her stocking. Reaching in, she found a small, heavy bag. It had gold inside! Enough to provide food for the family and money for her dowry. Oh, how happy they were!

The next morning, another bag with gold was found. Imagine! Two of the daughters would now be saved. Such joy!

And the next night, the father planned to stay awake to find out who was helping his daughters. He dozed off, but heard a small “clink” as another bag landed in the room. Quickly he jumped up and ran out the door. Who did he catch ducking around the corner?

Nicholas, the young man who lived with his uncle. “Nicholas, it is you! Thank you for helping us—I hardly know what to say!” Nicholas said, “Please, do not thank me—thank God that your prayers have been answered. Do not tell others about me.”

Nicholas continued helping people. He always tried to help secretly. He didn’t want any attention or thanks. Years passed and he was chosen to be a bishop. Bishops look after their people as shepherds look after their sheep. And that is what Nicholas did. When there wasn’t any food, he provided for his people; so no one went hungry. He always helped people in trouble. All his life Nicholas showed people how to love God and care for each other.

Everyone loved Nicholas. After he died, they told stories of the good and kind things Nicholas had done. Sailors took these stories about Nicholas everywhere they went. Some of the stories were about his special care for children—helping and protecting them when danger threatened. And so more and more people learned about good, kind Nicholas. They wanted to be like him. He is an example of how we should live. And that is why he became a Saint. —Carol Myers

Our current tradition here is to put a shoe out when we go to Mass. Our halls on Dec. 6 look like this:

shoes

When they return from Mass a holy card of St. Nicholas and a candy cane are in their shoe.

Praying you and your family can prepare for Jesus’ coming through knowing God’s love for us and giving the gift of self as the Father did in Jesus – and St. Nicholas imitated.

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Español?

Miss Mary Kouma is not just a phenomenal Spanish Teacher.  Note the picture below from LAST WEEK.  Don’t mess with Mary!

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What a blessing Miss Kouma is to our school.  At first, I was going to say to our children, which is true, but it goes beyond the children, though they are the reason we are here.  Let me itemize the reasons:

·        Our children are learning Spanish well.  (Please don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when I go in to observe, I have little idea what the kids are saying!  And sometimes the kids are really little!)

·        The children generally enjoy Spanish class very much!

·        Miss Kouma taught Spanish at the high school level, so she sees clearly where the children are headed with language acquisition.

·        Before that she worked at a bank with Spanish speaking clients, so her conversational Spanish as well as formal Spanish is exceptional.

·        In several instances she has served as an interpreter in educational meetings.

·        And she does all this while teaching Spanish in “the airplane”, a long narrow room.  See the photo of class this morning.  The children are asking one another, IN SPANISH, “When is your birthday?”  They toss the ball to a classmate, who answers in a complete sentence with their birthday, ALL IN SPANISH.  Do you know your numbers and months in Spanish?  (If not, see the parenthesis above and join me there!)

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And now for the instances that are icing on the cake!

·        Miss Kouma brings a young face of faithful Catholicism to the children!

·        Her positive enthusiasm as a faculty member is contagious.

·        She has volunteered to serve on the “Crisis Response Team”, and is a valuable member there.

·        Her choice of dress sets an example for our children, especially our girls.

We were the first, and I think to date the only, elementary school in Lincoln, public or private, to have a full time Spanish teacher.  Have I said I’m proud of Mary?  Thanks for being a blessing to our families, our faculty and to me.  May the Good Lord continue to bless you, Mary.

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CKs at St.P

Vocation awareness week – “We need something new,” I said to a few faculty members.  For years we have asked a few questions to classes, helping them explore a few horizons.  This year Mrs. Nealon said, “The kids think all you do is pray and come to school.  Tell them what you enjoy doing!”  Now don’t get me wrong we enjoy being here, but we did expound upon things a bit.  There are five of us CKs here and five days of the week, so last week each of us took a day and a couple minutes after Mass to tell the kids a bit more about us as unique individuals.  The St. Peter team is circled below in this community picture. 

 cks at St. P

I took Monday, here’s what followed:

Sister Mary Michael – I get to be married to the perfect spouse, Jesus, and live with my best friends.  I, and all of us Sisters, wear a wedding band on our left hand as we are married to the King.  He has claimed our hearts, which we gladly give to Him.  There is nothing like knowing I belong totally to Him.

 Sister Mary Guadalupe – Growing up I experienced Sisters, but I never thought about being one because I didn’t think that I was the kind of person that Sisters were. I liked playing sports and wanted to be a physical therapist. In 7th grade I had a moment when God let me know pretty clearly that I was called to be a Sister, but I wasn’t interested. Throughout high school and into college Jesus started changing my heart and instead of just thinking that I had to be a Sister, I started to want to be a Sister and give my life completely to Jesus. I found out that Sisters aren’t all alike and aren’t exactly what I thought they were. One of the many gifts that Jesus has given me in Religious Life is to become more and more the person He created me to be.

