Jan. 29, 2017 – West Bend, WI – The wooden bead was just about the same size as the hole. Sister Suzanne Marie was hurrying us from the hallway to our second grade classroom after square dancing in the gym, and I needed to get my little cowgirl hat hung up in my locker.
I slid the bead off of the hat strings and held it up to the vent hole in the back of the second locker next to Room 9 just to see if the bead size I had eyeballed was really the same as the hole. Yup! And it slipped out of my grubby fingers and down the back side of the locker, never to be seen again.
My roots at St. Frances Cabrini parish and school go ‘way back.
My parents were charter members of the parish when it was founded in 1956 and the expectation that my siblings and I would attend the school was not questioned.
My parents themselves had attended Holy Angels School in West Bend and knew the value of belonging to a parish family and of the education that included not only academics, but also lessons in living life with dignity, honesty, enthusiasm, and faith. This was and still is education of the whole person – mind and spirit – in a setting that values home and family and the community it builds by doing so. We went to school with the same children we played with outside of school hours and with whom we worshiped on Sunday – a community that welcomed us and taught us and challenged us to become Christian men and women of integrity and purpose.
The little pink bead was lying on the floor of the chapel, just under the pew ahead of us. My friend Susan reached down to pick it up and we passed it quietly between us, examining it and wondering what kind of jewelry or button it might have fallen out of. Apparently we were not circumspect enough, because we had chosen to do this during the homily of the daily Mass, (you know, the downtime between the more important parts of the service?) and Father announced from the pulpit, “…at the end of the Mass the fourth grade girls who have found more important things to do will remain and will speak with me and with Sister Kathreen.”
I learned that even though there were 40 students in my first grade classroom, the teacher was the one in charge and we could be quiet and respectful of her and of our classmates. I learned to respect adults’ conversations by standing several feet away until I was recognized and was asked to speak. I learned to finish a task on time and completely, and to do whatever it took to get it done well. I learned that the nuns did have hair under their wimples and veils, and that they loved pizza and sleepovers as much as the sixth grade girls did. I learned the C chord, the F chord, and the G7 chord on the guitar and was pronounced ready to lead the singing at Mass on Sunday. School was as much about lessons as it was about life and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to learn the value of giving back. That all-important guitar lesson in seventh grade began my lifelong avocation as a liturgical cantor.
The emphasis on life lessons has changed slightly with time. It is odd to see religious sisters in the schools now, and they likely won’t be wearing habits. Attendance at daily Mass has diminished to once or twice a week, and the academic load necessary to meet standards has changed as well. But a Catholic school was our first choice for our own children and my husband taught in Catholic schools for his entire teaching career. The emphasis on living life with dignity, honesty, enthusiasm, and faith still permeates the curriculum and challenges students to live their lives with integrity and purpose. Who wouldn’t want that for their children?
Dear Father Nathan at St. Frances Cabrini: Would you please pass the word that if the lockers next to Room 9 are ever removed, I want that bead to my cowgirl hat back. Thank you very much.