The following letter is from Mr. Stuart Garay, who accepted the position of Facility Maintenance Technician upon Mr. Willis "Buzz" Housel's retirement on September 22nd.
I speak for Monsignor when I say that Stuart's passion for Cathedral shone through in the interview process; he loves this Family of families as much as every one of us.
On a more practical level, Mr. Garay's unique combination of hands-on experience in diverse areas of maintenance and construction coupled with a strong background of organizational and team-building skills are absolutely necessary as we take Cathedral to new heights. Finally, Stuart's excitement at interacting with students and staff pushed him to the top of a talented pool.
Help me welcome Mr. Garay to our Eagle Family, and enjoy his introductory letter below.
J.J. Ekeler Principal - Cathedral School
Dear Cathedral Teachers, Staff & Administration,
I'd like to start this introduction by thanking Monsignor Nemec and Mr. Ekeler for offering me the position of Facility Maintenance Technician. I will be taking the reins from Buzz after his 18 years of excellent service.
I'd like to present you with my background so you know you're in good hands. Then I'd like to spell out some important commitments from me to you.
First, I was already working in the construction field when my wife, Kelley, started teaching at Cathedral. This work consisted of remodels and additions to homes. This involved carpentry, painting, staining, tile, basic electrial and plumbing. On the bigger jobs I coordinated the electrical, plumbing, floor installation and all other aspects of construction. I gained valuable experience in both the hands-on aspects, as well as project coordination.
My next step was to teacher college at UNL, but I was unable to finish due to a house fire that took up valuable time and resources. As a result I went to work as a primary Job Site Foreman for Ed Parr (whom some may know). Here I learned more nuanced supervision along with the technical aspects of irrigation and electrical controls. In other words, I worked at making sure teams of individuals were on-task and productive. (Some may also recall during this time a winter that I worked at Cathedral doing maintenance and janitorial duties.)
Later I spent time on Nebraska Wesleyan University's grounds crew working campus and athletic fields; another chance to grow my team-building leadership skills while working right next to the guys on the crew. Most recently I was working in independent sales before jumping at the chance to come to Cathedral.
As I said in my interview, I've been considering, hoping and praying about this opportunity for years. I have a strong vision for Cathedral School and Parish. I am proud of this community, and I feel extremely fortunate to become part of the staff. I am excited to continue the school's march toward becoming a premier educational experience.
There are some practical, day-to-day things I want to communicate right up front at this time...
1.) I plan to be very present to the children so they see first-hand who cares for their campus and why we should all take pride in our Cathedral environment.
2.) I will walk the campus daily to identify immediate needs and potential issues. This daily "overview" will keep small things from becoming bigger, and also keep my finger on the pulse of campus.
3.) I will run the same processes and systems for the parish, in which records are kept, calendars are followed, and the gem of the Diocese of Lincoln is beautiful.
4.) I am excited to join the Eagle staff at morning prayer circles, staff meetings and/or retreats because I think it's important we are one community in every way.
5.) I will oversee important projects for the parish and school, working with vendors and contractors to get the quality Cathedral deserves at a price that is fair.
In closing, I wish Buzz all the best as he prepares for retirement. I again thank Monsignor Nemec and Mr. Ekeler for trusting the diocese's gem to my care. Most importantly, I look forward to working with you all - let's keep soaring!
Today I attended the funeral of Ryan Hays, the first student I've lost. It strikes me that just a couple weeks prior I gave an impassioned talk to our Cathedral Eagle teachers and staff about our theme for the school year: Encountering the Risen Christ. “Waste time with each other, with your students, with your family, and with Christ.” I used John 4, the Woman at the Well, as my example of encountering others. In this piece of scripture Jesus engages in a back-and-forth with a woman he's never met; it may be the longest conversation with Jesus recorded in the Bible and it is striking because of how intimately he invests in her life story.
That day, the first of teacher meetings, was a day full of energy and synergy. Teachers happily worked in preparation, rooms were given final touches, and Monsignor Nemec delivered a spot-on homily in the Eucharistic Chapel.
Just six days later, on our first day of school, we would be floored by the news of Ryan’s death.
Ryan was a Cathedral and Pius graduate, a Scout, a Soldier of Saint Sebastian, a writer for the Pius X-Change newspaper, a football lineman, and a student I’ll never forget. When news of his passing was first relayed to me it was roughly 11am on August 16th, just 15 minutes prior to school dismissal. I think I mumbled, “Ryan? Ryan Hays? A bigger guy, pretty young?” This was confirmed for me, and I began to plan how I would tell our Cathedral staff such devastating news just minutes after an amazing first day of school.
As the staff filed into the library at 11:30am for this impromptu meeting, I began to form words in my mind that would never make it out of my mouth – their articulation made Ryan’s passing real, and I literally doubled over, unable to speak.
I met Ryan when he was 15 or 16 years old; I was 26. He was a student of mine at Pius X High School (where I taught prior to becoming Principal at Cathedral, my alma mater). When Ryan found out I was a Cathedral Eagle graduate he marked me as “officially the coolest teacher here!” We spent hours of time together as he wrote sports stories for the Pius X-Change, our school paper. I was his advisor, and he and the guys would tease each other mercilessly over sports arguments that were precursor to the modern sports debate shows. Room 254, our room, was unique: a strong male presence of multi-talented writers with a shared passion for “breaking news”. Not even 30 years-old, I was too green to know how good I had it. What male writing teacher gets a room full of writers who take what they do seriously and themselves…not so much? Today I remember it as a sort of golden age in my career; we even competed for Creighton Byline and NSAA State Championships with that amazing staff.
Ryan was a vital ingredient in the strange concoction that made up that era of the Pius X-Change. He worked hard to make sure all of us were enjoying ourselves. I remember his needling, his jokes, his big voice following his big shoes as he entered the room, “BREAKING NEWS: Hays is here – class can begin!”
But I also remember tenderness when others were hurting, as well as off periods filled with conversations about faith, God, high school drama, and evolving friendships. There was a depth to Hays that he hid, but was potent when unveiled.
Soon enough that great room of writers graduated. I distinctly recall our emotional goodbyes and how hard Ryan worked to remain stoic. His exit was short, awkward and rushed. I knew enough not to press him, so I shook his hand and said, “We will stay in touch, right?”
He choked on a reply that was not to be heard as much as felt, and then he bounded down the hall high-fiving confused freshmen a third his size: “Three more years for you suckers – HIGH FIVE!”
In the years that followed I watched Ryan from a distance as he grew into a young man. His circle of friends both broadened and crystallized. It’s not easy for men in their 20’s to find non-transactional relationships, but Ryan appeared to have mastered loyalty while also widening his circle.
More than once over the years I considered his last column for the X-Change in which Ryan wrote to and about me: “Words can’t describe what Ekeler has given to me the last few years. Whenever there was a problem beyond fixing, he found a solution…” I took pride in the fact that this was his perception of me: someone who could help fix things. Yet I know, now more than ever, there are some things that can’t be fixed.
His family recently came to Cathedral School and I told them how much he meant to me, and how so many memories were flooding back that I had to step away at times to gather myself. Then they did something that explained Ryan Hays in a way no words can: they implored me to pray, to know that Ryan admired me, and to tell everyone at Cathedral how much he loved being an Eagle.
That's right - In their darkest hour, as a family, they felt compelled to make sure everyone else was OK.
Since Ryan's passing, this final piece of “breaking news” has surfaced: In our Cathedral year of “Encounter” Ryan Hays is the best example of the value of wasting time with someone. As if to validate his life’s work, his passing has brought forth literally hundreds of stories about inside jokes, golfing adventures, hunting trips, and other “time wasters”. That lesson and message will resonate in the halls of the school he used to call home; it will be our work and focus here at Cathedral School. What was theory and slogan is now real and vital; what was a goal is now a commitment. We owe to our students what Ryan gave to so many: time wasted, because that's time invested.
I went home after that brutal staff announcement on August 16th and played "Monster" with my sons until we couldn’t laugh anymore. At one point, as I hid around a corner from them, I wondered if Ryan and his dad had once played like this. Later, I put my girls to bed and my eight year-old nestled in: “Tell me about the boy who died, your student. I want to know him.” So I told her about the goodbye I wrote back to Ryan in that last issue of the X-Change newspaper: “Hays is more complex than most give him credit for…When Ryan laughs, he means it. When he gets serious, he means it. When he confides, he expects trust and he reciprocates. This is the definition of sincere, and so is Hays.”
"Honey," I said, "I wrote that ten years ago and those words still ring true. He was a special guy."
Then I began to tell stories I thought I’d forgotten, didn’t even know existed any more. I felt her giggle at the funny parts and rub my wet cheek during the poignant ones. At some point her body relaxed and she began to doze on my arm. But I just kept telling stories, wasting the time together.
Ryan's final column for the Pius X-Change, May 17, 2006
Pope Francis addresses students and teachers from schools across Italy.
Delivered in Saint Peter's Square on May 10, 2014.
Dear Friends, Good afternoon!
Why do I love school? I will try to tell you. I have an image in mind. I heard here that we do not grow up alone, and that there is always a gaze that helps us to grow. I have a mental picture of my first teacher, that lady, my teacher at the age of six in first grade. I have never forgotten her. She made me love school. And then I went to see her throughout her life, until she passed way at the age of 98. And this image does me good! I love school, because that woman taught me to love it. This is the first reason why I love school.
I love school because it is synonymous with openness to reality. At least it should be! Yet it does not always manage to be so, and so that means that the structure needs to be adapted a little. Going to school means opening one’s mind and heart to reality, in the wealth of its aspects, of its dimensions. And we do not have the right to be afraid of reality! School teaches us to understand reality. Going to school means opening one’s mind and heart to reality, in the wealth of its aspects, of its dimensions. And this is so very beautiful! In the first years we learn a wide range of subjects, then little by little one delves more deeply into one subject and then ultimately specializes in it. But if one has learned how to learn — this is the secret, to learn how to learn! — one retains this always, a person remains open to reality! This is what a great Italian educator, who was a priest, also taught: Don Lorenzo Milani.
Teachers are the first ones who must remain open to reality — I heard the testimony of your teachers; it pleased me to see them so open to reality — with minds still open to learning! For if a teacher is not open to learning, he or she is not a good teacher and isn’t even interesting; young people understand that, they have a “nose” for it, and they are attracted by professors whose thoughts are open, “unfinished”, who are seeking something “more”, and thus they infect students with this attitude. This is one of the reasons why I love school.
Another reason is that school is a place of encounter. For we are all on a journey, beginning a process, on our way down a road. And I heard that school — we all heard it today — is not a parking lot. It is a meeting place along the way. We meet our peers; we meet teachers; we meet the staff. Parents meet the professors; the principal meets the families, etc. It is a place of encounter. And we today need this culture of encounter in order to get to know one another, to love one another, to journey together. And this is fundamental precisely in the years of growth and development, as a complement to the family. The family is the first core for relationships: the relationship with one’s father and mother and with one’s brothers and sisters is the basis, and it always accompanies us in life. But at school we “socialize”: we meet people who are different from us, different in age, culture, roots, abilities. School is the first society that integrates the family. Family and school should never be opposed! They are complementary, and therefore it is important that they cooperate in mutual respect. And families of the children in one class can do a great deal by jointly cooperating among themselves and with the teachers. This makes me think of a very nice African proverb which goes: “It takes a village to raise a child”. It takes many people to educate and form a young person: family, teachers, staff, professors, everyone! Do you like this African proverb? So you like it? Let us say it together: It takes a village to raise a child! Together! It takes a village to raise a child! Think about this.
And then I love school because it educates us in the true, the good and the beautiful. All three go together. Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; it either enriches or impoverishes; it either makes a person develop or depresses him, it can even corrupt him. And what we heard today is so important in education: a clean defeat is always better than a dirty victory! Remember this! This will benefit you throughout life. Let us say it together: a clean defeat is always better than a dirty victory. All together! A clean defeat is always better than a dirty victory!
A school’s mission is to develop the sense of the true, the sense of the good and the sense of the beautiful. And this happens through a rich journey made up of many “ingredients”. That is why there are so many subjects! Because development is the result of various elements which interact and stimulate the mind, the conscience, the affections, the body, etc. For example, if I study this Square, St Peter’s Square, I learn something about architecture, history, religion, even astronomy — the obelisk recalls the sun, you see few people know that this square is also a large sundial.
Thus we cultivate within ourselves the true, the good and the beautiful; and we learn that these three dimensions are never separated but rather are interwoven. If something is true, it is good and it is beautiful; if something is beautiful, it is good and it is true; if it is good, it is true and it is beautiful. And together these elements make us grow and help us to love life, even when we are unwell, even amid difficulties. True education makes us love life, and it opens us to the fullness of life!
And finally I would like to say that at school we not only acquire knowledge and content, but we also learn deportment and values. One is educated to learn many things, that is, much important content, in order to behave in a certain way and also adopt values. And this is very important. I wish you all — parents, teachers, people who work in the schools, students — a beautiful journey at school, a journey that enables you to learn three languages that a mature person should know how to express: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands. Harmoniously though, that is, to think what you feel and what you do; to feel deeply what you think and what you do; and to do well what you think and what you feel. Three languages, together in harmony! Thank you again to the organizers of this day, and to all of you who have come. And please .... please, never let us allow our love for school to be stolen from us!
Before getting into the meat of this message I want to thank and congratulate Leighann Lang and Rita Rolfes for taking their vision and making it the wonderful reality that was Spring Fling. Their initial work began months ago, which explains why the First Annual Spring Fling felt like an established event.
I believe the Spring Fling dovetailed beautifully with a very special Parish Appreciation Mass. When you see anyone who took part in either event please thank them wholeheartedly for the impact of their work. And if you are unsure of the impression this day left, consider this comment from a young student as he waited to play a game: “Well, Spring Fling is officially the best day of my life!”
During April 30th's Mass and festivities I was struck by something that tied into reading I’ve been doing. For the past year I’ve been studying George Washington, and have come to the conclusion that the most powerful moment in his fierce and proud history (and maybe our country’s) was his gentlest and most subtle: he said goodbye.
The colony’s greatest land speculator, most decorated war hero, undisputed choice for President, and living precedent looked at everything he had sacrificed his life for…then humbly said farewell. He had served two terms as President, but he could’ve served until he died. Heck some wanted to name him royalty, but he somehow wrapped his mind around two things simultaneously: that he was the primary architect of a most intriguing and important history, and that the power of this position would not change him: It was time to teach a final lesson.
In the musical Alexander Hamilton the song, “One Last Time” documents this moment well as Hamilton is appalled and distressed at Washington’s decision to leave the presidency. The petulant Hamilton urges Washington to reconsider, begs him to stay, gets angry at the reality of the decision. Hamilton is each one of us in the midst of dramatic change, understandably pained and confused. Washington replies with his usual composure, “Let’s teach them how to say goodbye, one more time, you and I.”
All of this history hit me as I watched so many of you stand for Monsignor Tucker at the Parish Appreciation Mass. All of these lessons surged to the forefront as I watched Monsignor, Father Fulton and Father Zimmer accept your love and well-wishes. The reality of all of this enveloped me as I read the powerful letter started by parents in support of Cathedral School and our direction. It occurs to me that each of you have various emotions you’re sorting through: Monsignor or Father has sat at bedsides for your family; has celebrated your wedding; has baptized your children; has buried your loved ones. Tucker may be the only Pastor you’ve known. All of your emotions are natural; embrace them. Then let’s teach them how we say goodbye, you and I.
First, we will teach “them” – our current priests – how much they are loved. We will be genuinely sad to see them leave, but joyous in the hope for all of our futures.
Next, we will teach “them” – Monsignor Nemec, Fr. Clark and Fr. Wiley – what it means to be Eagles by how we say goodbye. As they witness and hear of our outpouring of love and support for Monsignor Tucker, Fr. Fulton and Fr. Zimmer they will get their first lesson regarding our Eagle Standard, and inevitably be inspired to live it. Let our goodbye show them we are a community willing and ready to love and connect in a special way: as an Eagle Family of families.
Listen, I can barely talk about Monsignor Tucker without choking up. He is a heroic figure to me. A bit like Washington, he both embraces his influence on thousands of people, and remains humbly unchanged by his reach. I’ve witnessed all of these departing priests show up to meetings or social events minutes after sitting at the bedside of a dying parishioner or grieving family. Despite all of those personal emotions, I feel the highest honor we can give them is to consider that we are “...from this period forward considered the actors in a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.” (George Washington, 1783)
This venture, held in Mrs. Mercer's room, will be documented here. Eighth grader Austin Reinke will provide updates, pictures, video and text so that you can follow our journey with "Trout in the Classroom".
Below are pictures of students checking ammonia levels in the trout tank - if you look closely you can see our new baby trout!
Junior High students from Cathedral of the Risen Christ are pictured with items collected during their recent Advent Baby Shower. Each year, the students are asked to “Shower His Little Ones” by bringing in gifts during the month of December. All items are donated to Catholic Social Services.
Over the course of the last few months I've been working with NelNet's ClassBundl group as an advisor. One of the developing projects has been the creation of an online platform for private schools to run fundraising campaigns. LPS and major government school districts have similar technology, but most private schools don't have the resources to do this on a school-by-school basis.
The answer: This private school platform by ClassBundl, called "Give".
Give allows for matching campaigns, and it does have a fee structure which can be circumvented by the matching partner(s) so that the school sees the biggest possible return
Scott Gubbels, who helped launch the technology, sits on the school board at St. Joe's and helped run a successful pilot campaign there. Our own Nathan Rivera, who works at Fiserv, helped work out the technology to connect Cathedral with Give.
So now CRC gets their shot!
Big picture, I envision ClassBundl in three capacities at CRC...
Micro Campaigns like Ashley's in which a teacher has a need, does the leg work, and launches a campaign.
A convenient supplement to the work the CSFA is already doing with fundraising. For example, allowing folks to donate for Christmas bonuses through Give. I'm sure you'll have ideas as well.
Connecting with Give to Lincoln Day, which is an event we are remiss not to be involved with.
Thank you as always for your generosity in support of our amazing school, and please consider supporting this kindergarten campaign.
This approach is research-based and includes spiritual and natural elements that are proven to reduce anxiety and stress in stress, while enhancing social, emotional and academic growth. The program relies on natural elements, and encourages exploration and curiosity as building blocks of learning.
We will have plenty of chances for you to get involved, but we'd like to announce an early opportunity: As we construct the outdoor classroom we are including walkways with personalized bricks. We are asking for a minimum $50 donation, and we hope you click here and consider taking part.
To some that exclamation point is a slap in the face (many students). To others (most parents) I should've added three or four more. Regardless of where your opinion lies, one truth is clear: establishing a system is vital for a happy home, successful child, and sane parenting. Nobody likes disarray, outbursts, tantrums or consistent inconsistency...yet the honest truth is that we get back what we invest in. In other words, we as adults are in control of this fate. Let me explain...
The routines you put in place now will be of HUGE benefit in February, March and beyond. There is an investment effect: the more you put in now, the more the benefits compound.
The keys are to come to shared ground between child(ren) and parent regarding what a day typically looks like, and then sticking to that plan. It's the "sticking" that is often most difficult because, much like investing, it's hard to watch something that moves slowly. Also, your child won't want to stick - it is your job, as the adult, to be the glue.
Sure, it would be easier to blow it up, take a withdrawal, and just wing it. And while this may be easier in the moment, in the long term we have sacrificed the stability our children need so dearly, and our house requires. And by the way, do you know what your school's teachers - lifetime professional educators - will be doing for the next 3-7 days? It won't be content, it will be routines, expectations and standards. In the teacher world we call this, "working slow now so we can work fast later".
Need proof? Join the numerous of CRC families already on board: click here. Then dive into the honest truth about raising children in a community, and reap the same benefits. With a good plan and some resolution, your child (and family) can be a STAR.
Helping your child be a…
Child development research is clear: Clear Expectations + Routines = Successful, Adjusted Children
Here is a simple acronym, which you could adjust, to help your child throughout the day…
Schedule the Morning:Wake-up time is consistent, the bed gets made*, list specific chores or duties like getting dressed, feeding a pet, double-checking school bags, brushing teeth, etc.
This all builds up to departure time, which should be well-stated and understood (“We will be in the car by 7:35…”)
Timeliness Matters:Starting your own work day behind affects the rest of your day and leaves you playing catch up. This stress is more pronounced with children who do not have the tools to walk into their day late and catch up. Again, routine is vital. Make sure your routine is to BE ON TIME.
Ask: Get in the habit of asking specific questions at the end of the day. The usual, “How was your day?” and “What did you learn today?” are OK starting points, but they should give you context for richer questions as the year goes on: “What did you and Joey do at recess?” or “I know Friday is spelling – how’d the test go?” or “Tell me all about May Crowning!”
Routine (again!):Literally map out the routine for after school. What’s the first thing that should happen when kids get home? Then do they get some time to play? When and where is study time (a quiet, well-lit place within view of an adult+)? When do chores take place? And please don’t forget bed time as you read and pray with your child within the same 30min time window every night. Tomorrow’s success begins tonight, so BE CONSISTENT!
*There are some interesting thoughts on how making your bed each morning builds character-enhancing qualities that impact not just the rest of the day, but a lifetime of good habits.
+Remember, even if a student has no homework, the time allotted to study still takes place with independent reading (not screen time!). Please read and consult the amazing book “The Learning Habit”
The idea to "be a student" for a day came from a Washington Post article I read. The article was predominantly negative and discussed the level of disgust the teacher felt throughout a day filled with sitting, listening, regurgitating information, and “feeling like a nuisance.”
I should mention that a common refrain among administrators, and former administrators, is the inherent sense of loneliness they/we sometimes feel in our position. Our careers are built upon creating relationships with kids, and then an administrative position opens and we believe, “Now I’ll be able to impact more students!” The belief is true in many ways, but the daily execution…well, the devil is in the details. And there are lots of details: state reports, unhappy or concerned parents, 100+ emails a day, last minute memos given and received, meetings and meetings and meetings and meetings and meetings… a broken pipe, an accident in the bathroom, an filled infraction card, teachers whose lives are not as simple and serene as their presence in front of the room may indicate. It's often simultaneously overwhelming and isolating. But make no mistake, it's also quite rewarding.
To the point: as a principal I’ve found that if I want to connect with students I need to be intentional about it. It’s not organic like in a classroom. I literally must schedule it into my day.
This idea of being intentional regarding the daily life of students coupled with the Washington Post article and I decided it’s time to imbed. I allowed the students to petition to be my buddy, and received about 150 requests. Whatever the child did, I would do. No excuses, full uniform, no breaking the rules. One caveat, however, as I did allow myself to keep my phone in case of an emergency, and to document my day – the pictures can be seen on @cathedraleagles Twitter, Instagram and our Facebook page.
It was never my intent to draw attention or disrupt the day; quite the opposite. So while there was a sense of novelty, truly I wanted this to be about observation and experiential research.
My student buddy was 8th grader Ian Mitchell. Ian was a great pick because he’s involved in a lot of things at Cathedral, patient enough to deal with me, and is a solid guy who can run in any crowd (more on that later). Here was our schedule for the day, and I’ll reflect on my big takeaways after...
