When asked to write a “letter of advice to students as they start a new school year next fall,” my mind raced with what to share, how to share it—and how can I possibly know what might be helpful? After much reflection, running through the many files in my mind and, quite candidly, sitting at my desk and looking at all that I have surrounded myself with in order to follow my personal and professional philosophy of “making a difference every day,” I would be remiss if not reflecting on this past school year and what we have experienced. Each of us has a COVID chapter in our life story—possibly sad and lonely, definitely challenging and sometimes overwhelming—and still we persevere. Our schools were open. Children were happy. Parents were kind, supportive and appreciative. Teachers and staff members brought strength and determination to their classrooms. Our faith carried us through—the gift of Catholic schools being a stronghold for many of us.
On my journey last year, St. Joseph the Workman, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, was a guiding light. Joseph trusted God’s plan in marrying Mary, who conceived a child—the SON of GOD—by the Holy Spirit. Joseph may have been anxious and afraid in not understanding this, yet he allowed his faith to lead him. There were no guarantees for Joseph in regards to a plan for his family or what to expect—he trusted and endured. He made a difference in his role as husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. Joseph is a model of perseverance and love. In looking to St. Joseph, especially during the pandemic months, we can lean on his great courage, strength and unwavering faith.
At the start of the new school year, St. Joseph is an example for teachers, parents, and students. My “letter of advice to students” can only be made with advice to teachers and parents as well. To teachers, what a gift you are and bring to the students in your school and classroom—every day. Your care and compassion, combined with your perseverance in guiding every student, will make a difference in their faith journey, academic success and school experience. To parents, your belief in Catholic education and willingness to partner with teachers in the faith journey of your child is noted and respected. Teachers take on a great responsibility via our calling to work with your children. As parents,
your trust in Catholic schools to nurture and care for your child will make a difference. Your decision is honored and embraced every day by all of us working in Catholic schools!
To every student, I respect that starting a new school year is exciting yet may be mixed with some nervous and anxious feelings. The unknown is typically what makes us anxious and nervous. The trust that I will be cared for by my teachers and see friends is what builds excitement. My advice to every student is to look to St. Joseph. He will protect and guide you, just as he did with Mary and Jesus. He is brave and strong. His love is unconditional.
The words from Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh, which hang on the wall in my office, summarize for me the true character of St. Joseph: “Always remember you are Braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem and Smarter than you think.” St. Joseph lived these words at the highest level. May these words and the model of St. Joseph guide every child, parent and educator in the new school year as we all strive to make a difference each and every day!
PRINCIPAL, CATHEDRAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Published in the September/October 2021 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine