My grandfather was a gentle man who rejoiced in ordinary everyday occurrences. These things: his sweet-smelling, homegrown carnations, hard work, and prayer. Simple, common courtesies and actions. I remember him taking me to Mass every day before school started. He would always bring me something special to eat for breakfast after Mass. I especially recall holding the warm blueberry muffin in its brown paper bag. I remember watching the steam escaping, fogging up the car windows when I opened the bag to savor the sweet aroma. I remember it now as if it were yesterday. My grandfather brought the Lord into my life through his joy in all that was around him. That is what we do in Catholic school. We bring the Lord into the lives of our students.
Our school year doesn't just begin with new clothes and supplies. We celebrate Mass. Our students don't just dress up for Halloween. We celebrate the lives of the saints and learn life's lessons through their stories.
We don't just celebrate Christmas; we light the Advent candle and celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.
Our valentines are not just pink and red construction paper hearts; they are rooted in the Great Commandment.
We don't just celebrate Easter; we walk the Stations of the Cross.
We don't just celebrate birthdays; we remember baptisms, as well.
We don't just celebrate First Holy Communions; we encourage weekly reception at Sunday Mass.
We don't just dance around the May pole to welcome spring, we celebrate our Mother Mary and crown her Queen of Heaven.
When a young man or woman receives the Sacrament of Confirmation, we challenge them to live their faith every day, not just at that special moment.
We don't just study reading, writing, and arithmetic; we recite the Rosary and reflect upon the events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.
We pray, always in the beginning, during, and at the end of our day together.
We pray for our students, and, more importantly, we pray with our students.
We share our faith.
When our students finish school, we don't just promote them with a diploma. They graduate with a faith life anchored in the knowledge that they are unique individuals created in the likeness of God.
I did not want to be a teacher when I was growing up. I wanted to be a nurse, or a journalist, or a singer, or a poet. My parents persuaded me to enter the field of education. I remember crying my first day of school as a teacher. I was scared, full of doubt, and very much aware of the responsibility entrusted to me. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. Not only was I carrying the dreams of my parents into that classroom, I would be shaping minds and launching young men and women into the world. Looking back, I realize that even if my teaching career was parent-decided, it was also God-directed. It is through teaching that the Lord challenges me every minute of every hour of every day every year.
And it has been through teaching in a Catholic school, Saint Augustine School in Bridgeport, where I have learned to rejoice in my vocation. There is community here at Saint Augustine School, a spirit of family that embraces you the moment you enter.
If my grandfather were alive today, he would agree with me that it is not the book learning we impart that is important. I teach in a Catholic school. It is the way we live our lives.
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