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. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Medieval Tree Hugger and the Reluctant Franciscan

It's confession time.

Thirty-five years ago, Pope John Paul II proclaimed that Saint Francis of Assisi would be the patron saint of those who promote ecology.

Five years ago, I walked into my interview to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.

Honesty in the interview was important to me, because I figured that if I didn't make it through the interview then it was not the right Community for me. So when I was asked how I felt about protecting the environment, I said, "I am glad that so many people care for the environment so I don't have to." Sure, I cared about the earth. However I was more concerned about the 1.2 million abortions performed in in the United States each year, the number of soldiers going off to war, Invisible Children, the genocide in Darfur, human trafficking, teenage suicide, domestic violence, elder abuse, and global poverty. I had enough on my plate.

I was granted entrance, and in the years that followed I experienced a certain degree of cognitive dissonance. I loved Francis, and I knew that caring for creation was important to him. I loved becoming a Franciscan, and I was aware that the environment is important to Franciscans. However, I wasn't feeling the whole Save the Planet thing. Still, I went along with it. I was even in a YouTube video that featured our service project in which we cleaned up a beach alongside Lake Michigan:
I figured that I'd fake it 'til I made it.

Yet the thing to truly convert me to environmentalism was living on an island. You can't run from caring for the earth when your bit of earth is just 552 square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A sobering moment for me was when a member of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Foundation brought in a pile of trash that a seal ate and died. My best teachers though, were my students, who in their innocence see the world as it is meant to be:

Two of my former students hugging a tree in Koke'e State Park
So there you have it. I am officially concerned with the environment. Here's the best part: putting these concerns into action is relatively simple!

On a local level, at Saint Theresa Convent in Kauai, we recycle and compost everything we can. As a result, the amount of trash that we contribute to the landfill has been cut in half! This truly amazes us, and we can't help but think of the impact it would have on our planet if everyone was committed to recycling and composting.
These are our recycling bins that we use for sorting. We routinely bring our recyclables to the local recycling center.

This is our indoor compost bin. Every day, we empty it into our outdoor compost bin. We are careful not to put meat or fish products in there, among other things that we've been instructed should only go in landfills.
There are so many ways that we can all make positive changes in the health of our planet. In our Community, we Sisters were emailed a resource packet with many excellent ideas. It's a free download and is great for families and small communities! It is called "Earth as Our Home" and it's a project of Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth:

We were also informed to save the date of October 4, 2014! Naturally, this date is significant on any Franciscan's calendar, because it's the Feast of St. Francis. However, this year that date will be significant for Catholics everywhere. The special event is called: Creating a Climate for Solidarity: From St. Francis to Pope Francis to YOU!
For more information, visit: If you are a youth minister, catechist, parish or school administrator, now is the time to begin planning.

A little extra time and attention can make a big difference!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Finding What is Beautiful

 My heart goes out to all those enduring the long winter weather in the Mainland. For most of my life, I absolutely despised winter, with the exception of days when I got to ice skate outside or go sledding. However, someone once gave me a reflection on winter that made me rethink it a bit and even come to appreciate the season a bit (Cecilia S., if you are reading this, was it you? If so, I apologize if I get this wrong.) How we approach winter is great practice for how we approach life in general. If we can come to embrace winter, with it's dark, bitter cold, and find real beauty within it, then we can also learn to embrace suffering in the rest of our lives and find beauty in the midst of it. That winter after I heard this, I made it a practice to look for, for the first time, beauty in winter. I found it. I found it in the white and dark blue, almost black contrast of the night. I found it in my neighbors in Eastown, as we would work together in the evenings to dig our cars out of the snow and move them to the other side of the street for the plow trucks. I found it in the snowflakes that looked more like glitter as they glistened and glided under streetlights. Every winter since, I have looked, listened, and felt for something beautiful. Within the suffering that happens in daily life, I have also looked, listened, and felt for something beautiful. I've always found it, even if it took some looking.

Yet, this winter, it seems even those who ordinarily love winter are ready to be done with it. My mom is that kind of person. She has always loved winter, but this one has been rather difficult, to say the least. Fortunately, she had a respite. She came to visit me in Kauai, and it was a wonderful week! We thoroughly enjoyed the island, and most importantly, our time together.

For me it gave me a chance to view the island through fresh eyes and experience it with the best mom ever. I was able to see through a renewed perspective why tourists have almost perpetual smiles on their faces and call our home "paradise." Yes, even in a place as picturesque as the Garden Island, shielded from ice and snow, it can be easy to get caught up in everyday life. The people here are incredible and the aloha spirit is alive and well, but they are not immune to tragedy and heartache. The needs of the parish and school take up a significant part of our days. I both laugh and grieve with my students as I share in their joys and sorrows. So the week with Mom renewed my spirit and was simply fun.

Our extra-rainy rainy season made the waterfalls even better! This is Opaeka Falls.

The sunset at Kekaha Beach, just down the road from our school and parish.
Finally, beloved,whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. -Philippians 4:8