 Sister Edith Marie – In  Matthew 19:29, Jesus says, “And everyone who has given up houses or brother or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”  Jesus was faithful to me in this promise. One desire I had before entering religious life was to travel.  At one point I even thought about being an airplane stewardess.  As I discerned my religious vocation, I thought the desire to travel would have to be sacrificed.  Several years after being a Sister, God fulfilled my desire by allowing me to attend World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.  The opportunity to see different countrysides, cities, people, and to be involved in World Youth Day was exciting.  However, Jesus had even more in store for me.  My patron saint, St. Edith Stein, was a Carmelite in Cologne.  While there I was able to celebrate my feast day, visit different sites connected with her and to have housing a block from where her Carmel Monastery was when she was alive.  I was able to walk on the ground and pray in the places where she lived out her religious vocation.  What an unexpected gift!

 Sister Mary Maximilian – I was blessed to have the Sisters teach me in school here in Lincoln and since I was in 2nd grade, I wanted to be a School Sister of Christ the King.  I remember noticing how good my heart felt when I was around them.  As I grew, I tried to keep taking ‘the next best step’ towards the Lord which lead me to saying “yes” to Jesus and belonging totally to Him.

 Sister Mary Angela – Two tidbits that people often don’t know about me involve my growing up years.  First of all, my favorite number is 13 due to being the 13th child in my family.  Plus my mom had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima so I always felt a special connection to Mary since she appeared to the Fatima children on the 13th of the month.  Secondly, like many families, I grew up with dogs.  However, we didn’t just have one dog, or two or three.  In order to help support our large family, my mom raised about a dozen breeds of purebred dogs and sold the puppies, so we had 50-60 dogs on our farm.  Starting in 5th grade my chores every morning included about a half hour of carrying 5-gallon buckets of water to fill dog bowls for the day.  The dogs played a big role in my life since I got my first dog, Sally, for Christmas when I was five.  dog owner!.jpgShe was a Sheltie and I raised puppies from her until I was in high school.  One of her daughters, Sharlene, died suddenly when I was in 7th grade and this was actually a big grace in my life because it was the first time I can remember really praying to God from my heart, asking why He allowed it to happen.  I really enjoyed training my dogs and always had dreamed of having my own kennel of show dogs when I grew up.  But as much as I delighted in what I could teach them, I had never dreamed that God would use these same gifts to help me learn to teach children.  When He called me to be a Sister and to join a teaching Community, I found the reward of helping young souls know and love Jesus far outweighed any “trick” I could ever have done with a dog.  I consider this to be a testimony to the Lord’s creativity!

We are blessed to serve here in our school on a daily basis.  Thanks for sharing your children with us.

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Security Walkthrough

Safety for your children is paramount for us.  Sound conscience formation to keep their souls healthy and a secure environment where they can be safe and feel safe from intruders are both very important.  Communication of our plans to you as parents is also part of the process.  First of all, we have a crisis response team that is revising protocol for both preventing and responding to security issues.  Several years ago we used the SRP (standard response protocol) program from the I Love You Guys Foundation.   Most of those components will stay in place.  ALICE (Alert, Lockout, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) was the foundation of the recent training done here in our parish and in many of our diocesan schools and we are now implementing many of their strategies.  I was glad to see some of you at that training.

In the last week the fire and police experts, as well as Joe Wright, the LPS security coordinator, have been in our building to do a walk through and give advice as we further develop our plans.  Among the first things each group noted were our MANY cameras covering our interior and exterior, along with our secure perimeter and “locked door” policy in our classrooms.  Classrooms have a magnet that covers the latch mechanism so when a child leaves for the restroom or the like, they can get back in easily.  In a case of emergency, the magnet can be slid up or down and the door is locked in a second: no need to find keys, go to the outside of the door and lock it to be secure.  In the words of Mr. Wright as he examined our doors, “The locked door with slide-out magnet is very effective, especially with the sturdy metal doors we have in most locations.”  

The first picture is with the door operating normally, the second has the magnet in place allowing the door to be closed, but not locked so children can reenter.

The committee is taking in information and we have begun to modify our procedures to increase school security.  Thus far, one addition is that we have incorporated a narthex monitor during morning Mass on school days.  Their goal is to be aware of who comes into the church, to alert the office is there is any suspicious activity, to insure restrooms are safe and that children going to the office get there safely. 

