Astonished and Amazed in God’s plan

Written by Karen Barreras, Director of Leadership Engagement, NCEA, [email protected]

Like many people involved in Catholic school education, one of our first steps may have been when we attended Catholic school ourselves or when we enrolled a child or children in Catholic school. For me, the latter was the case. I married in the Catholic Church and, because I was not Catholic, agreed to raise my future children Catholic. What brought me to the front door of our local parish school to enroll our child in first grade the following fall, was a statement from my child’s public school kindergarten teacher just before Christmas break when I asked about her recognizing that my child could already read very well and could this please be reinforced in some way. The teacher’s response was poignant and clear: “You are a pushy mom, and they will all be the same in third grade anyway.” There was no doubt in my mind that there was more truth to the third-grade statement than I dared to accept. So, I drove to Little Flower School immediately and had no idea how we were going to pay the $650.00 per year tuition, but we had to figure that out.

During that first meeting, I met Sr. Margaret (previously Sr. Paul). Sr. Margaret’s lovely Irish brogue responses were also clear, and I immediately enrolled our child for the following year’s first grade, never imagining the long-range impact this would have on my own faith and life journey. Knowing that I was a concerned mom, one of the first things Sr. Margaret said to me was honest, realistic and proved to be true: “At Little Flower School, your child will be exposed to just about everything…our hope is that your child will learn to make the right decisions.”

Sr. Margaret and the other Sisters of Mercy from Longford, Ireland, had arrived in Ely, NV, a remote mining town in the middle of the desert, while in their young twenties, with little in the way of luggage, but a sincere faith that guided all that they did for the children in the schools they would end up establishing and an incredible broader community spanning well over half a century. Their charism was profound and is still present. Thanks be to God that two of these stalwart women are still alive, and back home in Longford. I was able to talk with Sr. Maura recently and asked her to share with Sr. Margaret how they influenced me and countless others during their ministry.

Today, many of the guiding principles for Catholic education are rooted in the Guiding Principles found in the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools (NSBECS). While the Sisters of Mercy never thought about Catholic school education in terms of NSBECS, my true belief is that they knew about these guiding principles and standards, long before the NSBECS were established.

How and by whom were the Catholic schools in which you are involved established? And more importantly…how has involvement in this Catholic school or others impacted your own faith journey? Are you astonished and amazed with God’s plan? I am.