This year has been remarkable for Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School (NDCR) in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Not only have they worked through the impact of a massive gas explosion in Lawrence last year which displaced so many of their families, they have entered into a $10M capital campaign to buy and move into five school buildings 1.5 miles from their current location, and most recently, they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by navigating digital learning.
A view from the USF campus at sunset
During the spring semester, 2020, Sister Mary Johnson, professor of sociology and religious studies at Trinity Washington University, held the Lo Schiavo Chair at the Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition at the University of San Francisco. The chair is named after Father John Lo Schiavo, S.J., a former president of the University.
The Lane Center at USF is named for Joan and Ralph Lane. Ralph Lane was a sociologist of religion who founded the Sociology Department at the University and taught there for his entire career. He and his wife, Joan, had a strong commitment to social justice and were active in many university and community initiatives.
A wonderful smile!
It started with a paragraph in a letter from our Sisters in Nicaragua sent to our EW Unit. They were training women in Montessori education and hoped to open four schools for young children using the Montessori approach. We had closed the doors of our school, Notre Dame Children’s Class at Wenham, Massachusetts in June 2018 after 50 years of teaching. There was much work to be done in distributing the toys and Montessori materials used for 50 years. Our main question was, “Who would want our Montessori materials some 50 years old and still pieces of beauty?”
Last January, Sister Mary Alice McCabe posted a story on the Immigration Conference on First Class and shared a story about how she met several Africans at the US southern border in Texas. They arrived there by a circuitous route having fled the dangers and poverty of Congo and Angola to migrate to Brazil and Chile in search of a safer life.
They shared the painful circumstances of their lives in Brazil and Chile. Indeed, the circumstances were so dangerous and difficult they felt that they had no choice but to migrate again in hope of arriving in the United States. Their journey was treacherous since they had to cross the Darien Gap, a long dense jungle which connects Columbia and Panama on their way through Mexico. Despite the hazards of crossing the Darien Gap, they made it to the US border where they found welcome and support with Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas
During the pandemic it seemed like a good idea to use the time to pause and reflect. From this backdrop the Brag Project arose. Sisters Bobby English and Mary Alice McCabe challenged Notre Dame Mission Volunteers/AmeriCorps members to “Tell your success stories in your time as a Notre Dame Mission Volunteer AmeriCorps member before the Covid-19 pandemic and during this time of stay-at-home. Describe your own personal successes as an educator, for example: how you helped your students succeed in relating to others or in academic skills; how you helped them acquire a sense of self-worth or engaged them in community service projects. Any success story is a good one. Tell it.”
Working with members through Zoom meetings and email exchanges, the Brag Project developed into the Service Strides Newsletter which contains heartfelt and compelling stories from members from far and near corners of the US.
Cincinnati Site Directors circa 2010 - then Member John Knauer- top right with Site Directors Sister Judy Tensing and Nancy Groszek
Annually in May, our Site Directors travel from their twenty- three service city locations, and spend three days together with our National Office staff on professional and personal development. This year that meeting looked very different, as it was shifted to fit an online format. Daily sessions were abbreviated over multiple days, breakout rooms were utilized, and the wisdom of experienced Site Directors was used to facilitate small conversations on topics like recruitment, team meetings, and most importantly, the power of service and community during these times.