October 4, 2015

Together again

Each year on the first Friday in October, all of the Catholic school teachers, staff, and administration of the Diocese of Manchester gather at the Grappone Center in Concord for a day of prayer and reflection.  Bishop Libasci started this formation day four years ago and it's become a nice tradition already and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with our colleagues from around the diocese.  It's nice to see all 500 of us in the same room and that we are all in this together.

We all gathered this past Friday starting with coffee and homemade donuts at 9am and we moved into the main room at 9:30am for morning prayer led by Bishop Libasci.  Following prayer, Fr. John Fortin, OSB, our superintendent of schools, then announced our amazing speaker for the day - Allen Hunt.  Dr. Hunt works for an organization called Dynamic Catholic and is a renowned speaker and author.  He works alongside the well known Australian Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly.  In his morning talk, Dr. Hunt spoke about his conversion to Catholicism and how it all began over 20 years ago when he was asked by a fellow Yale doctoral student (a Dominican priest) to help him give a series of talks during Lent to a group of cloistered nuns in Connecticut.  Thus began a process of him discerning his faith and deciding about 10 years ago to leave his position as the pastor of a Methodist mega Church and become a Catholic.  Dr. Hunt's presentation was hysterical from the moment he began speaking and was chock full of stories.  A group of us happened to sit next to him and his wife and had no idea he was the main speaker until Fr. John introduced him.  Mr. Smith, our dean of students, joked to him after saying, "It's a good thing we didn't say anything bad about the main speaker before you got up there!"

We then celebrated Mass with Bishop Francis Christian, the auxiliary bishop of Manchester, as the celebrant.  Friday was the Feast of the Guardian Angels and Bishop Christian masterfully weaved together the teaching of guardian angels and the role of the Catholic school teacher.  We then broke for lunch followed by Dr. Hunt's afternoon presentation.  He spoke of the four signs of a Dynamic Catholic:

Prayer - Study - Generosity - Evangelization

Again, using humor and wonderful stories, Dr. Hunt explained how we as teachers can integrate these four signs into our schools.  He gave us a great deal to chew on and I certainly have some ideas from it.  Dr. Hunt also gave everyone a copy of his biography and another book on the signs of a dynamic Catholic.  I can't wait to read them.

We wrapped up around 2:30pm but not before some rather sad news.  At the end, Fr. John announced that this would be his final year as our superintendent.  Fr. John is a monk of Saint Anselm Abbey and a long-time professor at Saint Anselm College.  It is quite rare for a monk to be assigned a job outside the abbey or the college and so we knew Fr. John was on borrowed time.  When Bishop Libasci asked Fr. John to be the superintendent in 2013, Abbot Mark Cooper, OSB released him for three years and now those three years are over (or will be in June).  I was kind of expecting this news but I was still sad to hear it.  I have known Fr. John since I was a student at Saint Anselm College and admire him greatly.  While I am glad he will be back at the college full-time, I will miss knowing he is no longer leading our schools.  Please pray to God the Holy Spirit for a fine successor to Fr. John for our Catholic schools.


October 1, 2015

Blessing of the Animals

Each year around the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, we host a Blessing of the Animals ceremony on our front lawn.  It's always a lot of fun to meet the animals of our students and we had a very nice crowd (although we had all dogs with the exception of one brave cat!).  Our presider was our good friend Fr. John Bucchino, OFM, the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish here in Manchester.

We began with a brief Liturgy of the Word with an opening prayer and the reading of the First Creation Story from Genesis.  In his homily, Fr. John pointed out that God created animals before He created humans.  He thinks this is because animals have so much to teach us - loyalty, companionship, humility, etc. and by creating animals first, God was helping to teach man and woman about how to have these same attributes.

We concluded with some intentions, a final prayer, and a final blessing.  Fr. John then went around to each animal and blessed each one with holy water.  Members of our sophomore class then gave each owner a prayer card and holy medal of St. Francis of Assisi and a treat for the animals.

In all, a wonderful way to kick off October, a month we will be dedicating to St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si.  Stay tuned!

"For I was hungry...."

Each fall we launch our Works of Mercy projects with a food drive to benefit the New Hampshire Food Bank, a Catholic Charities program.  Our goal this year was 5,000 pounds and when all was said and done, our school community raised 9,197 pounds of food!  We launched it on Sept. 16 and wrapped it up early this week.  This morning, a truck from the Food Bank picked up the food and we filled 11 watermelon bins in the front of the school.  The students brought down the food from their homerooms and filled and filled and filled the bins.

As always, we made the food drive a friendly competition among classes and homerooms.  Ms. Degulis' homeroom came in first place with 1,058 pounds and the seniors brought in the most pounds of food at 5,261.  I will be taking Ms. Degulis' homeroom to the Puritan for ice cream one Friday and they will get the last mod off and the seniors will be getting a cookout some afternoon for lunch.

I am beyond grateful to the Trinity High School community for once again heeding our call to feed the hungry and for doing it all for Him.  As is our custom, this was our morning prayer yesterday:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?you?’And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

September 28, 2015

Junior Retreat

Today we concluded our retreat "season" with the junior class retreat.  We hold all of the class retreats (with the exception of the senior one) and the faculty/staff retreat in August and September as a way to set the tone for the school-year.

The junior retreat began in our gym with about an hour of activities, ice breakers, talks, and composing prayers with Ms. Zolkos P'15, '19 of our theology department.  At 9:30am, we hoped on buses and went over to Mt. Uncanoonuc in Goffstown.  Our chaplain, Fr. Richard Dion, celebrated Mass for us at Uncanoonuc Lake using a canoe as an altar.  We got this idea from St. John Paul II who used to take students on hikes and canoeing and afterwards, he would turn the canoe over to celebrate Mass for them.  In his homily, Fr. Richard spoke of Pope Francis' visit to the United States and his simple message to "Do good."

Following Mass, we had lunch there at the lake and then hiked up the mountain.  It's a moderate hike but there are some pretty steep points.  I kept on telling the kids in the weeks leading up to the retreat that the hike is easy and they had some different opinions as we were hiking!  One boy had a boot on as he sprained his ankle but kept insisting he wanted to do the hike.  We stopped at two outlooks, one looking to the west and another towards Manchester and beyond.  We don't actually go to the summit as all that's up there is cell phone towers and radio towers.

We hike a mountain as it is analogous to lives of faith.  There are times when living a faithful life is hard, exhausting, you want to quit, etc. But, for those who persevere and make it to the summit, there are great rewards.

It was literally a picture perfect day for a hike, absolutely glorious!  We were done by 1pm so the juniors got to go home a little early too, a nice extra reward for their efforts.

The Class of 2017 with Fr. Richard after Mass


Fr. Richard preaching

Looking towards Manchester

Another view of Manchester

Prayer of the day

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Wenceslaus of Christmas carol fame!  Wenceslaus was from Bohemia in the modern day Czech Republic and was killed in 935 by his brother Boleslav the Cruel (what a perfect name).  For our prayer today, we used the final (and my favorite) verse of "Good King Wenceslaus"

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

Pope of the Day III

We wrapped up our honorary pope of the day this past Friday.  The real pope, Pope Francis, was incredibly inspiring to me (and so many others of course) during the course of his visit and there is so much we can take away from his visit.  Do stay tuned!

September 24, 2015

Pope of the Day II

Today we continued honoring Pope Francis' visit to the United States with our honorary pope of the day during homeroom!