Warm greetings once more from all at St. Anthony’s.
I say “warm” in the hope that friendly words will compensate a little for the chilling wind and snow that we have being experiencing. Below freezing temperatures, early morning followed by bright sunshine in the afternoons and snow falls overnight. Our valley pueblo never quite lives up to weather forecasts. When neighboring areas are thinking of spring planting we are hit with dust storms and anything else Mother Nature has with which to surprise us!
To be honest, the reality of our remoteness and, at times, isolation is deep in my thoughts at this time. The day had seen fierce snowstorms when I was called to the local hospital. The roads were slippery and the snow continued to fall. A person had fallen while opening a gate for his wife. Bleeding within his head called for emergency treatment followed by surgery at a larger facility. Because of the storms, he could not be transported out of the pueblo until the next day. Despite all efforts, he never regained consciousness and passed away a few days later. Thankfully, I had been privileged to administer the sacraments to him.
Moments such as that bring to mind our human frailty and the necessity of “being there” for each other. And of course being ever thankful for the dedication of doctors, nurses and neighbors. Although we may be only forty miles from the nearest large town, at times we can be left to our own devises. That necessitates support of the community, inventiveness in distress and above all it means being good citizens with a Christian heart.
In some ways, those sentiments reach to the essence of our activities in the school as we try to contribute to the formation of our students. Knowledge and skills are only some elements that contribute to persons living out of Love (the God life). However, my thoughts are way too serious.
The academic rigor of the school continues unabated. Sr Marsha (our principal) daily visits every class. I was fascinated as she shared with me the inventive ways our teachers find to engage their students. Sr. Marsha also arranges the on-going formation of our teachers with the introduction to new methods and availability of teaching aids. Student recognition day, displaying great grades among the students, bears testimony to the efforts of both staff and students.
The highlight of recent days was Catholic Schools Week, when we celebrate our identity as a school and as individuals. After two years of reduced activities (because of Covid) we were able to “let our hair down” a little more this year. Each day had its particular theme. Crazy hair day; Dress up and dress down days; Pajama Day; Movie Day to name but a few of the less frivolous events. Our kids are truly inventive when it comes to having fun!
You may remember that we held a festival of the saints where students made presentations in an exhibition of Saints who had caught their interest. The winners of each school’s exhibition displayed their presentations at our Cathedral and our Bishop duly presented awards after he had celebrated Mass for the schools in our area.
I was the school driver taking students to the cathedral: I concelebrated the Mass, and was the most popular person in Gallup when I took the students to MacDonalds on the way home. As has happened at other times, strangers remarked on the good manners and behavior of our kids in the restaurant. I was even more proud as I noticed some students share with those who were short of cash for their meals. I made up cash shortages and never was a Scotsman so happy to fork out cash!
A second event took place at our weekly “all School Mass”. The students had all been considering the topic of “Bullying” and its prevention. They prepared posters on the subject, together with parents and guardians they brought their posters to church, and presented them before the Lord at the altar. The posters were later hung in the school cafeteria to remain, as a reminder, for the remainder of the school year. It was an import life lesson carefully considered and in a way sanctified, as they brought their thoughts in visible form before the Lord.
I had to be on my best behavior when the Superior General of Sr. Marsha’s religious congregation visited us for two days. Sr. Patricia has, as one of her duties, to visit each of her congregation’s missions during her term of office. I was delighted to find that she came from London, very close to where I had attended seminary. She had also ministered in Glasgow at a parish were I also had helped on several occasions. She visited with our students who were fascinated by her gentle north London accent. We had lots to speak about and she was intrigued as I gave her (what Sr. Marsha calls) my 25 cent tour of the pueblo. She saw both the beauty of our town, the difficulties of our people, the joy in our students as well as their reverence at Mass.
I began by sharing some of the thoughts deep within my heart during a sad moment but I hope that my recounting these few events will tell how were are effective in addressing the realities that our students face and how we prepare them for the days that lay ahead.
Thank you for making it all possible.