During the plane ride to attend the Network of Sacred Heart Schools Roots that Give us Wings Conference last summer, I found myself preoccupied with what would be waiting for me on Monday when I got back, but during the opening prayer on Wednesday night I realized why I was here. I needed an attitude adjustment. I have a tendency to get discouraged, wonder if what I do is of value and I lose sight of the bigger picture.
As I looked around the gymnasium in St. Charles, I thought where else could you be in a room with other men and women who are there because of two women with a love of God and a dream to educate girls? I sometimes think of how rough my day was, but can you imagine leaving the life you had known for 48 years and sailing to the other side of the ocean to build a school in 1818? Or how about at 72 years of age praying for hours on your knees to your God as Philippine did while at the Potawatomi Mission in Sugar Creek in Kansas?
Why was I at Roots that Give Us Wings? It is because I think of St. Charles as the “holy land” where Philippine brought Sophie’s vision to America and where she lies in a sarcophagus in the chapel of the school she began. As I listened to the Philippine story brought to life by Sr. Margaret Munch, an RSCJ who has retold this story countless times, I wondered who will fill this story-teller’s shoes? Who will bring Sophie and Philippine to life? Well, we will! That to me is formation to mission, or roots that give us wings. It is taking the vision and the stories back to our schools. Facing the challenges of the 21st century and educating children to learn and grow and navigate life’s challenges as Sophie and Philippine did.
What you do is of value; it’s larger than curriculum maps, lesson plans and parent meetings. You are carrying on the vision of St. Madeleine Sophie and St. Rose Philippine and a name you’ll hear a lot in the next 18 months as we get ready to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of her death, Janet Erskine Stuart, who believed in educating to the whole person. That’s why we do what we do.
I would like to offer a Philippine story. Picture this: it’s mid-December 1818, St. Charles, Missouri and Philippine writes,
“We have had the privilege of doing without bread and water … the Missouri is almost frozen over, and it is so cold that the water freezes beside the fire as does the laundry hung here to dry. Neither doors nor windows close tight and no one here knows how to make a footwarmer. We have logs, but they are too large and there is no one to chop them for us and no saw with which we might cut them ourselves.”
So I hope you face the challenges of a new school year as Philippine faced the challenges of a school year in the 1800s, with a belief that you are carrying on the vision of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat.
Denene Decker, Assistant to the Head of Schools
Academy of the Sacred Heart, Bloomfield Hills