December 20, 2014

"O come let us adore Him..."

One of our finest traditions at Trinity High School is our annual Advent/Christmas Mass held on the last day of the calendar year before we go on Christmas vacation.  We always hold this Mass at a Church and for the past four years, it has been at St. Anthony's Church, the parish of our chaplain Father Richard Dion.  The students from St. Joseph Regional Junior High School always join us for Mass as do many parents, family, friends, and alumni.  Although it is still Advent, we have a little more "smells and bells" at this Mass with incense and amazing music (as always) from our choir.  This year about ten alums came back and sang with the choir.

The first reading is always read by a student from St. Joe's and in a foreign language with the English translation in the program.  This year 8th grader Trong Hoang proclaimed the reading from Judges in his native Vietnamese.  Mrs. Boyd P'17 graciously prayed the Prayers of the Faithful for us.  In his homily, Fr. Richard encouraged the students to have the courage to speak up and ask their parents and family to go to Mass on Christmas and to remember that the celebration of Christmas is not about us, but about a child and our belief in Him.

A few months ago, Caitlin Montgomery '18 approached her theology teacher, Ms. Zolkos, and asked if she could receive her first communion at a Trinity Mass.  She was baptized as a baby but never received her first communion.  With Fr. Richard's blessing, we were thrilled to have Caitlin receive the Body and Blood of Jesus at this Mass.  After Fr. Richard received communion, he came down and blessed Caitlin, gave her the Body of Christ and seminarian David Gagnon '11 gave her the Blood of Christ.  Prior to Mass, she also made her first confession with Fr. Richard.  Caitlin was so very excited to do this and it was such a powerful witness for her to stand alone in front of the entire church and receive Jesus for the first time.  Most students don't want that sort of attention and initially Caitlin didn't either but Ms. Zolkos told her about the witness she would be and she smiled and said, "Oh, OK."

Following communion, Mr. Maurier '72 continued another long Trinity tradition by singing "O Holy Night" in French ("Minuit Chretien").  Everyone eagerly looks forward to him singing this and the church erupted in applause after he finished.  Fr. Richard joked, "You sing almost as well as I do!"

Finally, after the closing hymn we presented the fourth annual Bishop Leo O'Neil Award.  Each year, we honor a member of our school community for showing the same commitment and dedication to Trinity High School as Bishop O'Neil did.  Bishop O'Neil was the Bishop of Manchester from 1990-1997 and it was he who kept Trinity High School open when financial difficulty and low enrollment threatened the school's closure.  Bishop O'Neil visited the school on the day the diocesan financial council was going to recommend the school close.  We had no idea why he was there until many years later and he told the council that he spent time at the school and that he has seen what it's all about and it will remain open despite its troubles.  Shortly after that, Mr. Mailloux '72 was named principal and the rest is history.

This year's honoree was our longtime registrar, Mrs. Joanne Belliveau '62.  I wanted to honor Mrs. Belliveau last year but she wouldn't let me!  So this year I didn't tell her until I had the plaque engraved knowing she couldn't say no then.  You can see my remarks at the presentation below.

Mrs. Henning will be posting pictures on our Facebook page soon and when she does I will post a link.

This is always an amazing way to go into Christmas vacation and I am on cloud nine every year.  Enjoy the final days of Advent and have a blessed and holy Christmas.

Each year at the end of our Advent liturgy, we pause to honor a member of the Trinity High School community who has shown the same commitment and dedication as Bishop Leo O’Neil, the 8th bishop of Manchester.  As it says in your program insert, it was Bishop O’Neil who single-handily kept Trinity High School open in the 1990’s when the school was experiencing financial and enrollment difficulties.  Many people felt Trinity High School should close but after spending a few hours at the school, Bishop O’Neil said no, the school will remain open.  Simply put, we would not be here right now were it not for Bishop Leo O’Neil.

