I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Thursday, February 16, 2017

La La La... The Music that Makes Me Dance

iTunes had a sale this week: "Albums We Love" for $6.99.

I wasn't going to look...but then I saw "La La Land" and decided to make the purchase.

I've had it on repeat on my phone the past couple of days. It's so catchy - some so upbeat and some downright melancholy.

I just might have danced around in my kitchen to the opening few numbers. (No judgment, please.)

I love music.

I thought about the idea of being blind versus being deaf (which is not a new idea) - which would I prefer? Well, I would not willingly choose either of them because both are such spectacular gifts to be able to use, seeing and hearing. But honestly, to live without hearing music or people's voices - for me, that would be harder than not seeing things.

Music makes me so happy - my heart feels lighter and my soul is happy. I just want to dance when there is a good beat or strong melody. It's hard to explain...yet it would be even harder to replace or live without.

Tra la la la la...let the beat go on...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Three Weeks Till Lent

Three weeks until Lent...
Guess it's not too early to post about what I'm planning to do...
still need to work out some things...

1) Detach from social media: 
While I'm not planning on going off it all together, I will be taking Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter off my phone, thereby reducing the easy access and amount of time I spend scrolling through feeds. (If a major life event happens for you and you'd like me to know about it, please call or text.)

2) Reduce my morning screen time:
I do tend to enjoy the morning reflections from FaithND, Jesuit Spirituality, Dynamic Catholic, Fr. Barron, and others, it just gets to be too overwhelming. They are all good sources...but when, like me, you just start scanning them instead of really stopping and praying with them, the purpose of having them in the first place is missed. Therefore, it's time to let those go...at least for the season... (If there are any REALLY good ones or ones you know I would want/need to hear, feel free to pass them along.)

3) Journal:
I decided to invest in a Catholic Lenten journal from Blessed Is She (the journal was on sale when I got it, so BONUS!), which focuses on daily Scripture and reflection in a guided manner. I will use this journal in the mornings in place of the usual email reflections. I think it will be a good change.

4) Read: 
I posted on Facebook awhile back about interest in putting together an informal book club for Walk in Her Sandals, and I received a strong response from some local friends. The pack of books came in the mail this week, so now it's time to deliver them and to make our plan of action for reading and discussing. Part of the stipulation was that our get-togethers include wine, as the book is put out by W.I.N.E. (Women In the New Evangelization). Very excited to see where this leads.

I may decide on a few other things before the season actually gets here...but I don't want to commit to too much for fear of not being able to do well that to which I have already committed.

Lent will be here before we know it. I challenge you to be a little more thoughtful this year - what's going to make a real difference? What do you need to let go of or have more of in your life this Lenten season?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Celebrating Catholic Education - Why Am I Here?

Happy mid-Catholic Schools Week 2017! We've had some awesome first few days, and we're looking forward to what we still have left - service day, academic day, and teacher appreciation day. This morning, I will be attending Mass with my students...but Fr. Larry (our pastor) added something to my plate - he wanted me to tell my story about why I teach in Catholic schools.

Here's what I'll be sharing with my school community:

Good morning. In the spirit of celebrating Catholic Schools Week, Fr. Larry asked me to share with you all about why I’m here - why I’m teaching in Catholic schools. The simple and first answer might actually surprise you and sound like something you might say: my mom made me do it. Okay, so she didn’t make me, but when the time came to graduate from college, she more than gently nudged me toward the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program - a 2 year Masters of teaching program. I applied, got accepted, and moved out to Phoenix, Arizona to teach 4th grade at a Catholic elementary school for three years. I loved it. Every (well, probably not every) minute of it. I’ve been teaching in Catholic schools ever since, so, the rest, as they say, is history…

Now, here we are in 2017, and it’s been almost 6 years that I’ve been in Chicago teaching at our school...so why am I here? Why am I still teaching in Catholic schools when there are plenty of other needs, job opportunities, and more out there? I think that might be more of what Fr. Larry had in mind when he asked me to share with you. So, what makes me stay in Catholic education?

There is essentially one overarching reason, and that breaks down into 3 supporting ones. So, big reason: I am Catholic first. It’s how I identify myself and it’s what matters most. I put it before saying I’m a teacher, identical twin, woman, daughter, student, Chicagoan, Michigan State and Notre Dame fan… Catholic comes first. And here’s why:

I want to touch on three (did you catch the Catholic symbolism - 3 in 1?) reasons why being Catholic is so important to me, which I hope will, in turn, illustrate why I am a Catholic school teacher.

One: My parents brought my sister and me to Mass every Sunday and sent us to amazing Catholic schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. Without a doubt, it was a firm faith foundation. We NEVER missed Mass. That’s not to say I always wanted to go - in fact, I faked sick one time, and I still regret doing so to this day - but going to Mass truly became a family event. And it was special. And it was sacred. And, what I learned about in the Gospels didn’t stop at the church doors for me - my parents LIVED it, and they encouraged me and my sister to live it too. From singing in choir to volunteering for teaching kindergarten religious education to spending time with parishioners at the spaghetti dinner, my parents gave of their time, talent, and treasure consistently. When my sister and I got to high school and started going to daily 7am Mass, my dad would drive us to school, stay for Mass, and THEN go to work. (When you get to be in 8th grade, you’ll get to hear more stories about my dad, I promise.) I could go on and on about my parents, but a) I would more than likely tear up and b) ain’t nobody got time for that. So, supporting reason 1: I was brought up Catholic by my parents and learned the faith through my experiences with them both in and out of church.

Two: This one to me is so beautiful and simple: I believe in the goal of the Catholic life - to get to heaven and to take as many people with you as possible. In working with all of you amazing young people - that’s the challenge and the joy rolled into one. The challenge is that I know you sometimes tune me out, but the joy is that when you do listen, you just might hear God through discussions or activities we do in class or on retreats, and a small seed may be planted. So, 2: I believe in the goal of the Catholic life - to live in such a way that you get to heaven and bring as many people with you as possible.

If you’re keeping track, there’s one more to go: 3) I love the Catholic Mass and the Sacraments, and I get to participate in them regularly as part of my job. Many people can’t say that. It’s amazing! When our principal calls teachers into her office at the end of the year and asks us what we want to request to teach the following year, there is one class I will never give up - and that’s 8th grade. It’s mainly because of the Sacrament of Confirmation. And I look at you today, 8th grade, and I am so excited for these next few days. And I get to share this special time with each of you and your families...and, again, it’s part of my job. What a blessing! You may not realize it today, tomorrow, or even next year, but this time in your faith is incredibly important. You are making a big step, and we are all so proud. And, for all of us, to gather with our school community of Hill Street once a week for Mass, when I get to be a Eucharistic minister and smile into each of your faces as we share in the Body and Blood of Christ - I wouldn’t trade that for the world. It reminds me that we are all united, we are one, and we are a family. So 3) I love the Mass and the Sacraments.

These are the three things that make me feel strongly in identifying as Catholic first: my upbringing in the Catholic faith, the goal of the Catholic life, and the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments. When I prioritize my life in such a way that faith comes first, the question inevitably changes and becomes instead, How could I NOT work in Catholic education? Catholic education, like our faith, is a gift, and it’s a gift that is best shared lovingly with others.