Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jesus Shall Carry Us

If you haven't yet, I invite you to peruse Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel. He writes in refreshingly plain language and it is quite profound. I chose a paragraph from it to be my daily message for this school year with its unforeseeable ups and downs. One line from it that sums it up well is "No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted" (paragraph #279).

This paragraph ended up being helpful right away. The school year came in like a lion as we were met with hurricane warnings. We were scared. The children were scared. We put on our brave faces for them. The hurricanes were headed directly toward the islands. Our families, friends, Community, and people we don't even know were praying for our safety. The storms downgraded, then one went below our island, while the other traveled above. The Big Island, however, wasn't so lucky. They were hit by Hurricane Iselle, and aid money has been sent their way to help pay for damages. We are so thankful for all the prayers because we believe that they helped to dissuade and downgrade the storms.

Around that time, I told my second and third graders the famous story of the Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson. In this poem, Stevenson writes about Jesus carrying us through difficult times. About a week later, I was struggling to get a jam out of my "jam-free guaranteed" stapler. I happen to have a very expressive face. One of my students came up to me and whispered, "Jesus is carrying you, Sister Monica!"

My students delight me so much! I love their curiosity and enthusiasm. We are studying Earth Science and it's been fun to watch them explore rocks and soil while soaking in new terms like "erosion." The much anticipated volcanic eruption will occur this week!

I don't know what the months ahead hold for us, but Jesus will carry us when we need it. :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Free Music from Franciscans Offers Inspiration

Update: Click here September's Song of the Month. It's a catchy song by Ken Yates

One of my passions is music. I love all kinds of music, except the yelling kind. I happen to have a really awesome Pandora Christian Rock station that I have been developing since 2008. It all began with Tenth Avenue North. I added in Jennifer Knapp, Jars of Clay, Toby Mac, Group 1 Crew, Barlow Girl and Matt Maher. Pandora fills in the rest, providing me with music by artists such as David Crowder Band, Mandisa, and Needtobreathe.

When I get tired of listening to all that, I listen to Motown Radio. I was raised in Michigan so naturally Motown music played a crucial role in my development. To date, I have never had to give a Motown song a thumbs down!

A lot of our Sisters share my love for music, and every month we provide free downloads from indie artists. If we can't work out a free download deal, you are at least able to listen to it on Franciscanized World. The Song of the Month for August is beautifully done. It is On the Road to Human Being by Kerry Patrick Clark. The message is simple but one that bears repeating: that we as humans are more alike than we are different. We all want to find meaning in our lives, but we can get sidetracked by surface level endeavors.

Kerry Patrick Clark
I think I was beginning my freshman year in high school when I had an epiphany that everyone, no matter what mask they wear on the surface, wants to be liked by others. I reasoned that there was no one standing in my way of providing (mainly nonverbal) affirmations to the people around me. A personal experiment soon became a lifestyle, and the theory became a given.

At the beginning of his book, The Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote, "You have made us for Yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." God is Love, so we were made for Love. When we show love to others, we give them a glimpse of God's love.

All these thoughts of mine stem from listening to our August Song of the Month. To listen to this song and all future free downloads, visit our Community's blog: Franciscanized World.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Our Summer Program

Left to Right: Sister Regina Rose, Sister Carolee, Sister Pamela Catherine (from Perpetual Vows Summer Program), Sister Theresa, myself, and Sarah (postulant, soon-to-be novice)
Every summer, we Sisters come home to the Motherhouse to reconnect, renew, and recharge. I take part in the Temporary Vows Summer Program. We take classes, have instructions, wash cars, clean windows, pick strawberries, plan the Fourth of July community events, and my personal favorite: recreate with each other. So far, we have played Pinochle, Polish Poker, Hand and Foot, Time's Up, Three Fifteen (a Rummy card game), and Ticket to Ride.
"Ticket to Ride" board game: It looks a lot more complicated than it is. It's a fun game!
Last week, we were able to travel to Shorewood (near Milwaukee) for Cor Jesu, which is Latin for "Heart of Jesus." It is a weekly gathering of young adults for Eucharist Adoration, Reconciliation, Praise and Worship, and Mass. We were amazed with how many young adults were able to come together in the middle of the week to adore Christ. If any of you live in the Milwaukee area, I invite you to take advantage of this and the other programs that the Arise community has to offer.

The class that we are all taking together has been enlightening, and I hope to write about that soon!

Friday, June 13, 2014

7 Quick Takes from My First Directed Retreat

I signed up for this directed retreat for a very practical purpose: by going on retreat this week, I would be able to do my homevisit in July. Later this month, my sister-in-law will give birth to my niece and I want a chance to meet her before returning to Kauai. I've never been an aunt before and I'm really excited to meet this little girl whom I already love dearly.

In the past, my retreats have been limited to three types: the loud youth group or Steubenville-type retreats, the silent preached retreats (where you attend talks), and the busy-student retreats that are common on colleges and universities. Yet this kind of retreat, while silent, is quite different than the others.

I decided to bring along some treats from Hawaii to share!

We all met as a group to pray morning prayer, evening prayer, and attend mass together each day. We took turns planning and leading the liturgies. We also met individually with our retreat director daily for forty-five minutes. The rest of the time we were in silence.
What I very quickly found out was that a directed retreat is personalized. In many ways, it is a more challenging retreat than the other types I have attended. It's like a hard workout: difficult, but in a good way. While I do not wish to expound on what my personal retreat was about, I would recommend the experience to anyone.

It is always recommended to continue to get some physical activity during retreats. For me, that meant rollerblading. For anyone considering joining our Community, we have great places to rollerblade here, and the best places happen to be around St. Francis Convent, where the retreat was held. Mom, I included my helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads in the picture for you. You're welcome.

One of the many things I've learned as a Sister was how to sew. I felt quite domestic as I sat sewing laundry numbers on my clothes. I am all caught up with them now.

Yet most of the time was spent kicking back and hanging out with God. Yes, my relationship with Jesus is as casual as the prayer-selfie suggests. I'm a product of LifeTeen, what can I say?

While I had a practical purpose for signing up for this particular retreat, I can clearly see how attending it was part of God's providence. He guided each of us to this week, from our fearless director in the back row, Father Gearoid (Francisco) O'Conaire, OFM to the participants: myself, Sister Regina Rose, Sister Mary Ann, Sister June, Sister Winifred, and Sister Mardelle.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Enter Like a Child

It's amazing to think that another school year has come and gone. Yesterday was our last day, and everyone seemed to be in high spirits. It didn't hurt that there was an awesome water-slide in the school yard to reward the children for making Lighthouse School! In my classroom, we also watched the movie Charlotte's Web, since my students and I had taken turns reading the book aloud.

I have some things to finish up in my classroom this week, but it's great to have a break from lesson planning and record keeping. I am reminiscing on the good times that I had with my students this year and all that they have taught me.
A rare picture of all of my students. We were at the Lodge (restaurant) in Kōkeʻe State Park.

This is probably my favorite photo of my students. Here they are joyfully running to what they called "Heaven." There is an awesome cloud formation on the top of Kōkeʻe (the mountain/volcano), and you get to be in the midst of it up there. I especially loved it because I had just read to them in religion class from Matthew 18:3: "Truly I tell you unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (NRSV). One of them had raised her hand and said, "Sister, I know what that means. It means to go to Heaven you have to be amazed by God. We children are amazed by everything. If I went to Heaven and saw God, I don't know what I'd do, I'd just be amazed!" I had never heard that interpretation of this verse before, but I believe that she was spot on! This picture proves it! I heard some tourists grumble about not being able to look down and see the Waimea Canyon and there were my students, rejoicing about being in "Heaven" with the angels! May we all become childlike.

A week from now, I will be beginning my annual five day silent retreat. This time, I will be spending it at St. Francis Convent's House of Prayer. I look forward to retreat all year. It's a great gift! If you have any special intentions, please add them to the comments section. Our House of Prayer is not open to the public but if you desire to go on retreat, there are other options for you. If you are a young woman, you can come to our Motherhouse for a discernment retreat. Anyone can find retreats elsewhere.

God bless you all.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Time to Celebrate

I am proud to say that Saint Theresa School is the first school on Hawaii and the fifth school in the nation to become a Renaissance Lighthouse School of Excellence! Let me tell you: this was not easy by any means! It required diligence, grit, and optimism. As teachers we would spend hours pouring ourselves over pages of data, adjusting our teaching methods, finding incentives, and turning ourselves into motivational speakers and cheerleaders. For our students it meant pushing themselves beyond what they ever dreamed of accomplishing! Yes, it really did take their blood (paper cuts), sweat (it is Hawaii), and tears (lots of them)!  I felt like I was leading them on a major wilderness expedition as they went through a roller coaster of emotions striving to meet their individual goals. I watched in admiration as they became each other's biggest fans. They are the true winners of this award!

My students (one missing, one camera shy) showing off their hard-earned banners of Model Classroom for Accelerated Math, Model and Master Classroom for Math Facts in a Flash, and Model and Master Classroom for Accelerated Reading.
Everyone was jubilant at the ceremony on May 14th! After the ceremony, the staff and other special guests went to the home of one of our families to share an ocean-side meal under the stars. It was such a delightful, upbeat evening!

I am so appreciative of all the people in this photo! Our Principal, Mary Jean Buza-Sims is in the front, holding the trophy. She's very supportive and helpful! The next person on the right is Terri, our school's Renaissance Representative. We couldn't have done it without her. For me personally, she spent a lot of time consulting with me about my students' data and how we could help them reach their goals. On the far right is one of our city council members who showed her support and pride for our school. On the top level, starting on the left is Val Parker who helped connect our school with the Renaissance Program and wrote the grant. To her right is the Vice President from Renaissance who made the trip down here, and last but not least is Mayor Carvalho, who continues to be a major supporter of the Saint Theresa School and Community.
In my excitement, I may have left you with a few unanswered questions!

What is Renaissance Learning?

Renaissance Learning is a company that performs assessments on students and makes it easier for teachers to provided individualized instruction. Through Renaissance Learning, all students are able to be challenged in reading and math, no matter how they well they perform in relation to their peers. Since the goals for each of the students are individualized, through hard work and discipline, all students are able to meet and exceed them! My favorite part about this program is the confidence that it gives children. I will never forget hearing a student say, "I believe in myself now!"

Renaissance Learning also makes classroom and school-wide goals possible. For instance, we have eighty-eight children enrolled at our school, so we created a goal that our students would read and pass Accelerated Reading comprehension quizzes on 2,500 books.  Our students have read and passed quizzes on over 5,000 books this year!

Renaissance Learning is used in more than a third of the schools in the United States and more than sixty countries worldwide.

What kinds of programs does Renaissance Learning offer?

It's always expanding, but here are some of them:

  • STAR Assessments (Early Literacy, Reading, Math, Reading Spanish)
  • Accelerated Reader
  • Accelerated Math
  • Math Facts in a Flash
  • Keywords (keyboarding/typing skills)
What is the role of a Lighthouse School?

As a Lighthouse School, we can guide other schools to success just like actual lighthouses guide ships. As a staff we have learned so much from this process, and we are here to help others.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Exciting Things are Happening on Kauai and in Michigan!

This weekend will be the culmination of several months of planning and hard work. Our school grounds will be the destination for thousands of people from all over the island. The annual carnival is our largest fundraiser and it is truly an enjoyable time!

Here is this year's poster. I personally love it! :) 
I must have done a decent job with the face painting booth last year because I was signed up to do the same booth this year on both nights. I have some enthusiastic helpers and I appreciate this! My students have already started making requests. They are so excited for the festivities, especially as the tents have been going up right outside our classroom!

A few of my students will be showcasing their talents on stage, and the whole school will be singing "We are the World." I hope to record that! In addition, each class has been in charge of putting something together for the Silent Auction.  Sister Verone graciously created a Pinterest page featuring different Silent Auction ideas and I found one that I wanted to try: I changed a few things about it, so my class did the following:

I was really pleased with how well my student did in the process of making it and I am excited about the final product! So are my students!

If you are unable to make a last minute flight to Kauai for the carnival, there is another exciting thing going on this weekend in Farmington, Michigan! A few of our Sisters will be traveling to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish for a Vocation Day from 9:30am to 1:30pm on Sunday, April 27th. That means they will be in the Detroit Area this weekend, and are able to come to a coffee shop near you! As scary as that might seem, I can attest that each of these Sisters are friendly and easy to talk with! So if you want a latte and some good conversation about what it's like to be a Sister, please don't hesitate to contact Sister Julie Ann by clicking here and filling out the form! She'll be able to see it and set things up with you.