7:30am: Choir (I didn’t make it to choir because I brought my daughter to school, but I did meet Ian in the hall afterward).
8:10am: Chanting at Mass (Awesome experience; everyone should see Mass from this vantage point)
9:00am: Confession (Ian and I decided it was best if we went to Confession separately)
9:20am: Science (the concept of sound was the focus)
9:45am: English & Grammar (Skyler Rolfes was my table-partner and walked me through grammar and tenses)
10:15am: Training for May Crowning Mass with the Soldiers of St. Sebastian
11:15am: History (Civil War – Sherman’s March was the focus)
11:55am: Literature (Anne Frank discussion – “How are you like Anne?”)
12:30pm: Lunch (awesome table; pork sandwiches were solid and the conversation stimulating)
1:00pm: Recess (I ran inside to check on the front office)
1:15pm: Math (equations and plotting coordinates)
1:55pm: Religion (I missed some of this because an alarm box malfunctioned, but the focus was on discernment and a neat story about a female basketball star who entered a cloistered order)
2:35pm: Physical Education (we ran the mile…for time. I don’t want to talk about it)
Before I begin my reflections on the day, I must admit something: I wondered if I would end the day with a list of things that needed fixing, or that even “shocked” me as the teacher in the Post article reported. I suppose I was surprised, but primarily at not being surprised.
Reflection One: Faith Permeates
From 7:30am to 9:20am the entire focus was Christ, His message, and our role in that message. Remember that we began practicing choir for Mass, then we chanted at Mass, and then we went to Confession. That’s pretty tangible stuff. But the amazing thing is that throughout the remainder of the day He was present.
I think our kids take this for granted, but when you start every class with prayer (or in our case, a decade of the Rosary), then you hear a lesson skillfully infused with the faith it affects the way you look at your neighbor, your teacher, your parents, your siblings. If I could put it into words it wouldn’t be as magnificent as it is, so I’ll just say that Faith is a real, breathing, vibrant thing that our kids experience in myriad ways every single day. It is complemented by the Dignity Code, which is also very real in the classrooms.
Reflection Two: Teacher Rapport
This is a big one for me because I’ve been at quite a few schools and the energy at each is palpable. Each school has an energy that is manifested by the relationship between student and teacher: apathetic, confrontational, dismissive, loving, energetic, fun.
Here’s a common thread of every teacher I experienced at Cathedral on this day: I was a student, thus I was their mission. From Miss Rejda reading her own journal, to the moment she pulled a reading from a quiet student. From Mr. Thedinga’s personalized handshakes, to Mrs. Kuehn’s gentle touch greeting each child. From Mr. Williams expressing that improvement on the mile wasn’t about a time but about how we live our lives, to Mrs. Wiebusch’s quiet and firm motivation that, “Our standard here is different, and I know you’re capable of more.”
I felt loved all day. I was safe, in good hands, and working with people who wanted to make me a better person, not just a better student. Sure, the teachers knew I was in their room, but this was no dog-and-pony show. This was real, and it was expressed in dozens of ways, big and small, when all were watching and when teachers thought no one was.
Reflection Three: These Kids
What can I say about these kids? Yes, the girls roll their eyes and the boys tease. Yes, she’s mad at her and he was a jerk to him. Yes, he’s immature and she’s being snotty. But you know what? So what.
That’s my takeaway from being inside the social circles: so what.
That “so what” is the definition of perspective. That “this too shall pass” approach is a reflection of students who came up together, have seen each other at their bests and worsts, and know that while this phase will pass, the essence of my classmates is what should be trusted. This perspective is one many seem to lose as adults; we become easily offendable, quick to defensivenesss. Example: when the 8th grade boys ran the mile, those who finished first came back to run with those who were last (I should know, they pushed me along). Furthermore, every guy stayed until the last one finished, and then all of them bumped fists and congratulated each other.
The Kindergarten through 8th grade ride is a long one, like a nine hour road trip. Seating feels tight, people get on each other’s nerves, things will get goofy, but at some point the journey becomes the destination and the "target finds the arrow". I’d say in the 8th grade it’s a bullseye.
Reflection Four: Instruction
Even though I was a student I really struggled not to pay attention to lesson structure and teaching method. In 2014-15 I observed over 150 classes; this year I won’t make that many due to missing time for the birth of my son, but I’ll make a lot. Typically I look for three things in a lesson outside of non-negotiables like relationships and modeling the faith…
-Objective: what does the teacher want to get out of this lesson?
-Structure: the spectrum flows from direct instruction to guided practice to independent practice to discussion (more easily explained as “I do”, “I do, you help”, “You do, I help” and “You do”). I could go on for pages here about small groups, station work, etc. But the point is that differentiation matters for myriad reasons.
-Assessment: how does the teacher know if he/she met their objective for the day?
Frankly, we are still working on creating solid objectives that do not take for granted that this is the first time students have experienced the content. We’ve done a lot of work with Teach Like a Champion, and will continue to do so in this regard – stating and focusing on the objective as a fundamental practice.
Structure was interesting and impressive. To varying degrees, every class explored the spectrum above: our teachers differentiated instruction in a seamless manner that kept students moving, the clock ticking, and the lesson flowing. In one class I witnessed the teacher take the previous day’s assessment (which was poor), scrap it, and tell the students, “We missed the mark. We are going to hit this again, and you’re going to nail it the next time.” Then she built the lesson up again from scratch, and left the kids WANTING to be assessed! In another class I journaled, discussed, shared with the class, then took part in a read-aloud. That’s an amazing, efficient and productive 40 minutes.
Little Things are Big Things, and Sometimes That's OK
The talk all day was about the mile. “She said it was easy and went fast” and “I think Mr. Williams just wants to torture us” and “I get so nervous for this I can barely eat” and “I think I’m going to puke” (I'll claim the last one). It was interesting because I remember those same thoughts and conversations; they seemed so big at the time.
The other talk was about the 8th grade Mass: who’s sitting with choir? Who’s sitting with the class? Should we all do the same thing?
The point here is that in many scenarios these little things become gossip. Then gossip becomes hurt feelings. Hurt feelings become rifts, even chasms. These gaps become negative energy that is pervasive. Now a little thing is a big and bad thing.
But not today, and not with this group. This is where our teachers and kids do their best work: these little things are turned into big but good things. Here’s what I mean: the mile run isn’t about the clock, it’s about dealing with pressure and pulling for one another. The clock is a small thing, the rest isn’t. And who will sit where at the 8th grade Mass isn’t about cliques, it’s about the final moments of this class together and how they wish to spend it. That conversation is guided by the teachers and kept within the boundaries of one focus: how do we want to spend this experience?
Final Thoughts I’ve had a handful of teachers ask me if they could be a student for a day too. I love this idea, and see nothing but benefits. My hope is to secure the finances to pay for a substitute for one day for any teacher who wants to throw on a polo and khakis (or plaid). Furthermore, I’d like to secure funding so that every teacher can spend the day observing their colleagues. How crazy is it that you can work down the hall from someone for decades and never see them at their craft? Not as crazy as missing out on all the wonderfully gifted educators we have in our building. I must find a way to get these initiatives accomplished.
The day with Ian also inspired me to finish a program for the Diocese: administrative swap. This would be the chance for an administrator to visit our other schools and gather ideas for their own schools. Personally, I’d also love to visit our closest LPS neighbors. I plan to fulfill this program in 2016-17.
Finally, a thank you to Ian, all of the 8th graders, and all of the teachers for entertaining the idea. This was never meant to be about me, it was meant to get a sense of the life of a CRC student. I’m an Eagle graduate, and I must admit that as amazing as my experience was in the early nineties, we’re soaring in 2016.