This year’s recipient of the Bishop Leo O’Neil award is Mrs. Joanne Belliveau, Trinity High School’s longtime registrar.  Over the past 26 years, Mrs. Belliveau has quietly and humbly maintained the academic records of EVERY student who has attended a Catholic high school in Manchester going back to St. Joseph’s High School for Boys which opened in 1886.  Mrs. Belliveau is the person who generates your report cards, oversees our grades, mails out transcripts, creates every class schedule, maintains Plus Portals, keeps records, completes reports, just to name a few things.  When we are enjoying summer vacation, she is here closing the books on one school year and getting ready for the next.  Her time at Trinity High School has been a family affair as her three children attended the school and her husband Jerry faithfully served as our technology coordinator for many, many years.  

She has done all this with the utmost humility and generosity, never, ever calling attention to herself.  In fact, the only way we could present Mrs. Belliveau with this award was by not telling her we were going to do it!  I waited until her name was engraved on the award before telling her, knowing she couldn’t back out at that point!  But, we couldn’t not honor her for all she has done for our school community, both past, present, and future. I stress future because Ms. Risdal tells me that she lives in dread that Mrs. Belliveau will sometime retire. She wanted to me to tell you Mrs. Belliveau that you can never leave.

Please join me in honoring and giving great thanks to one of the finest women to ever grace the halls of Trinity High School, the 2014 recipient of the Bishop Leo O’Neil Award, Mrs. Joanne Belliveau, class of 1962.

December 18, 2014

Morning Prayer

This morning we hosted our final Advent Morning Prayer in our chapel.  This was the fifth Advent prayer service we've had this season and at three of them, we prayed the three Canticles from Luke's gospel - the Song of Zechariah, the Song of Mary, and the Song of Simeon.  These three canticles are prayed everyday by priests and religious at Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer, respectively.  They each come from the Nativity narrative in Luke's gospel and all relate to the  anticipation and birth of the Savior.

This morning we began by singing the third verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", we prayed the Canticle of Simeon, listened to scripture, prayed intentions, and a final prayer.  After, I treated everyone to Top Donuts in Campus Ministry.

This was one of the last Advent celebrations as we begin Christmas vacation tomorrow.  Thus, I took down our giant outdoor Advent wreath and packed it away and I replaced the Advent wreath in our chapel with a small Nativity scene as when we return we will be in the midst of the Christmas season.

Tomorrow of course is our annual Advent Mass at St. Anthony's Church on Belmont Street in Manchester.  The Mass begins at 10am and all are welcome.

December 17, 2014

Christmas Music

A number of years ago we began a custom of playing Christmas music over the intercom in between classes a few days before Christmas vacation.   The last few days before vacation can be tough as people can be a little cranky and tired so hopefully the music today puts everyone in a good mood and in the mood for Christmas!!

December 16, 2014

Third Week of Advent

Yesterday morning before classes began, our school community gathered outside for the final time this Advent to pray, sing, and light the third Advent candle on our outdoor Advent wreath.  I read an excerpt from this Sunday's first reading from Isaiah (see below), Ms. Foley sang the third verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", and we then "lit" the candles.

This was our final time gathering outside because we begin our two week (!!!!) Christmas vacation this Friday at noon.  All are welcome to join us for our traditional pre-vacation Mass at St. Anthony's Church at 10am.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

December 15, 2014

Holy Innocents...pray for us

Yesterday of course was the tragic anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. As the father of three, this event touched me immensely (of course it would have even I didn't have children) and I remember someone saying that day that this was the worse thing to happen to our country since September 11.  That afternoon at school I prayed a prayer to the Holy Innocents, those children who were murdered on the orders of King Herod in his effort to kill the Baby Jesus.  The feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated right after Christmas on Dec. 28.

Given the anniversary of Newtown and the upcoming feast of the Holy Innocents, this was our morning prayer today:

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever.


Christmas in the City

This past Saturday, over 100 Trinity High School students, teachers, and parents joined millions of other people marking Christmas in New York City.  This is the second time we have sponsored this trip and like last time, the weather was perfect for December, around 45 degrees all day with no wind.

