On Sunday, May 9, the Archdiocese of New Orleans held a special Mass to honor the Priests, Deacons, and Religious who were celebrating a Jubilee this year. Our Sister, Sr. Margaret Mary Faist is celebrating her 50th Jubilee this year. Sister was asked to prepare a reflection to be given at the end of Mass. Sister did such a beautiful job, her whole reflection was featured in an article in the Archdiocesan newspaper, the Clarion Herald.
Sister’s reflection is below.
I will do my best today not to revert to my Monday through Friday second-grade teacher mode. I will draw, though, on some of the wisdom the children have shared with me.
Second graders can be very good teachers. I have the blessing of preparing both second-grade classes for sacraments, and that is where they teach me the most.
I am one of three Sisters of Notre Dame who came to New Orleans after Katrina when the schools were trying to reopen. During these 14 years at St. Leo the Great School, hundreds of 7-to 8-year-old children have left their prints on my heart and taught me a thing or two.
Though I had had some challenging assignments prior to coming here, I was too comfortable, and I knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone. New Orleans in 2007 was certainly ready to help me do that. If I ever thought I had even begun to learn a little about truly trusting God, I was about to meet people who really knew what it meant to have no control over their lives and, all the while, who knew themselves to be deeply blessed.
Being deeply blessed – that is definitely what I have experienced these 50 years in religious life and especially here in New Orleans. It is the blessedness of being loved and chosen.
John said it twice in today’s readings: “Not that we have loved God, but that God loves us.” “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”
The absolute specialness of being loved and chosen has not escaped the second graders. One day I added an extra question onto a religion test. It was something we had not talked about at all in class. I asked, “Why do you think God kept forgiving the people in the desert for those 40 years even though they kept turning away from God?”
Practically every paper and Google document came back saying, “They are God’s people. God loves them.” It was that clear and simple to the children.
We pray an “Act of Faith’ in class – something I put together in hopes that some day when the students are in a tough spot, they just might remember it. It begins:
“Dear God, I believe in your great love for me. I totally trust you. You knew me and loved me even before I was born.” (Did I tell you I find myself teaching the children things I need to learn.) Well, one little guy either really took it to heart or, more likely, already knew it. On an assignment that involved writing a prayer, he wrote before signing his name at the end: “Your best buddy.” How blessed to know oneself as God’s best buddy!
We spend a lot of time preparing for the sacrament of reconciliation. While giving a child a test one-on-one, I read, “Choosing to do wrong and failing to do good. … What is that? What do we call it when someone chooses to do wrong and fails to do good?” He looked at me like: Really?! And then he said, “Well, they’re not listening to God.”
Each one of us has our list of blessings.
Blessed to know that God first loved us and chose us – and continue to experience this – even while we wander and pretend to have some control.
Blessed to have the opportunity for daily Eucharist.
Blessed to have the support of our archbishop, of Sister Beth Fitzpatrick, and of our religious communities.
Blessed to know someone who will remind us that we are God’s best buddy.
And blessed to have someone to point out when we are not listening to God.
One final story: We begin each school day in the exact same way. Everyone gathers in the yard where we pray the same prayer every day and recite the Pledge to the Flag.
Then the leader is supposed to say, “Thank you. Have a blessed day. You may pass.”
One day recently, after the pledge, the leader said, “Y’all have a blessed day!”
Actually, I found it kind of refreshing. The principal may have, too, but she wanted to remind the leader of the “right” words, so she turned to the leader and said, “Thank you. Have a blessed day. You may pass.”
The leader completely missed that he was being corrected and said, “Thank you,” and went to class.
So, y’all have a blessed day and thank you!