We are all there, counting down the days to May 25th-scheduling the summer, signing up for camps, making vacation reservations and preparing for evenings spent outside. But as the school year comes to an end we need to make sure that routines we mastered these last eight months don’t go by the wayside as we wrap up the school year. For some great tips including two apps to help students stay focused, check out these articles from Educational Connections Inc. Study Skills to End the Year Strong and 10 Ways to Avoid the 4th Quarter Slump.
On February 17th the Huffington Post shared a list of 12 new apps that parents of which parents should be concerned. A particulara focus in this article was the shift from apps that are being used for sinful and poor purposes, and those that now have those very intent.
Many of these apps reside under veiled names like "Calculator%", with the intent being that parents won't notice them on the phones of children. One app even takes pictures of those who try to access the app so the child knows who is looking into their phones.
This is the 3rd time that I have gone through the Consecration since July. I was inspired by Fr. Michael Gaitley on retreat in June and I decided to renew my consecration on the feast of the Assumption on August 15th. During those 33 days I started talking with a group of men from the parish that I meet with on Thursday mornings and they were interested in the consecration so we concluded on October 8th, the birthday of Mary. During retreat I had decided that it would be good to have a consecration to Mary in the Parish, and since the 8th of December is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness for the Diocese and the beginning of the year of Mercy, I thought it would be a perfect time for a consecration to Mary.
What I have done, is something that Fr. Gaitley points out in his book. You can and are encouraged to consecrate yourself to the Blessed Virgin Mary at least annually on any feast day of Mary, and you’re even encouraged to make the consecration more frequently. I can attest, that reading the same reflections 3 times in the course of 5 months has not been boring, but I pick up new reflections each time.
Living the Marian Consecration (see below for weekly Consecration blogs from Monsignor)
I was truly inspired by the consecration to Mary on December 7th and 8th. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and I hoped that I wouldn’t be standing in Church by myself after Masses. I did not take an exact count, but I would say there were somewhere between 150 and 200 people that consecrated themselves to Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. When I would turn around to give everyone a blessing after finishing the prayer of consecration, I was met by smiling faces. There were so many that commented, “Thank you Father for doing this, it was awesome”, or “I have always made my consecration privately and I really enjoyed making it with others!”
Now you may be asking, “How do I live my consecration to Mary?” St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximillian Kolbe answer this question somewhat differently. St. Louis is very strict in his direction for prayer after consecrating oneself to Mary. Every prayer needs to be offered to Jesus through Mary. Whereas, St. Maximillian states that once we have given ourselves totally to Mary, it is unnecessary to always begin prayer with Mary to Jesus, since she is now always present. The example of a husband always having his wife in his heart while he is doing his everyday work expresses the idea of Mary’s continual presence after consecration. Whether we are saying the “Our Father” or the “Hail Mary”, Mary is present in our offering and fills our hearts with more love and devotion as we offer our prayers.
The two things that we need to focus on are daily conversion and devotion to Mary.
Since sin separates us from God and saddens the Holy Trinity and Mary, we need to pray daily for conversion, to stay free from both mortal and venial sins. As we work on overcoming the habits of sin that we have formed, our hearts and our actions will be more filled with love for God and for others.
There are many devotions that we can make a part of our spiritual lives. As people consecrated to Mary, these devotions need to be a daily part of our spiritual lives now. The most important of these is the recitation of the rosary. We do what we can each day, and if it is not possible for us to pray the entire rosary daily, we can pray a decade. As we pray the rosary, we can either focus on the mystery and our thoughts may stay on Jesus, or we may focus on the Hail Mary’s. Either way, we are forming a devotion to Mary, which is essential to our consecration.
When there are important decisions to make, or if there are situations in our lives that are in serious need of divine help, our prayers should be directed to the Virgin Mary. We are now called to put our trust in her powerful intercession and we are called to turn over our intentions to her and trust in her distribution of the graces as needed. Our Mother loves us and cares for us, and we daily thank her and ask for her intercession. If you don’t have a statue of Mary or a picture of her in your home you should get one. There are so many beautiful images of Mary, and their presence in our homes helps us remember her love for us, and they lift our hearts to a greater love for her.
Now that we are consecrated to Mary, and as we daily live our devotional lives with her at the center, we will find ourselves growing ever closer to Jesus. Don’t be anxious about doing this right, rather be patient and the beauty of our consecration to Mary will unfold. Congratulations on your consecration to Mary and becoming a member of Mary’s militia who are ordered to bring the love of Jesus to everyone you meet!
Week 4 (see below for weeks 1, 2 & 3)
We are nearing the day of Consecration! Only five days away is the eve of the Immaculate Conception, and that will be the first opportunity for a group consecration. After Mass Monday evening and then after the Masses on Tuesday I will be available by the Marian altar to lead people in the consecration. We will recite together the consecration that is printed in the back of the book.
This week has been a good reflection on the importance of making our consecration to Mary. These reflections are at the heart of the inspiration I received to renew my consecration and to offer this to our parish. The readings this week focus on Mary and the process that she went through to understand her role as our mother and intercessor. Mary states that she pondered everything in her heart. As we reflect, or ponder the words of scripture we think about the design God had for Mary to be our mother and our intercessor. The Angel Gabriel announces to Mary God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus. In this announcement, God is entrusting himself to Mary! I believe this is a good enough reason for us to do the same! In this entrustment of God to Mary, marvelous gifts come to us; none less than our Savior and the redemptive graces that flow from His cross.
This week a parishioner came up to me and said, “reading this book , has been great; it has reminded me that Mary has never failed to intercede for me, and there are so many graces that have come to me through my prayers to Mary”. The scriptural references continue to help us understand Mary’s role in our spiritual lives. When Jesus says, “whoever does the will of my Father is brother and sister and mother to me”, he expresses the primary role of His mother. Her role is first to do the will of the Father, and in that she is a mother. She lives like her Son, who stated that He is focused on “His Father’s business”. Mary took these words and pondered them. She started thinking, “What is God’s will for me, what is the business that He wants me to focus on?” Jesus tells us about God’s will for her, and the business that she needs to focus on from the cross. Jesus proclaims from the cross that she is “our mother”. She is given the role to lead us in our spiritual lives to her Son. When she heard his words “I thirst”, she knew that He was thirsting for us, and the she has the responsibility to lead us to her Son.
Our consecration brings Mary into our homes and into our daily lives. We entrust ourselves to her motherly care and this will change our lives forever. In her work she brings us to Jesus and we present our difficulties, our brokenness, our blindness, and we are healed and strengthened by Him. I will continue my reflections next week, since there is a need to understand clearly how we put our consecration into practice on a daily basis. It is also good to think about the fact that our consecration is preparing us to enter in the year of Mercy that begins on December 8th. During our retreat in June, Fr. Gaitley presented the consecration in this way, and I thought I need to renew my consecration, and I need to bring this to the parish. I’m truly looking forward to the celebration of the Immaculate Conception next week and to our consecration. I will be praying for everyone in these remaining days, and I’m sure that Mary is going to bless these last days of preparation for the consecration.
Week 3 (see below for weeks 2 & 1)
I’ve been thinking about the radical gift of our entire selves to Mary. As we heard in the readings from the first week, we are instructed to give our entire being to Mary, “our soul…our body…our exterior gifts of fortune…and our interior and spiritual goods”. In my prayer yesterday I was thinking about this gift and I came to another reason why it makes sense to give everything to her.
First of all, as I say often, the gifts that we have to give are really insignificant, and to make them a beautiful offering to Jesus we can give them to Mary and she will make them beautiful. As I mentioned previously, we may be afraid to give everything to Mary, because we want some control in our lives and if we give everything, then we may feel that we have nothing. That is precisely the problem! Many times we define ourselves with the things that we have, such as good work, relationships, material possessions, and even our intellectual or spiritual gifts. When we give everything to Mary, she draws us closer to Jesus, and then we discover that He truly is the source of happiness and peace that our souls have been searching for.
