Dear Mrs. Hogan, Thank You

Written by Mary Anne Hogan, President, St. Vincent’s Academy, Diocese of Savannah, [email protected]

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

Sitting in my office, working late on a dreary and cold January evening, I looked at the stack of “To Do Items” on my list that had not been accomplished that week. Letters I had not written, donors I had not contacted, contractors that I had not met with, emails that I had not followed up on. The list never shrinks. It only grows. I decided to open my “real” mail—something I had also not gotten to. There was a small envelope with handwriting that looked personal and quite familiar, so I put the bills aside and opened that envelope first.

Dear Mrs. Hogan,

You may not remember me. I was in your first or second class at St. Vincent’s Academy when you were the principal. I wanted you to know that you always made me feel welcome and safe. When my friends and I were messing around in the freshmen locker room, I got my braids stuck in the locker. My friends ran to your office to get you. You didn’t make me feel stupid or embarrassed. I was crying and you came in with a scissors and a key. You asked me which one I wanted you to use. You made me laugh. (You used the key). You always knew my name and asked me about my lunch or my classes when I saw you in the hallway. When things got bad at home my junior year, you made sure that somehow I was able to get a class ring. Now I am 29 years old. I wear my class ring every day. I am so proud to be a graduate of SVA. I am the first one in my family to go to college. I am a social worker now. Even though I moved away, I keep up with our school and I am so happy to see that you are still there. I just wanted to say thanks for always telling me to, “BE GOOD and DO GOOD”.  I look back on my time there and know that God had a plan and put me there for a reason. I just wanted to say, thanks for being a part of that plan.

Boy, am I glad that I opened that little envelope. God is always on time. He knew that I needed to recalibrate and know that I was making a difference. Sometimes as administrators the burden feels too heavy. We have to trust and know that God has ordained us to be in this place, at this time, for THESE kids. God is using us to plant the seeds. We may never see them bloom. It’s such a privilege when we do!

Yes, colleagues, the days are long, but the years are short. As Catholic school leaders, our job is to uphold our mission and Catholic Identity while inspiring our colleagues and students. That is a TALL order. How do we do this, day after day without growing weary, getting burnt out and throwing in the towel? How do we inspire others? How do we manage this BIG job that God has called us to?

Three words: Sow the seeds. Be a gardener of life. Put God in the center of all of it, work, home, troubles, joys….and you will find peace, understanding and the strength you need to keep going and inspire others.

For us to be the best version of ourselves and sow the seeds:

Study the beauty that God has given us in nature.

When we are in the weeds and trying to find a way up for air, take a walk. Intentionally notice all of God’s beauty and creation.  In lovely Savannah, GA, in the spring it is so nice to walk around the square and see the bright pink azaleas popping. The colors, the sounds, the bugs—yes, even the sand gnats—remind us of God’s power and presence. FEEL that you are in the middle of goodness and help in the palm of His hand. Even on the most overwhelming day.

Study the Life of Jesus.

Model your life after His life. Jesus was the greatest teacher and there were times he felt burnt out. Look at the parables and study the scriptures. The stories of healing, forgiveness, kindness and love will inspire you to want to be better every day. Find your top five stories and print them out. Read one each day of the work week before your day starts. If your day gets tough, reread the story.

Compliment and Show Kindness.

Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t feel like it. Leave your own personal turmoil at the door. Intentionally smile, speak to people. Find a reason to compliment 10 people a day. Don’t let it be the same 10 people every day! Email affirmations, warm greetings and small acts of kindness go a long way. People remember.

Connect With the Kids.

The students are the reason that we do what we do. We are called to be ministers of the gospel to the students. When things are heavy, walk into the lunchroom, a classroom, the hallway and CONNECT. Ask questions. Listen. Laugh with them. They will help you readjust, redefine and energize your soul to continue to the mission.

Even when we don’t always see the fruits of our labor here, know that when we stay focused on God, our reward will be in heaven!