We left Trinity on two buses at 5am and after stopping at a rest stop for food, we were in New York a little after 10am.  The students then broke off into their groups with their adult chaperones and did whatever they wanted.  Most spent the day around the Times Square area, shopping, etc.  I actually didn't have a group as we had plenty of chaperones so I took the opportunity to visit some historical sites.  I jumped on the subway and headed uptown and visited the General Grant National Memorial (aka Grant's Tomb) and the Hamilton Grange National Memorial (the home of Alexander Hamilton). What was especially nice is that these sites are far away from all the tourist areas so there was no one really around.  I was literally the only person at Grant's Tomb and there were just a handful of people at the Hamilton Grange.  I then met up with Bryan Dufour '14 who is now studying at Fordham University.  Bryan was one of my main go to guys in Campus Ministry and it was great to have a chance to catch up with him.  I wanted to find a real local place to eat so we went to a burger restaurant called Harlem Public where I got the Peanut Butter Burger!  I wasn't sure what to expect but you couldn't really taste the peanut butter but it certainly added to the overall taste, it was excellent.

I then got back on the subway with no real destination in mind, I was going to see where the train took me.  We got to a stop for the American Museum of Natural History so I jumped off there and went inside.  Unfortunately it was packed so I decided not to go in although it was tempting as the place is a virtual shrine to my favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt.  So I just decided to walk downtown and I walked from the museum (Central Park West and W. 79th Street) all the way down to Lexington Avenue and E. 28th Street!  I wanted to see the house where President Chester A. Arthur lived and took the oath of office when President James Garfield died in 1881.  The home is privately owned and there is a restaurant in the bottom part so there's nothing to see other than a plague.

From here, I decided to walk over to Penn Station to get some of my favorite food ever - Krispy Kreme!  On the way I walked right into a huge march of those protesting the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Gardner.  I guess there were over 10,000 marching and it was pretty tense.  One protestor yelled at two cops standing on the sidewalk, calling them "Pigs" and saying racist is spelled "NYPD."  Yikes.  Check out this time lapse video of the march here and you will get a sense of the size of the crowd.

After my donuts (so good) I made my way up to St. Patrick's Cathedral.  I decided to hop on the subway this time and when I got off, I made my way through throngs of people near Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and 5th Avenue, it was absolutely mobbed.  All of us from Trinity attended the 5:30pm Mass at the cathedral although we didn't sit together due to the number of people there.  The cathedral is undergoing major renovations and the entire altar area is covered in scaffolding.  I was wondering as I was looking around just how long it must of taken to put up the scaffolding and to prep for the work.  The Mass was beautiful and after, we all met on Madison Avenue and jumped on the buses.  We were a little delayed getting out as one of the buses got hit by a car on its way to get us.  Luckily there was a little damage to the bus and the driver was fine.  We stopped at a rest stop in Connecticut on the way and were back at Trinity by 12:45am.

Phew.  It was a whirlwind of a day but so much fun. I was especially grateful to have the chance to see some sites that no one would ever see with me!  Let's do it again next year.  

December 12, 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe....pray for us

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today with prayer services in our chapel during all theology classes.  The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs outside our gym and I brought it to the chapel today and bookended it with candles.  When the students arrive, I explain the significance of this feast day, especially for Latinos, and how this day is for them like St. Patrick's Day is for the Irish.  This feast has taken on greater significance over the years with the dramatic increase in Latino population in our country and in our Church.  The feast is a reminder, I tell them, that God indeed enters human history (as Fr. Richard said at Mass this past Monday) and always remembers the poor, the lowly, the outcast.  Mary herself was young, poor, and from an insignificant city, and yet God called her to be the Mother of Jesus.

The image of our Lady of Guadalupe is so powerful to many because she looks like Juan Diego, the man to whom she appeared - she has dark skin, dark hair, she is dressed like a humble native, etc.  The image hangs today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and the basilica is the most visited church in the world.

After my introduction, we listened to the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" as it focuses on the king reaching to and helping a poor man "on the feast of Stephen."  I called the students' attention to the last line:

"Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."

We then prayed the Magnificat monastic style, again, a prayer of Mary that she prayed after learning she would be the mother of God.  In the prayer, she expresses her joy that God has "lifted up the lowly" like her and "filled the hungry with good things."  We then listened to the gospel of the day which was the story of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, offered intentions, and together prayed this final prayer:

O Lady of December,
A woman wrapped in a poor cloak on a barren hill,
We wait for you to show us Christ's Light again,
To remind us all of the dignity of every human person,
To pray for us to be generous with justice,
Bringing it like roses to your daughters and sons,
To all those who have been waiting. Amen.