Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Catholic schools are grounded in faith and family

By Patricia Vesely
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

January 27 begins “Catholic Schools Week” in our country where we reflect on the importance of Catholic school education for ourselves and for the children we serve in the Diocese of San Bernardino. As a product of Catholic school education, I remember the sacrifices my parents made to send me and my five siblings to Catholic elementary school at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Riverside. I remember my mother saying she would scrub floors to keep us in Catholic education. My father worked many hours of overtime to make – in today’s dollars - very small tuition payments. In spite of these challenges, my parents never considered anything but Catholic schools for their children. When I started high school, I chose the Catholic girls school in Riverside, St. Francis de Sales. I paid my own tuition of $15 per month, bought my uniforms and my books, with babysitting dollars at 50 cents per hour.

So, what was significant for my parents’ perspective on education that is different today? In the 50’s through the 70’s, almost every parish had an elementary school. The principal and most teachers were from religious communities. They served as catechists in the “CCD” program, as well as classroom teachers during the school day. The parish priests (there were several) also taught in the school classrooms and spoke about the school from the pulpit. It was an unstated expectation that families would do whatever they could to send their children to the local parish school. Classrooms were overcrowded – but we didn’t know it because that was the reality of our education.

Family life and social connections were deeply connected to the parish. There were “small faith communities” arranged through the Christian Family Movement where groups of families were connected for prayer, support, and social interaction. We had Sunday barbeques together, played miniature golf, attended baseball games, participated as a group in the annual Parish Festival - and went to school together.

Most of these values are still evident within today’s Catholic school communities; however, our enrollment numbers are much smaller. The financial challenge of affordable tuition is impacted by the opportunities and experiences afforded through modern technology, mobility, and social expectations. The sacrifice needed to meet today’s tuition dollars is much greater than it was 40 years ago.

Yet, many parents and families continue to make these sacrifices. I drove the same car for 13 years in order to make tuition payments for my three children through St. Catherine and Notre Dame High School. And why is that? What do we treasure about the Catholic school experience?

Our schools reflect the same general dynamic within the local geographic populations. We value the rich diversity of socio-economic backgrounds, of cultural, ethnic, language and tradition varieties, of many generational and family structures. Our children come to us from families where education is a priority. Our basic curriculum aligns with the State of California and now our teachers are working to align with the National Common Core Standards. Educational research tells us smaller class sizes benefit the learning potential of students. Our schools keep current with best practices for meeting the needs of each child. Our graduation rates are over 95% and college acceptance rates over 85%.

But more importantly, our schools are family-centered communities. In our diocese, over 80% of our school population shares our Roman Catholic faith tradition. We celebrate our family joys and sorrows together in faith and in familiar ritual. Our teachers answer their call to ministry as they share the faith journey with their students and their families. They support the emotional, social, and spiritual growth of their students, in addition to their academic achievement. Research shows that children from Catholic schools are more likely to be involved in their communities and in civic organizations. Children see the sacrifices their families make to provide this educational and faith experience and recognize, in turn, that sacrifice is an important part of being a good citizen.

Very often, over 50% of the families that begin the adventure of education with their preschool or kindergarten age children are still connected at 8th grade graduation. We share a values system that supports parents in their role as first and most important educator of their children. My daughter-in-law says she feels like she drops her children off with family when she leaves them at school.

My experience with Catholic education gave me a solid foundation for my growth as a citizen, as an individual, and as a Catholic. I firmly believe this same formation and this level of support and relationship are important for our children to better meet the challenges they will experience growing up in todays’ world. These children are the future of our Church and the future of our society. May we continue to provide every possible opportunity for them to grow in faith, in love, and in knowledge.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

One ‘Year of Faith’: 365 Days of Opportunity

By Deacon John De Gano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

I’m sure most of us know where we were on New Year’s Eve, After all, we had basically two choices: We either stayed home and avoided the traffic or else we ventured out and attended one or more parties to ‘ring in the New Year.’ If not one of these, maybe we were in mid-travel either up in an airplane or driving along some interstate in order to reach our final destination

In any case, we have probably already begun thinking where we plan to be next year and may have already begun adjusting our schedules and vacations around the promise of parties (and gatherings) future.

And that is good. As Roman Catholics we are called to be people of hope. And people of celebration. We celebrate life. We celebrate the sacraments. We celebrate our faith with holy days and feast days. And we look forward to the future, when our Lord Jesus will return in triumph and take us all home to be with him forever.

So where then, were we on New Year’s Day?

I will hazard a guess that many of us were not in church. January 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is often what the church calls ‘a holy day of obligation.’ A day when we are obliged to attend mass in recognition of an important person or event in the life of our faith.
This year, however, we were exempt from the ‘obligation’, so many of us slept in, watched sporting events or perhaps relaxed with family and took in a rare matinee showing at the local theater.

All reasonable ways to celebrate life, but did we give any cursory thought to our commitment as disciples to witness our faith to others by our words and actions?

I was talking with Robert, one of our ushers (and a catechist), about the confusion that ensued (in many parishes) over whether or not this really was a holy day of obligation or not this year, when he reminded me that every day is a holy day of opportunity.

Every day is a day to draw breath. Every day is an opportunity to fall in love all over again with the God who made us.

And so we should greet the new dawn with joyful anticipation. Never knowing what the Lord has in store for us this day or who the Lord will send our way for us to minister or to minister to us.

That next person who calls or knocks on our door could be Jesus. We need to borrow the motto of our Benedictine brothers and sisters and apply it to our daily lives – “welcoming all as Christ.”

