Monday, December 22, 2008

Images (and Insights) of the Journey...and it Continues

St. Roman was supposed to have our Christmas concert on Friday, but we got walloped with 15 inches of snow during the night! So no school for us...begin our Christmas break a day early! I was pretty I stayed in my PJs all day (and shoveled), loafed (and shoveled), opened up my presents from school (and shoveled), and worked on a few projects (oh...and I did some shoveling). It was nice. Yesterday, we got oh depending 3-5 more inches...and this was light, fluffy, but make the roads icky snow. Today... -4 degrees with a -30 windchill! Translation for those of you where the sun shines always: THAT IS REALLY REALLY COLD.
4th Sunday! This is it folks...our Advent journey is almost complete. I can't very well, write about the last three and skip the 4th. Plus, being cooped up in the house, I took the opportunity to play with my replacement camera (replacing the one that was stolen out of my suitcase) and took some neat photos. For me they are familiar signs that our preparation is almost complete and JOY and NEW LIFE are right around the corner.

My 4th experience of community during this week of Advent was with my staff. The week before Christmas break in a school is so exhausting. Kids are checked out and crazy, staff is worn out, Christmas concert preparation, etc...let's say we are all ready for break when it arrives. On Thursday (not knowing for sure that we'd be off the next day), we had our little staff Christmas gathering after school. It was lovely...nice conversation, low key, yummies...I stepped back and observed for a while and! The energy was so positive and cheerful, despite the tiredness of the days before. It was a delightful time and people seemed to enjoy it. That's a happy!

Transition is a hard thing in general; I've come to appreciate the perspective of a leadership transition for a staff/school. I work with gifted professionals who have been successful teachers, at St. Roman for 30+ years. They've had principals/pastors/colleagues come and go...philosophy changes, transition...transition...transition. I work with gifted educators who are relatively new (myself included!) to the field and have an energy and enthusiasm for the possibilities. For myself, I have a good knowledge base and clear directions in which I'd like to see education (universally) go. Put all of this into a big pot and mix it up and then empty it...and then ask people to find what was theirs. Um's a journey (ACK...that's one of those formationy words that I swore would never come out of my mouth! HELP!).

Stepping back and "observing" has been one of my processes as I transitioned into this new school. That's not easy for me; I'm a watch you for 2 minutes to see how you do it, jump in and do it, and adapt/learn as necessary person. Stepping back and observing...sometimes makes the journey seem a bit tedious at times, but the relationships that form are worth it. I stepped back and observed for a few minutes at our party and it hit me. We've come very far since we began our journey together in August. Relationships have formed as a staff . The spirit in our school is lively and supportive. People seem to be free to share ideas and weigh in with an alternative perspective. We can enjoy each other's company, outside of "shop talk".

I used to think (although a lover of Advent as a kiddo) that Christmas was this burst of JOY and EXCITEMENT...that it all started with that day. In light of my 4th week of Advent experience, I realize that unless the journey happened, the JOY and NEW LIFE could not be the end result.

Oh that I type that...I think--"Great, Kate...that's one of those insights that has multiple meanings." I know this entry will come back to bite me sometime; another Spit in your Soup moment courtesy of the Fun Nun.

I found this simple poem written by one of my nuns, Sr. Irene Zimmerman, in her book Incarnation, which spoke to me this morning in my prayer time:

Christmas Sky
That once-in-a-world-time night
even the stars, otherwise
so distant in their ancient skies,
came to adore the in-the-beginning Light.

May the "blessings" (yes, even those ones that don't seem like blessings...and don't I know that!) be with you as the JOY and NEW LIFE of Christmas emerge. Cha, cha, cha.
(It's like the birthday song...all this seriousness, needs a "cha cha cha" once in a while.)

Peace out!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gaudete! Rejoice!

Not writing since November 1st...even I miss me! Ha Ha Ha...

Actually, I've had a lot of material to write about, but just not a good chunk of time to sit and write. Let me give a brief update before launching in to my real thoughts (which will actually relate to the title)...

I had a magnificent Thanksgiving surprise! My mom surprised my sisters and grandmother with a cruise to celebrate her 50th birthday. We had 4 days to make arrangements, pack, etc...I don't do spontaneity very well, but I managed. We went to the Bahamas and had a wonderful time together. I have great pictures too; I'm not going to post them though. Why you may ask? Unfortunately, my suitcase was ransacked sometime after we checked our luggage in Miami and picking it up at and pictures...all gone. Booo! I guess I can hope that the person who took it needed a camera; I'm mostly bummed about the pictures.

School is good...really good, but crazy these weeks. These kiddos (who am I kidding? The teachers and principal too) are R-E-A-D-Y for break. We have Christmas concert rehearsal this week, concert on Friday, by 10:00 p.m. Friday I am officially on break! Woo hoo!