An offsite reunification location is also essential in the planning.  If there would ever be a need to evacuate the school (gas leak, fire or other crisis), it is important to have an alternative site prepared to temporarily house our student body. Cornerstone Christian Church has agreed to be our reunification site, and we will reciprocate and be theirs.  (Ecumenism takes many forms!)  Earlier we had used Humann School as our site, but another school is not recommended since they will likely be in session and the addition of another student body….well, I can see why they don’t recommend it!  It makes sense when you take a little extra time to think.  That’s the key in much of the preparation: think through it and what will likely work.  There is no substitute for advanced thought.

We will continue to inform you of specifics as they develop.  We will be especially intentional of notifying you before we do a lockdown drill, as that can be frightening for some children.  Julia Cook, who writes many books for children on social/emotional learning, has a book called, “I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared” which is exceptional for helping young children understand the procedures without being scared.

I'm not scaredPlease God, we will never need any of these procedures, but there is no substitute for being prepared.  If any parents would like to join our Crisis Response Team in discussing protocol, we are meeting on Mondays after school.  You would be welcome to join us and bring another voice to the process.  Let us know at office@stpeterslincoln.com if you are interested.  Meetings typically run 45 minutes or so.

I would like to thank our committee members: Sister Mary Angela, Jennifer Conzemius, Chris Jacobsen, Mary Kouma, Peg Magnuson, Tom Magnuson, and Beth McElroy for their ongoing service. 

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Playful Principalling

Yesterday I was out and about in some of our classrooms and came upon a group of little ones working with Weekly Readers. When I was a child, I loved Weekly Readers.  The only thing better than the regular ones were the Summer Weekly Readers.  I couldn’t wait for them to come, but that’s a topic for another day. The Weekly Readers used yesterday in class had an activity where you cut the two page brochure in half and it made an eight page book, which you had to put in order. One of the pages had spiders on it. They were magnified about 1000 times and were awesome, beautiful, fuzzy and scary! I acted a little scared of the spiders, and soon the whole class was coming at me with their spider pictures.  I’m wise enough to know when to leave.

 Their antics got me into the spirit of the day, and I remembered that I have a few extremely large plastic cockroaches in my drawer. I tied one up to a thread so I could make it move when I was not in the vicinity.  I proceeded to have it crawl across the top of the handwashing sink by the bathroom.  Later, it trekked across the tile in front of the doorways. My favorite, though, was at the top of the steps. Children didn’t notice it till they were very close, and that was the best way to get the most reaction.  Sorry teachers, a few kids were a little unruly returning to their rooms, but come on, you’d have done it, too!

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See the same bug on a white floor (note the string) and on the darker carpet.

Halloween certainly is not my favorite event of the year. But sometimes a little bit of the spirit rubs off from the kids.  I know it’s innocent for the most part, let’s just make sure we stay far away from the Satanic.  The origin of the word goes to the Eve of All Saints Day (Hallowed, meaning holy, as used in the Our Father).  Every year our first graders not only dress up like a Saint, they memorize a line or two and present it to the school.  At first take, they are cute, at second they are good, and many cross over into the profound if we can take the time to really look and listen. 

 saints 1Bsaints 1A

Our children here catch the goodness of our Catholic faith and the Holy Spirit, and we adults catch a bit of their childlike spirit, too evidenced by the results of a little carving at the convent last night.

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God bless.  Hope to see many Trick-or-Treaters at our convent at 6225 S 44th St. from 5:30 to 8:00!

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We Hang Together or We Hang Separately!

A rather brutal title, but the culture in which we live, despite all the efforts toward inclusion, is not civil to Christians, let alone a well formed Catholic.  So…..Parent/Teacher Conferences are around the corner.  The importance of us working together as school and family can hardly be overstated.

Many times, “the same” student who leaves your home arrives at school and returns home.  Occasionally, and probably in some little way for all kids, there are some differences in the way they act at home and at school.  In your homes there are not a dozen or two extra people with whom to interact, with a different adult in charge each year.  Sometimes we need to talk about those differences.

Probably at least as important as that piece is the opportunity to confer and determine if there are ways we can support one another more fully as the children grow in wisdom, age and grace.  We are in a battle, and it is raging.  Technology, entitlement, and anxiety are a few of the newer weapons in the war for our children.  With His grace we must counter the possible negative effects carefully.  We have the Lord with us as school and family, we must actively pursue being part of His militia.  Some days that comes easier than others.

Lord, help us to work together well, so that we can witness to your unity by ours, and help the fruit of our efforts be evident in the lives of the children, in our families and in our school.  God bless, hope to see you tomorrow or Friday at conferences.

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