In this week’s readings, Mother Theresa instructs us to reflect on the words of Jesus from the cross. The words, “I thirst” are spoken to each one of us; not asking us to satisfy his physical thirst, but that he desires or “thirsts” to quench our thirst. He thirsts for our love, and for our recognition of His great love for us. As Mother Theresa wrote to her sisters; “I thirst, is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him”. Who does Jesus want to be for you; for me? Who does He want us to be for Him?
A poem written by Fr. Robert Hugh Benson expresses it clearly for me: “Let me tell you how he treats me now. He supplies all my wants. He give me more than I dare ask. He anticipates my every need. He begs me to ask for more. He never reminds me of my past ingratitude. He never rebukes me for my past follies…Let me tell you further what I think of him. He is as good as he is great. His love is as ardent as it is true. He is as lavish of his promises as he is faithful in keeping them. He is as jealous of my love as he is deserving of it. I am in all things his debtor, but he bids me call him friend”.
Too many times we can fall into the trap of trying to earn someone’s love. Jesus’ love is freely given, and he wants us to respond in kind, without any masks or motives, just a simple loving response to perfect love. If we respond to the offense by another with the question “what did I do?” or “how could I get them to treat me better”, we may be trying to earn love. Love is a free gift of ourselves, that is, the person God made us to be. We don’t love with a gift in hand, we love with nothing in hand, in a sense heart speaking to heart, person to person when we give everything to Mary and ask her to distribute the gift in a way that is pleasing to Jesus.
We still need to work hard to use our gifts and talents to the best of our ability for the good of others, and to please God. Giving our gifts to Mary to present to her Son we need to present the best gift we can offer, not for our own recognition, but because that is what is expected of us. When we give our gifts completely to Mary and let her take care of them, then criticism or a lack of appreciation for our efforts does not affect us, because it is not ours anymore. We have given it away; we have nothing and she has presented a perfect gift to Jesus for us.
The bottom line is that we want to love Jesus, and be His friend. Mary will take us there, if we give our whole selves to her. I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving holiday! Take time to reflect on Jesus love for you and let Mary return the gift of your love for your family and friends to Jesus perfectly.
Week 2 (see below for Week 1 Entry) In our reading this week Fr. Michael Gaitley explains the question that St. Maximillian Kolbe struggled with for most of his life. The title Mary used for herself in communicating with St. Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception” was most confusing to him. Fr. Kolbe spent most of his life reflecting on that title, and worked to understand it. The title is key to our understanding of the importance of our consecration to Mary.
The day Fr. Kolbe was arrested by the Germans he wrote his explanation of the title that Mary gave to herself. He knew that the title “Immaculate Conception” was in reference to the Holy Spirit. In our understanding of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the person that pours out to us the love of the Father and the Son. The intimate union of the Blessed Trinity, three persons in one God, bears fruit in our life, through the outpouring of their love in the person of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Kolbe was perplexed with Mary using the title of “Immaculate Conception for herself, but he came to understand that she is the created “Immaculate Conception”. This terminology explains the intimate union between Mary and the Holy Spirit.
As Catholics we believe that Mary was created by God free from Original Sin. Through an act of the Holy Spirit, Mary was immaculately conceived, and so she is referred to as the created “Immaculate Conception”. We also believe that Mary through the grace of God, responded favorably at every moment of her life to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and remained sinless throughout her life. Mary’s intimate union with the Holy Spirit, makes her the “spouse” of the Holy Spirit, and so everything that comes from her is perfect, not because of her, but because of the action of the Holy Spirit in and through her. Her son is Son of God, and is obviously perfect, and is the fruit of her womb. Her thoughts, words and deeds are also perfect because they are an affirmative response to her union with the Holy Spirit. Mary is not only the model disciple of Jesus in her response to the Holy Spirit, but she will help us to be model disciples through our consecration to her. In our consecration we give everything to her, and she presents it to Jesus, perfecting our offering. She also teaches us how to be perfect disciples when we pray and ask her for that help and guidance.
St. Maximillian Kolbe taught the friars that he guided about the importance of the consecration to Mary. He instructed them that through this consecration that they would form Mary’s army. He called them to be her soldiers and work to bring her son, Jesus to everyone that they met. Through our consecration to Mary, we want to follow that example. We want to ask Mary to guide us to act in the best way to make Jesus known to others. Jesus teaches us that “He is the way, the truth and the life and no one will come to the Father” except through Him. Mary, our mother, wants us to join her in making her son known throughout the world. She wants us to be her soldiers, fighting the good fight in a world that longs to know Jesus. In and through our consecration to Mary, let us become soldiers in her Army and make Jesus known to everyone!
Week 1 This week is a reflection on the work of St. Louis de Montfort, who is the master of Marian Consecration. The two important things about a consecration to Mary are that it is a renewal of our baptismal promises and it is an intimate way to give ourselves to Mary. The consecration prayer written by St. Louis clearly states that we are rejecting sin and promising to follow Jesus and carry our cross after Him and to be more faithful to Him that we have ever been before. These promises are what our parents and Godparents made for us on the day of our Baptism. They were asked; “Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises?” They answered “Yes” for us, then when we were Confirmed, we answered those questions for ourselves, and now in this consecration we have a more radical and intimate way to affirm our answer to this profession of faith! This why Fr. Gaitley states that a consecration to Mary is the quickest way to become a saint! The consecration will lead us to reject sin!
The second part of the consecration is radical! I give myself totally to Mary, “in order to belong entirely to Jesus”. Our devotion to Mary needs to lead us to Jesus. St. Louis tells us that by giving ourselves to Mary, she will lead us to Jesus, and the gifts that we offer to Jesus will be taken to Him by Mary, and they will be more beautiful than what we could give by ourselves. St. Louis says that our gift must be complete, that is giving “our body…our soul…our exterior goods of fortune…our interior and spiritual goods” to Mary. Everything we are and possess is given to Mary, and she will direct and distribute those gifts in the best way. The example of the Queen presenting the gift to the King is easy to understand. Mary is the Queen of Heaven and God is pleased with everything that she has done, and continues to do. We want to please God and yet we know that our gifts, in comparison to Mary’s gifts, or the gifts of any of the saints is insignificant. Mary is going to help us make a beautiful gift to God, by taking the gifts we present and placing them on a beautiful silver platter and presenting them lovingly to God. We should want to present everything we have “our body…our soul…our exterior goods of fortune…our interior and spiritual goods” to Mary and we will offer a perfect gift to God.
As we get older we realize that we don’t have much control over things in our life. Our body begins to break down and we begin to loose energy and we eventually have to ask for help. We are in a sense forced by the breakdown of our bodies to let go of everything. In a consecration to Mary, we are freely choosing to let go of control and give everything to God through Mary. The point that Fr. Gaitley makes that sells me on giving everything to Mary, is that Jesus did this by becoming Man. He was conceived in the Blessed Virgin’s womb, giving complete control to Mary. Jesus, true God and Man gave himself completely to the care of Mary. If Jesus can do this then I should do this too!
Fr. Gaitley makes another great point to take away our worries about giving ourselves to Mary. He reminds us that Mary “cannot be outdone in generosity”. She gave herself completely to the will of God, “let it be done according to your will”. In her generosity, so knows how to generously give everything that she receives. When we give ourselves totally to her, she will generously and perfectly distribute those gifts in the best way possible. So, begin thinking as you pray, as you act charitably, as you carry the cross, as you love, to give those gifts to Mary, to be perfected and generously distributed.
That’s it for now – until next week – a reflection on St. Maximilian Kolbe!
My name is Father Justin Fulton. I am one of the new Assistant Pastors here at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ. I am humbled and very excited to be here with everyone, as well as all of the faculty, staff, students, and families of the Cathedral of the Risen Christ School. Go Eagles!