Treating each day with intentionality by setting aside a portion of our day to glorify God in prayer, in song, in how we treat one another (i.e., by our words and actions) will testify to the world that we are witnesses of His love.
Let us make each day of this Year of Faith a holy day of opportunity to bless and be blessed by our loving God.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Journeying with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

By Rhodora Quinn
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Ontario

Follow along as Rhodora Quinn, wife of Deacon Gary Quinn from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Ontario brings life to the parish statue as a Year of Faith project.

Dec. 19, 2012

I am embarking on a faith-filled journey making St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (statue) alive and vibrant in this YEAR of FAITH. I got 15 days to accomplish this task. Please pray that the Holy Spirit guide my hands as I courageously move along through the inspiration and intercession of St. Elizabeth Ann herself. I just finished sanding it. It took me 3 days.

Dec. 20, 2012

On this 4th day I spent sealing and sanding the statue of SEAS as I weave through my day preparing meals, cleaning, running errands, helping in Isabel's 5th grade class and reading about Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton. Amazing woman! She is the first American canonized saint---a wife and mother, a religious sister and educator, a woman who faced crises and setbacks and yet courageously embraced the challenges of life through love, devotion and openness to the grace of God! I'm getting ready for my Confirmation 2 class tonight---I'll start painting tomorrow. I appreciate all your prayers as we count down to SEAS Feast Day on January 4th!

Dec 22, 2012

I spent three hours working on SEAS statue this afternoon. It's Day 6! I wiped water based Onyx and Mahogany stain on the crevices of her garments and got carried away praying the rosary in her hands as I rubbed it with Titanium White and Titan Buff Acrylic. St. Elizabeth Ann's filial devotion to Mary contributed to the blossoming of her gift of the Catholic faith. She wondered, "How can we honor the mysteries of our Jesus without honoring Mary in them all?" The "Memorare" brought her so much consolation and peace.

Dec 23, 2012

Day 7 of my journey with SEAS. The Word of God was St. Elizabeth's "hidden treasure." Her familiarity with the Sacred Scripture prepared her for her life's mission. On the sideline I spent the morning with SEAS Youth rehearsing the Christmas Story Production for tomorrow, 7 PM Christmas Eve. Must see! It will nourish your FAITH and deepen your relationship with GOD!

Dec. 25, 2012

Day 8 of my journey with SEAS statue. Layer by layer. First with green washes, then sankir, now I'm on flesh tone. It's in the awkward stage. Patience. it's twelve midnight! Merry Christmas!

Can't sleep. Too much coffee. I'm reading 15 Days of Prayer with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton by Betty Ann McNeil, D.C. I just want to share Day 5: Hope Always Awake, page 29-30:
"Elizabeth's drive to do the will of God was rooted in her tremendous awareness of God's presence in her life. Her guiding principle was that "God is everywhere" and we should "remember that God sees us"...
Through meditation one's relationship with God develops and intensifies bearing the fruit of inner peace. How attentive am I to the many ways the loving mercy of God is present in my life? The picture below is an awkward transition from green (the color of life & hope) to flesh. I wonder how light is St. Elizabeth's skin?

Dec 27, 2012

Day 11 of my journey with SEAS. She's almost done. Seven more days to go before she goes back to her niche in our Church. What's left? Highlights, gold leaf, catchlight, iris, lash lines, a wash of yellow ochre and a wash of screaming orange! Right now I'm enjoying her company with a cup of tea. Two things I admire about her---her devotion to the Mass and the Eucharist; and her devotion to the Mother of God. As you know she was a convert to Catholicism. As she journeyed through life, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the longer she walked in the company of Jesus, the more she came to know Him in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30). "Behold the Lamb of God---blessed are you who are called to the Supper of the Lamb." She was awestruck by the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist! She also had a deeper understanding of the role of Mary in the Church. She said: "The glory and happiness of the Catholic Church is to sing praised of Mary." Did you know that she owned a large oil painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which hung in the small chapel at Emmitsburg where she spent time in daily prayer?

Dec. 29, 2012

Like any other journey, it's not always smooth sailing. This morning I re-sanded SEAS face because it bucked up, probably I'm not patient enough to wait before adding another wash. I need to seal it and paint over again layer by layer patiently. With God's grace and your prayers it will be well. We're on Day 13! Thanks for your encouragement!

Dec. 31, 2012

End of the Year and Day 15 of SEAS journey. I thought I'd finish today but I got so many distractions and obstacles. I'll stay home tomorrow all day to continue working on her flesh tones and eyes. Looking pretty good, I believe. Thanks for your continued prayers. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's days, like ours, were filled with busyness, distractions and interruptions. All did not go as she planned or even wished, yet she maintained an attitude of gracious openness for God to work in her life :) In the spirit of St Elizabeth, how do I see the work of God in my ordinary life, in my daily journey of faith?

Jan. 1

SEAS is in the garage right now drying from clear satin protective finish. I'll bring her back to Church tomorrow. It is an honor to spend our Christmas Season with her presence for 17 days! Her last word to us on our journey of faith:

"We are created in the image of God, and we should breathe and act but for His glory. Our destination is heaven, and there every thought and design of our mind should be sent. We are followers of Christ, and every action of our life should be done in union with him since from Him only they can draw either value or merit."

Her life as a wife, mother, widow, educator, and spiritual leader made her a SAINT.

"The tomorrows of our life are built on the foundation of today. Listening and responding to the small and great calls of God in our lives are the experiences by which we meet our grace and grow in the Christian life."

I just finished my journey with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton! Today is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Jan. 7

SEAS back home! Missed her.