I almost dropped a few tears at Friday’s faculty retreat when my colleague ended her story on the history of Juan Diego with a personal anecdote about working with foster children whose parents have been detained at the Mexican border – sometimes for up to 5 years without a court date.
It wouldn’t be the first time I fought back tears that day.
It all started the moment we were asked to pick a partner or someone we wanted to get to know better (or knew nothing at all.) There I stood next to my colleague who I’d met months before when I flew out for my interview; I’d wanted to pick her but my gut said that was too easy, and she picked the teacher standing next to her before I could say anything. For a moment, I wanted to cry; it reminded me of being the last person picked for the flag football team in grade school. In a moment, my friend said, “Pick Sister. She’s super cool,” and in a moment, I knew that’s what I needed to do.
Sister, who teaches theology, and I rode the school bus together to our destination and talked about caring for our students and how we can live “bravely” and “boldly” this year. We spent the rest of the morning learning about Juan Diego – “the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas.” Then it was our school principal’s time to talk about the history of Sam Skaggs – a well-known Utah businessman and benefactor who donated the 57-acre campus also known as the Skaggs Catholic Center.
What’s interesting is that Mr. Skaggs converted to Catholicism at the age of 72 after serving in World War II where he witnessed the “compassion and generosity of Roman Catholic chaplains during the war.” This ultimately lead to his conversion. “It was always the Catholics,” Dr. Colosimo said. Tears.
The retreat ended with an interactive lesson on the Juan Diego seal (or logo or crest or symbol) and the meaning behind each of the elements. A few faculty spoke about the importance of the school’s mission of “Spiritus Donorum,” and as I looked around the room, I noticed grown men rubbing their eyes; one lady said to please excuse her if she cried. I turned around to see my colleague and fellow new teacher’s eyes big, wet and red and I understood this was where I belonged.
God really outdid Himself with this one: this is how it’s supposed to be, I thought, or at least how I’ve always envisioned it. It’s a world where I don’t mind working so long as I can contribute to the greater good of my community. I am grateful to finally feel surrounded by people who live the way I intend to, giving as much of themselves to the students, each other and to life/God/whatever image for you is God. Honestly, the Catholic church is the last place I would have thought to find what I’ve been looking for but, looking back, it should have been the first place I looked.