I am a brand-new priest as I was ordained at the Cathedral on May 23, 2015. I look forward to serving God’s flock as a priest, to be an instrument of Christ’s healing mercy, to accompany all on their journey into the loving embrace of the Father, and to bring the Sacraments---especially the Holy Eucharist---to His people. I will also teach three classes of Juniors at Lincoln Pius X in addition to the duties at the Cathedral. I look forward to saying Mass for the school kids and staff and visiting the school during the week.
I was born and raised in Auburn, NE. I graduated from Auburn High School in 1999 and my parents still live in Auburn---I love to go back and visit family, golf, hunt, and fish! I graduated from UNL in 2003 with degrees in Finance and Marketing, and I was active on campus as a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. After graduation, I worked for State Farm Mutual Insurance here in Lincoln at 84th and O Streets. I completed a Master’s of Science in Organizational Management in 2008, and was active in Lincoln with the St. Vincent DePaul Society, Teammates Mentoring, Junior Achievement, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and the Matt Talbot Kitchen.
In 2008, I decided to figure out what “Thy Will” was, and not “my will”, so I entered the seminary. I studied 2 years at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, and then completed theology studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia in 2015. While in Philly, I earned a Master of Arts in Theology and a Master’s of Divinity. My apostolic assignments included Holy Redeemer Hospital and St. Joseph’s Manor nursing home, St. Christopher’s Parish (where I also taught and visited K-8, just like Cathedral!), Archbishop Ryan High School, and my deacon assignment was at St. Robert Bellarmine parish, where I again visited the school and attended to the pastoral duties of a 2800-family parish.
The Lord has blessed us as with an excellent school at Cathedral. He blesses us even more with talented and dedicated faculty and staff. And He showers down His love upon us by giving us generous, loving, and wonderful students and families. It is a superb opportunity to be immersed in a Catholic school environment, where students receive a top-notch education and quality preparation for life. It is awesome to know that students can visit our Lord in the Tabernacle every day in this environment. It is awe-striking to know that Mary and all of the Saints are actively helping our Lord form these students at Cathedral. Cathedral is a vibrant garden to nurture and grow the lives of these students who truly are our future. It is humbling to be a part of that process and that family now.
Please feel free to contact me, say hello or chat Royals baseball, fishing, hunting, business, or God! I have a wide array of interests. My prayers are with you and I look forward to accompanying you on your journey with our Lord and His Catholic Church. May God bless and Mary keep you all!
The following blog was submitted by a Cathedral mother who chose to share her family's story as both a cautionary tale and call to action. We at The Cathedral of the Risen Christ appreciate her bravery and honesty. We also applaud her desire to see all in our CRC family become proactive, rather than reactive, regarding this issue.
Dear Cathedral Family,
I am writing this anonymously for obvious reasons. The not-so-obvious reason is that it's appropriate to be anonymous since my story could be any of yours.
I have a son who attends The Cathedral of the Risen Christ who unfortunately has been exposed to porn.
PLEASE LISTEN: If you're that parent who believes this will never happened to your child, we have something in common: I felt the same.
I've listened to the talks from Fr. Kilcawley about how dangerous internet porn is and how important installing Covenant Eyes onto our electronic devices was. I had good intentions to get this done thinking that I had plenty of time. Unfortunately time ran out quicker than my husband and I expected.
This story started simply enough, which is common in these situations: My son was chatting with several of his classmates who happened to be talking about porn during free time at school. He had no idea what this was, so he was curious and decided to do a Google search on our home computer for the word PORN. To his surprise there was no official definition, but he did get an eye full.
Feeling ashamed of himself, he never came to us. Instead, just as research indicated, he went back to it at least one more time. Kilcawley talks about this often - the isolation and shame from pornography is immediate. (Research also indicates that first exposure to pornography is now between the ages of 10 and 12)
This is how porn addiction begins - not with intent, but with shame and secrecy. And where do we turn when ashamed? Back to the root of the issue.
And this is where we, as parents, must step up. Do not expect your child to come to you - you are the adult, and you must broach the subject. If not, you are taking a major risk. And if your child is already involved, you are allowing an intruder into your home, and your child to live with shame. I know no parent wants this.
Thankfully in our household we have very good communication and notice unusual behaviors quickly. I kick myself because this could've all easily been prevented if we simply would've installed Covenant Eyes onto our devices months ago after we heard Fr. Kilcawley speak at Cathedral. I know many of you were sitting with us that night, shaking your head "YES" to all he said. But how many acted?
Porn addictions are very scary and can happen quickly, causing a lot of damage. It is projected that over 75% of college males regularly visit pornography online, and it is not hard to link this issue with rising acceptance of the objectification of women, sky-high divorce rates, and the lack of respect for families and marriage. I thank God that we caught this very quickly and immediately took action.
I pray that what happened to our family will not affect another member of our Cathedral Family! Please take preventative measures if your child has any access to electronic devices. Please start a conversation with them. Please listen...
Moving forward, our family is teaching our children "Theology of the Body" so they can better understand the beauty of what God has intended for our bodies.
May God bless all the Cathedral Families. If you would like to talk directly to me please contact Mr. Ekeler and he will put you in touch with me.
I learned more about the art of teaching as a coach than I did in college – undergraduate or graduate. To this day a great classroom session feels like a great practice, and vice versa.
One vital coaching lesson that carried over is this: standards are more important than rules because standards create a culture, and culture creates ownership. Ultimately this brought me to a succinct set of beliefs, which I'm sure our teachers here at Cathedral are already sick of hearing: Fake it 'til you make it. Embrace the Monster. Teach the student, not the subject. What you permit you promote. Be easily pleased and rarely satisfied. Fail forward.
When working with players, however, I had a few other standards I championed, and none was more vital than this: Do not allow yourself to be a victim. Over time it was abbreviated to DBAV - Don't Be A Victim.
In literal terms all of us are victims at some point in our life. All of us will be taken advantage of at some point; we will all be dealt a bad break; tragically many will be abused or neglected. I'm not immune. In 2009 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just a couple months before my oldest child was born. I almost never discuss this; actually, I will only talk about it if it allows me to preach DBAV.
This was a trying time for Susan and I. At the same time we were debating a name for our little girl, I was doing the darkest type of math: Would I see my daughter enter school? Would I live long enough to see her graduate? Would I get to walk her down the aisle? Would I live long enough for her to even remember me? Like I said, a melancholy formula created from a mixture of the unkown and the natural tendency to peer into shadowy corners of the mind.
Then a single moment in which the tables were turned put an end to all my calculations: When I told my players of my diagnosis, and my need to miss practices for treatment, a senior stepped forward (Gianna, I’ll never forget you): "Coach Ek, we are all behind you. And that means we won't let you be a victim.” Then with a grin, “So don't bring whining or excuses in here!"
Literally I was a victim. Why me? Why this rare, genetic anomaly surfacing just before I became a dad? But in the truest sense I could/would choose not be a victim - I would, with the help of family, friends, Faith and players, re-frame my role. If that's unclear, just look at Joseph Hibler for a living example.
The moment a child (or an adult) makes an excuse or whines they have abandoned ownership. They have said, "I don't have power in this situation,” and by this abdication the extension: “I’m the victim.” This purchase of temporary protection at the cost of accountability and/or righteous defiance is not one we should accept. Worse than allowing a child to make this transaction would be modeling it.
When students and players refused to take ownership or whined I always countered with, "Are you powerless?" The trained (and required) reply was, "No - I am powerful beyond measure."
Those who use excuses and victimhood as refuge from life's realities, even for a moment, are left with the foundation for a habit that has a dire consequence: truths, whether good or bad, are relentless. When they finally catch up, will our children be powerless and inadequate, or will they be powerful beyond measure? The answer to that question is a vital one because today's world is more chaotic and spontaneous than ever - while we can't control much, we do own our reaction. What reaction do our children practice?