That's about it for the updates...and now for our regularly scheduled entry:

Gaudete! Rejoice!

I LOVE ADVENT; I have since I was a little kid. Something about the anticipatory excitement, the stories, the rituals at school, the multi-sensory experiences, I love it! I was always fascinated in grade school, hearing the Isaiah stories and thinking, " did he know all of that?" Obviously didn't get the whole concepts of prophecy and fulfilment yet. NO, this was not last year, I was 1st/2nd/3rd grade. Ha ha...

When I started teaching, I was even more excited because it became a challenge for me to get my students more involved in Advent than skipping right over it and launching to Christmas. My classroom always had a shift during Advent (and Lent too) where our routine would change slightly, so that we had time to consider why our faith tradition has this intentional time. Business is not as usual, or should not be as usual, during this time of preparation. When I see my former students, they often remember our change of pace, activities, and projects we did during these special times of the year. I love it just as much as a principal; planning the school wide, community building events with the teachers is energizing. It's one of those, "Yeah...that's why I am a Catholic educator" moments.

Community building...that's what has struck me this Advent Season. Three different experiences, yes, one each week. All of which have been outside of the context of my religious community (I mean, C'mon...that's a given). Rather, they were profound moments of how important a ministerial community is to my call and commitment to serve.

1st Week of Advent--O Come O Come Emmanuel

The Advent committee at St. Roman, decided that each Monday of Advent we would gather as an entire school for an Advent Prayer around our Advent wreath at the entrance of the school. The student council kiddos led the prayer each week. I stepped back that first week and was just goose-bumped--do you know what 287 kids and 20+ adults, packed into the entrance of a school around a wreath, praying and ending with O Come O Come Emmanuel is like? It was awesome! The big inquisitive eyes of the 4 year olds when the candles were lit, to the attentive middle school kids making sure their "younger buddies" were not goofing around. I was so proud of our students and was happy they have these experiences of being the "living church".

2nd Week of Advent--Be Born is us Today

We have an extraordinary volunteer who is adored by EVERYONE (and that is no exaggeration!). He had to have minor surgery as was going to be out for a few days. We had a regular Tuesday liturgy scheduled and after the homily, we participated in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for Tom with the children.

Now, my practical side thought, "Oh what a great learning opportunity for our students as a part of their faith development." I was so moved by the experience. All of the school staff were called forward with Tom to lay hands on him together as Fr. John led us through the sacrament. He involved the children in the Rite too. When those little ones all extended their hands in the gesture of blessing over Tom, if you couldn't feel the Holy Spirit present--WAKE UP. Then we all hugged Tom and finished our liturgy.

I was very moved by what a witness and expression of community we shared. Tom gives so much to our school and our students--we adore him too! The kids were able to be a part of the healing prayer of our church and in such a special way. I tell the children how the love of God is in all of us; Advent is the time to prepare for Jesus to be born in us again, year after year. I can't think of a more profound moment with students that gave me a tangible experience of what I teach the children. Light and love of God...born in each of us...Holy Spirit all over the place...yeah that was quite special.

3rd Week of Advent--Gaudete! Rejoice!

If you can honestly say to me that finally getting to that "different" candle wasn't the most need an attitude shift! C'mon it's PINK CANDLE SUNDAY! doesn't get more exciting than that! By the way...this excitement began circa 1985 for Katy...well B.C.(before convent); so don't blame the nun thing. We're almost there...

I cantored the Mass this morning at St. Roman. After the homily (do you see a pattern here?), Fr. John announced that we were having a wedding at Mass today. This couple who had been married 60 (that's right folks SIXTY) years were going to received the sacrament of marriage through the Catholic church. The wife was not Catholic and this year decided to go through the RCIA program and they both agreed they wanted to renew their vows and officially be married in the eyes of our faith. These two elderly people, with corsages and all, walked up to the front of the church. Fr. John went through the marriage rite and they exchanged vows. Fr. John adapted the Rite so eloquently to acknowledge that they have been in a sacred union for 60 years and now being sealed by the Holy Spirit through this sacrament. The husband could barely get through his vows...teared up and all. (98% of the church was all teary and stuff) They looked into each other's eyes with nothing but JOY, for what has been and what is yet to come for them.

It was beautiful and again, moving. And in the context of the Parish, to have the support from your parish community to celebrate and be vehicles of the spirit working through can you not GAUDATE?? That was the PERFECT 3rd Sunday experience for my theme of ministerial community this season of Advent.

1 more week!!! My ministerial community at St. Roman's has helped with these important "pre- Christmas reminders" that: God will send Emmanuel; Jesus will be born in us again; and we will REJOICE once again!
Blessings these final days...