By Peggy Frederickson
Often, people view Catholic schools as private schools, but that is so far from the truth. Catholic schools are entrusted with a mission, and that is to bring students closer to Christ. When the Duluth schools combined to form Stella Maris Academy, we made this very clear in our mission statement: “Commissioned by the Catholic Church, the Stella Maris Academy community prepares lifelong learners who lead, love, and serve as Jesus taught — transforming our world one student at a time.”
Every day I witness the transformation of students as they become closer to Christ. Children are encouraged to treat others with empathy and compassion, oftentimes putting others’ needs before their own.
I’ve seen it countless times, but recently an incident really showcased this. A young girl had won a contest at school, and she was awarded a $5 cash certificate and an opportunity to pick from our box top prize container. She excitedly came into the office to accept her award and to pick a prize. After scavenging through everything in the container, and with much deliberation, she settled on a prize. As she was leaving the office, a classmate came in and instantly put an arm around her and said, “I am so glad you won and that you got to pick a prize. I’m so happy for you! Way to go!”
This student wasn’t jealous or upset but rather excited for his classmate. It isn’t often kids are truly excited for one another when they win a prize, but at Stella Maris, it’s quite common.
A dear friend of mine summarized her experience at Catholic schools as she wrote, “I often work on websites that entail a lot of research and a seemingly superior pursuit of intellect compared to supervising lunch and washing tables and sweeping floors surrounded by squealing, noisy children. But on any given day what I witness there are the heart stoppers that fill me with awe in God’s presence. I know our teachers witness these experiences much more often than I do. It’s why we are here — this level of love we are privy to on any given day.”
Long ago, Bishop Ken Untner (Saginaw, Michigan) wrote something that has been associated nearly as long with Blessed Oscar Romero (El Salvador, martyr).
This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
For sure, we may never see the end results, the future that is not ours to see. But the opportunity to be a part of the seed planting, passing on the faith we embrace, is a gift like no other. It is a gift I am grateful to Stella Maris for every single day.
Peggy Frederickson is principal of Stella Maris Academy, Holy Rosary Campus, in Duluth.