When I first arrived on campus of the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in January of 2005, my intention was to hold a part time teaching position while investigating future options. Options that were going to be bigger. Options that were going to be better. Options that were clearly going to make a much bigger difference than my teaching at this school was going to make. The Immaculate Heart of Mary School was a temporary stomping ground meant only to provide a small wage while exploring what I was really meant to do. I can say with all certainty that while teaching math and science to what was once a classroom full of strangers, God certainly did help me find my future options. They were all there right in front of me. My future options were the students of IHM.
The mission of the Immaculate Heart of Mary School is “to form students into loyal subjects of our Lord Jesus Christ the King and his Queen Mother, educating them as intelligent and virtuous members of the Church Militant, who will take their place in the Church Triumphant.” I had found my future. I had found my purpose. Together with my students I was going to try to form myself and my student body into loyal subjects of our Lord and his Queen Mother. Perhaps you might say that was a lofty goal for a twenty-five year-old kid fresh out of graduate school that had become Catholic only eight months prior. I say to you in return, go big or go home. Twelve school years have passed since my fate was decided. Twelve years worth of students, twelve years worth of laughter and tears, and twelve years worth of painful growth for student and teacher alike. Have we mastered Heaven yet, I don't think so, but twelve years has certainly taught us a few good lessons in patience and perseverance, and together we have learned that God actually has a plan that doesn't always exactly match ours.
Most of the youth I've had the privilege to teach, and some to mentor, I have known since they were in the first grade. Over the years I have come to know them and they certainly have come to know me. They have come to know my strengths and my shortcomings, and I have come to know theirs. It is patience alone that has kept us united. It is patience alone that has gotten all of us this far.
I have had to practice quite a heroic patience in dealing with teenagers occasionally lacking verbal filters. I often wonder why there is no stop sign between the brain and the tongue of an adolescent. Is it removed on their thirteenth birthday as a rite of passage? Do their friends sneak them out of the house for this procedure to occur? I might never know the answer to this question, but I will never cease wondering. I, too, on occasion have shown behaviors that might require heroic patience on my students behalf. An unnamed individual once said, “Honey, I love you more than my coffee, but not before it.” The student body here at IHM have my undying love and support, but not before my coffee. They know how to act depending on where I am in my coffee consumption. I thank them for loving me through this slight imperfection.
Father Walter Elliot was an American priest and missionary during the late 1800's to early 1900's. He stated that “perseverance is not a long race, it is many races one after another.” He must have taught school some time during his tenure, for nothing teaches that lesson better then trying to mold the youth of today into the saints of tomorrow. Even with a little more experience now under my belt than I had a while back, I still face each day one day at a time in hopes that I can find strength for tomorrow. Even in the daily battles my students face, some battles larger then I have ever had to endure, we have had to put our minds together and remember as Thomas Buxton, nineteenth century English philanthropist and abolitionist, once stated that “with ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.”1
One of the most difficult lessons learned while serving as teacher, principal, and headmaster is that God's plans do not always match our plans. In our personal and public lives, students and teachers alike, have each had dreams shattered, hopes crushed, and wishes carried out with the rubbish. St. Ignatius of Loyola once said that “if God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that he has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” I wonder if it will take another twelve years for that lesson to really sink in.
Given time to reflect on the fact that each and every one of us is only given a finite amount of time to serve our fellowman and to earn our spot in Heaven, I can't imagine a more fulfilling and productive way to spend my time on Earth. There isn't another career path I see that could possibly be more eternally productive for me. I have come to know so much and I pray that God will allow me to serve and learn so much more.
I love this school: the students, the teachers, and the parents. IHM is a good school, but we can always do better. I tell myself this often so that I never become complacent. We should be striving to be the best for our students. While teaching in this school, I have always held the philosophy that we train students for the future. At first glance, you might think this is an obvious statement, but just think how many administrators and teachers have lost sight of what their job is really about. At IHM, our administrators and teachers have not lost sight of our job. We want our students to be the best Catholic mothers, fathers, religious, teachers, or professionals that they can be.
In short, we want them to be a good, fruitful part of society, and I am confident that they will be.
1. I am not pretending to be a fan of Thomas Buxton, I am merely using a quote from him.