As is so often the case, we need only look to our Savior - as He wept in the garden He was all too human. Yet He was fully prepared to take victimhood to a level that can only be described as out of this world. He did not whine or make excuses, and His defiance of earthly victimization opened Heavenly gates. The Lamb was sacrificed, but transcended victimhood.
All of what has been written above can be misinterpreted as lacking sympathy or compassion for those with struggles. Nothing could be further from the truth. That's why in my next blog I'd like to discuss The Drama Triangle, and the feeling many have that they must rescue the victimized (as prep, maybe look at Jesus’ reply to those who tried to “rescue” him from slander and abuse). Until then please consider what things exist in our homes, sports teams, clubs and organizations that perpetuate excuses, inadequacy and a lack of accountability. Here at Cathedral we should work together to eradicate any sense of powerlessness from our children’s lives as we form them in Christ's image.
Parishioner: "Actually, this is our first year of Trunk or Treat..."
Stranger: "No, I mean the Church, these people - are they always like this?"
Parishioner: "Yes, I suppose we are. This is a great place filled with great people!"
Stranger: "This is actually my parish; I live nearby...but I haven't been around for awhile."
Conversation at Trunk or Treat 2014
My Dear Cathedral,
I need to thank you. And in showing this gratitude both humble myself to you, and express my love for you. This past week you reminded me exactly how you formed me as a boy, re-embraced me as a man, form me as a father, and shape my very spirit.
When I saw the hallways filled with parents for conferences, I recalled my days inside these classrooms. I remembered sitting at the kitchen table with my mother, who refused to touch my paper or pencil ("It's your name at the top, not mine!"), but always demanded that I focused not on being the best, but rather my best. And I had visions of laying in bed while my dad read books to me. We finished "White Fang" together, and then he handed it to me and said, "This book was your grandpa's. You'd have loved meeting him, and he'd want you to have it." Then he knelt next to the bed and we began our Rosary. That bridge from what was Cathedral to what is Cathedral is why I love you.
And when I saw the Little Saints line up down Sheridan I began to consider my own children, the first of whom will enter next year. I considered how your "Family of families" has entrusted me with their children, and how ready Susan and I am to entrust our children to play, learn, love, laugh, be hurt, be healed, and find God with your children. Parenting is hard, tiring, daunting, even intimidating. With you, however, we feel confident.
Then I heard Marissa, Natalie and Jonathan present at the All Saints Ceremony. I stood across from them wondering at the poise, wisdom, and purity of their words. I heard Marissa speak of her own Saint as if she was a best friend she spoke with daily. I felt the presence of those in Heaven right behind me as Natalie weaved together a narrative and analogy that was both moving and eloquent. Finally, Jonathan choked me up as he spoke about the saints around us, both living and dead, and how we are a part of their journeys. As he spoke I looked past him to the Holy Family Chapel. This is where I went when my grandmother held on for her final days. That is where I cried when her husband was taken suddenly, the victim of what can only be called a broken heart. I lashed out and demanded answers here when my friend, John, fell into a coma and was taken in his early twenties. And I knelt there in humble wonder, hours after Monsignor Tucker asked me if I'd be the next leader of your school.
In short, Cathedral - you've always been there, and I love you for that.
Which brings us to Trunk or Treat, 660 kids and at least that many adults: All of us crammed into a parking lot laughing, joking, hugging, shaking hands, and becoming one community on behalf of our children (with Shaggy, Velma, Scooby, Pope Francis and a few other friends helping). While the dialog that acted as this letter's introduction was relayed to me, I did have my own powerful conversations on this evening. One stood out in which I ran into an old friend who was a year behind me in school. "Jeremy," he said, "I can't believe you're sitting in Sister Mildred's office...again!"
We both laughed at this, and then he asked, "But really, isn't it surreal? I mean, think what this place meant to us. Now, you get to help shape that for someone else."
That opportunity, Cathedral, is why I love you. That trust, Eagles, is why I pray in gratitude every morning when I enter the office. All of my memories, Family of families, is why I hold you close to my heart. Seeing you embrace a little boy like Joseph, CRC, is why I am awed by your beautiful spirit. And the knowledge that we can disagree with each other, without being disagreeable to each other, is why I respect you.
Like any relationship, we will face difficult and trying times. But we will fail forward, we will never waste a crisis. And always we will have our arms open to those with the mightiest battles, highest hurdles, most difficult obstacles - I love you most because you hold firmly to Padre Pio's brilliance: "If you knew the value of suffering, you'd never give it up."
I always knew I loved you, but this past week, Cathedral, you out-did yourself.
The good news: we are proud and overwhelmed by the number of conferences already scheduled.
The bad news: Parents, showing up to conferences is not enough.
Let me explain...
Conferences are not about the teacher talking at the parent. They're not a report from the nervous educator behind his/her desk to the squinting/nodding/grimacing parent on the other side. And they're certainly not only about a letter or percentage on a sheet of paper.
That's not a conference; that's an accounting, a one-way transaction.
A true conference is a microcosm of something much more powerful: the collaboration of adult forces on behalf of the best interest of a child. In other words, it's a give-and-take based on a relationship of mutual care and concern for a child.
Every bit of research - whether another predictable graduate study, or the groundbreaking The Nurture Assumption by Dr. Judith Rich Harris - verifies that adult involvement and concern in student learning has a positive correlation to student success. That's why it matters that you ask about their day, take interest in their homework, show up to their performances, put the iPhone aside so as to be present when they tell their stories, and know/remember their teachers' names.
As a teacher I loved conferences, and it surprised me to hear colleagues gripe: "We only see the parents of kids with high grades," they'd say. Or, "Well, the ones we need to see won't show up," they'd complain. They'd joke about how they should just put an audio loop on play: "Your son or daughter has a high B or strong A. They work well in groups and are a joy to have in class..."
As I considered this robotic reply I wondered aloud why I didn't have these same complaints, and that's when a teacher of freshmen punched me in the gut: "You teach advanced courses - kids in there are hungry to learn because their parents are invested in more than the grade. They really want to know if their kid is growing, not just showing up and doing school."
I repeat: "...hungry to learn because their parents are invested..."
Parents of my students didn't show up to conferences. As a matter of fact, they attacked conferences. Coming from various income levels, racial backgrounds, and educational pedigrees, they nonetheless shared this trait: They wanted blunt answers about how they could work with me to make good students great ones, and great ones extraordinary. Always respectful, always polite, always demanding a spirit of TOGETHER, these parents didn't give birth to prodigies. No, they gave birth to children...and then they invested in their child's future with the educators they trusted.
In that spirit, our teachers at Cathedral may request that you do some "homework" before conferences. This small task could be as simple as jotting down a few ideas or considering a few points prior to meeting with them. The goal for our teachers is to extend our hand in the hopes that you, their first teachers, grasp it. Then, together, we will form a bridge to successful futures for the children of Cathedral of the Risen Christ School. After all, that's what a family of families should do.
So don't think about just showing up to conferences. Instead, let's focus on teaming up.
If your child has an application with this icon on their mobile device (phone or iPod), please DELETE. If you don’t know, even more reason to take action and look for it.
The application Kik is a dangerous social media platform that ostensibly is about group messaging, but actually exposes its participants to a wide array of users. Stories abound around the nation of children being propositioned, seeing pornographic images, and even being abducted. I created an account recently to better understand Kik, and was immediately inundated with “Kik Requests” from dozens of people with veiled identities – I felt both disturbed and out of my depth. Google it and you’ll feel the same.
Here at Cathedral the app was prevalent (discovered Kik being used in 3rd grade), and we had a handful of very unpleasant run-ins with it. These run-ins ranged from inappropriateness to brushes with a world no child should be exposed to. I hate dramatics, so take my word: if you allow your son/daughter to be on this app they will encounter serious, and likely dangerous, encounters they are not prepared to handle.