I don’t know about you, but, even with Cedar Point still closed, I don’t find myself yearning for the thrill of a rollercoaster just yet. Life itself has provided quite the ride lately. Over the last several weeks and months, I’ve experienced beautiful and joy-filled moments, including graduation celebrations for our tiny saints in our preschool program, as well as our kindergarten saints and our beloved eighth grade students. I’ve also experienced the deep sadness of disconnection from family and friends due to the COVID-19 health crisis. I’ve been inspired by the amazing work of our Early Childcare Program staff as they lovingly cared for children throughout the pandemic, and I have been encouraged by the social justice projects completed by our community – even during school closure. I’ve also been shaken to my core by the acts of racism and violence that have gripped our country. Tears and laughter, prayer and work – they are all part of these difficult days. It has been and continues to be quite the ride, not just for me, but perhaps for you as well.
In some ways, this wild journey may feel like we are approaching the apocalypse – a roller coaster drop to our doom. I’ve learned from writer Krista Tippett, however, that this Greek word apocalypse does not mean a catastrophic undoing. It means an uncovering — the lifting of a veil. The current realities of our world have indeed uncovered reckonings we must bravely walk toward if we are to become wise and whole as individuals, communities and institutions. This is not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Will we create a more just, fair and safe world for our children — all of our children?
I hope so. Sometimes hope is all it takes to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Empowered by that hope, we have started to work, and will continue to do so, not just as individuals, but as a Catholic school community dedicated to bringing the Kingdom of God more fully into this world. Simultaneously, we will continue the necessary work to live out our mission as an International Baccalaureate World School committed to the development of inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
In reflecting on the survey results regarding our Saints At-Home Learning Program, I was moved by the thoughtful comments shared by our parent community. Overwhelmingly, you supported our work and approach while still providing insightful suggestions for consideration as we move forward. One parent noted the important and timely work our middle school students completed during their interdisciplinary study of their biographical hero unit. In that unit, our students examined the lives of five incredible women and five incredible men – six were people of color, four were citizens of other countries, and all were people who changed the world in some significant way. When we planned this course of study in March, we couldn’t have imagined the parallels our students would discover between their school work and their world.
As the world was learning more and more about the coronavirus, our students examined the global pandemic of polio. As the world watched a space mission blast off, our students learned the history of NASA and the lessons learned from courageous exploration. As the Amazon rainforest burned, affecting global climate and animal life, our students studied the lives of those who work to conserve the natural world we all share. As the world awakened to racial injustice, our students read about the long history of struggle of Black Americans through poetic expression. And finally, as the world protested and rioted against racism, our students examined the history and power of nonviolent revolutions and the importance of prayer and reflection.
Saint Mother Teresa was one of the heroes our students studied, and in reflecting on her legacy, Father Gregory Boyle wrote,
She diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just “forgotten that we belong to each other.” Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace. I suspect that were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice—we would be celebrating it.”
As is the case with all of our teaching, it is our hope and prayer that these lessons not only find their way into our students’ minds, but also their hearts. This is how the world changes.
We have significant work ahead of us. I know personally I am committing to doing some deep listening, reading and reflecting on how it is I can walk in the footsteps of some of the heroes our students studied, as well as how I can more closely follow the greatest hero of all, Jesus, who was fully committed to radical equality. Professionally, my administrative team and I will be working tirelessly this summer to continue to improve and enrich our innovative curriculum, create and install new health and safety features and protocols, as well as prepare new distance learning options for our students.
We are moving forward boldly with donor-sponsored renovations to our campus, including our school chapel and the creation of a new, state-of-the-art Innovation Lab. The pairing of these improvements offers a great lesson on the importance of adapting to new technologies without losing sight of the timeless tradition of prayer.
For those who may be worried about school structure in the fall, please know that Lakewood Catholic Academy will be ready to open and safely serve our students and families to the full extent allowed by our state government. Thanks to the more than 100 students enrolled in our early childhood program this summer, we already have experience with the new health and safety protocols. We will be excited to welcome your children back to campus in the fall. For those parents who might want their children to spend some time at home during the year ahead, please know that we will have distance learning options available for you as well.
As always, we will keep you informed throughout the summer months as we receive information and guidelines from the state government. While there may seem to be great uncertainly, please be certain of this…my team and I will adapt to whatever is tossed our way and will create an engaging educational experience for every little saint entrusted to our care. Speaking strictly as a parent myself, there is no better educational team that I would want to lead my family through a global pandemic than the one in place at Lakewood Catholic Academy.
If you find yourself on a rollercoaster this summer (either real or emotional), I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and others, and, above all, to hold on to hope. If you need a reason to hope, allow me to remind you of the inspiring work of a 2016 Lakewood Catholic Academy graduate, Chloe Becker, who will be studying at Harvard University in the fall.
Last summer, long before global protests demanding racial justice, Chloe began an artistic project focused on strengthening the Catholic Church’s voice against racism. Chloe shared her gift by creating a unique mural in the third and fourth grade wing of our campus that depicts primarily underrepresented Saints of color. In the mural, Saints are reaching down from heaven toward the Sacred Heart, holding flowers from their native lands. The words above the mural are taken from a worship hymn, We See in You the Glory of the Lord.
I see the Glory of the Lord shining brightly in Chloe, and this gives me hope. If LCA was one small part of Chloe’s formation, and it made a difference, then we have the opportunity to help form all of our student saints. These saints, tomorrow’s global leaders, are increasingly called to see the Glory of the Lord reflected in people unlike themselves, to go forth to serve others, and, in ways both big and small, to change the world.
Be a Saint!