It’s been five years since I sat in that first-floor conference room for the 8:30 Monday morning meeting at the Old National Bank building in downtown Louisville. In the summer of 2018, during a difficult time of discernment, I accepted a more challenging work mission with Owensboro Catholic Schools. I decided to leave a good organization with good people who were very kind to me.
However, several of my former colleagues were in that meeting last Monday morning. Several of them lost their lives. In the numbness of the day, all I could recall from those mornings were the pre-meeting cups of coffee when we talked about family, sports, or other events of the day. I remember very little about the schedules, numbers, appointments, or strategies.
VIOLENCE IN A SEASON OF PEACE
There’s no question that these well publicized events create a lot of anxiety for all of us. We continue to request professional assistance from local law enforcement. We want our buildings inspected for points of vulnerability and we seek advice on things we can do to make things safer. We want our safety protocols reviewed. Regardless of what we try to do about the things we can control, the things we CAN’T control are always those things that make for sleepless nights. We will continue to try and upgrade the things we can control to protect the physical safety of our faculty, staff, and student body.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
In faith communities, tragedies in life should always create pause for personal reflection. Not every form of violence includes weapons and death. Some forms of violence take on more subtle qualities. I am blessed to work in an environment which celebrates prayer and Mass every single day. Our schools pray multiple times each day and have exposure to most of the sacraments. Every day we try to support the work of parents with encouragement, pastoral discipline, and the teachings of our faith to give children their best opportunity to maximize their potential in life. Despite these wonderful religious routines, we also need to continually reflect and evaluate the ways our behavior and actions reflect these religious practices. We don’t always do it perfectly, but a lot of hard work, prayer and sacrifice goes into the effort.
It doesn’t do any of us any good to dwell on those things we cannot control. But look at the powerful things we CAN control. Last weekend we celebrated an excruciatingly painful event that took place in our faith history. It appeared that the pinnacle of holiness was destroyed. And then the rumors of the resurrection left those initial followers huddled together in an upper room, scared to death of what life would hold for those who deserted his friendship. But his very first words were, “Peace be with you.” We do get to decide how we react to the life entrusted to our care. We do have the ability to extend our hospitality to other families and make students feel welcome. We can exercise patience and try to diffuse tense situations. We can try to see the world from someone else’s perspective. We can forgive, and we can teach others to forgive. And then we can also spend time in prayer and conversation with God, every day, asking for help and guidance in the ways we are called to live out our own lives.
These are the marks of a faith-filled Catholic community. These are the powerful things that we have been told are a powerful counter weapon to violence. Authentic efforts of prayer and reflection in our own individual lives can help build a powerful community that will always triumph over acts of evil. During this sacred season, may we all be powerful agents of “peace” in our communities.
President, Owensboro Catholic Schools