Made for Each Other: Stories of Life In Community (Presented by Liz Fowler)

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It’s Labour day weekend and on Tuesday school will begin again. As a newly retired principal of a Catholic elementary school, people have been congratulating me on my new found freedom…. “you must be so relieved and happy that you do not have to go back to school this fall”…..”bet you’re going to pour a hot coffee, sit on the deck and smile as the school buses go rattling by- they’re going to school and you’re not!” The truth is though, I’m feeling a strange mixture of things… I’m content that I don’t have the responsibility of scheduling and sorting out class lists, doing yard duty and handling discipline issues but I am sad too. At first, I can’t figure out why I feel this way. I have this ache in my belly that reminds of me of being a kid and spending my first night away from home. And then it slowly dawns on me- I’m homesick. I miss my school.

To some it may seem strange that an educational institution would evoke a sense of “home” in me, and I suppose if my experience of an educational institution was limited to the school building and the business of education, then it wouldn’t make sense to feel the way I do. Gratefully though, I realize that my experience of a Catholic school goes way deeper. What I’m missing so much is the community of people who dedicated themselves to educating children, and of course, the children themselves.

In my experience, what moved St. Patrick’s school from simply being a group of people who shared a common educational purpose to becoming a community that literally makes my heart ache, was the relationships we shared. Over time we created a way of being together that was life-giving for children and adults. Our belief in God, and the transforming power of love along with all the values Jesus passed on to us, bound us together and was the well spring out of which we tried to live and learn. When one of us was sick, tired or vulnerable others pitched in to lighten that person’s load and give them support and encouragement, children with little food were fed, families living on the “margin” were welcomed, and kids were told day in and day out that they were wonderful human beings and could be happy and successful. Laughter was a hallmark of our community- lots of good natured teasing, practical jokes and silliness. Many meals were shared together as my expanded waistline attests! Prayer was a constant and seasons of the church year and life were celebrated together. We invited the world outside the school to join us and we put our talents and resources at the service of that larger community. We played together, told stories, worked our way through conflicts with the hope of reconciliation. In short, we lived life together and recognized in that life the enduring presence of God. It was not a perfect community but it was human and real and it nourished my mind, heart and spirit.

So on Tuesday morning, I will pour a hot coffee, sit on my deck and remember with affection the people who make St. Patrick’s school a vibrant, loving, and welcoming Catholic Christian community. Then I will pray my gratitude for the children, who nurtured in this community will go way beyond learning the 3 R’s, and will become people whose lives are full, meaningful and happy.

Liz Fowler

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