Sunday, July 26, 2015

A New Year - A New Mission!

In April, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity receive their "assignments" or "missioning appointments". This lets us know if we are going to stay at our present place or if we are going to be moving. Mine said I was moving on to Casa Grande, AZ-closer to Phoenix rather than Tucson.

The moving began. This time I didn't just move my clothes and books like we usually do when we go to a new mission but I moved furniture and dishes also.

I was very grateful to the friends I made in Sierra Vista who helped with the big project of moving all of the furniture, dishes, beds and my own clothes to Casa Grande which is about 2 hours and 15 minutes north west of Sierra Vista. Some of them helped to drive all my things and furniture to  St.Anthony of Padua Parish and School in Casa Grande.  They were the best helpers and very efficient movers.

Casa Grande is a lot hotter than Sierra Vista where the higher elevation made the temperatures cooler. However, we do get dust storms. Here is my first Casa Grande dust storm.

I arrived early this year to get started in school for the upcoming school year. The reasons being: 1. ) I had to hire many new teachers and I am still advertising for some yet. 2) The school offices were being gutted to make the front entrance more secure. I was asked for my input and 3) The classrooms were getting a total make over as well. The school is over 50 years old and nothing had been done to the physical structure since it was built.

We are still under construction as you can see from the following pictures:
The office hallway to the front door. 

Secretary's desk and lobby-my office to the far right

The Principal's Office - I am happy that I have two windows to look out.

Everything from the offices was being stored in the cafeteria that is attached to the office area. 
What's a little dust or should I say "alot of dust!"

The Conference Room

The front of the building is getting a face lift as well - an arch is being put around the front doors. The new doors will soon be arriving. 

The cafeteria ceiling had to be replaced which was not part of the original plans. One time I came to school to see my office files, chairs, secretarial files, health supplies-everything you might find in a school office area being hauled outside.  I found out then that we were getting a new ceiling in the cafeteria. So this put us a day behind for the projected finished date.

We have not had any monsoon rains during this monsoon season, which we are grateful for. If we did, we would have wet files, curriculum standards, band aids and wet textbooks as well. As you can see further below outside the classrooms all books, desks, educational equipment are outside each room as well.

It was decided to give the 50 year old classrooms a face lift too at this time. Two major construction projects at one time!  All workers are working hard.  I made a deal with the Business Manager,who is also one of our deacons-if you get the offices done by the date he originally told me I would buy him lunch otherwise he owes lunch for my secretary and I. The workers are working hard so the Deacon wins the bet but I don't think he is going to win.
 One day I took time from all my paperwork in making out schedules, inservice days and interviewing to see what I really had in my office since I have not gone through anything. Since it was outside I thought -get a little sun and fresh air.  Some of my office materials were in 2 large garbage cans so away I went digging through them. Found some things I had been looking for and some things I could throw away and not haul into my new office. 2 hours of 100 degree temperatures was all I could take at  one time. It was back to my temporary office in the library.

 Items from one of the classrooms as they get a face lift. In all -10 classrooms (the classrooms are in a U shape)had the old plaster boards taken down to the bricks, new wiring for electricity was installed, then new plaster boards put back up. They are now in the process of being painted. Two of the rooms already had their floors nicely waxed already. These teachers are the lucky ones.

In between all of the construction, the parish took time to have a welcome party for the newly ordained associate, Father Alan Valencia, for me, the new principal and for Sr.Mary Karen and Sr. Catherine who will be living with me but still hadn't made it to Casa Grande yet. They were enjoying the coolness of Wisconsin and the summer green. 
Mariachis were invited to the welcome party. 

Some of the parishioners who came to the party along with Fr. Alan and Fr. Ariel, our pastor. 

Here is our school sign on the sidewalk in front of school. When was the last time you saw a large school mailbox like this?

 One of the memories of this summer's construction project was the afternoon the fire alarm went off and my secretary and I were there alone with two of the construction workers who had set it off. They were sawing through a brick wall in the office to make a door to the nurse's room when all the smoke and dust from the saw set off the alarm. They had no clue how to turn it off or my secretary,who is also new like me to the school. Someone told us to look for the fire alarm key. My secretary found a box of keys and proceeded to go through all to find one that looked like a key for the fire alarm box. The two construction workers left to get sledge hammers to finish knocking out the brick wall. I called Deacon, who was on vacation, to ask if he knew how to turn it off. All he said was, "Get out of the building. Just get out of the building. I will call the contractor." I called the pastor to ask the same question. His response, "Remain calm, Remain calm". So after 15 minutes of hearing this alarm I looked harder at the fire alarm panel, with no lights or even a flash light. I finally found a small button that said "reset". That did the trick when I pressed it.When the Deacon returned from his mini-vacation he brought me a fireman's hat back. He told me to wear it every time we did a fire drill. Memories with this hat!
This weekend I finally braved the heat and went for a jog at 5:30 am. Here is part of the scenic route. I met others out walking at this hour-usually with their dogs.

Let us all pray to St. Anthony of Padua-the miracle worker-that we get back into the classrooms and office before the first day of school which is August 10th.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Camp Franciscan 2015

Camp Franciscan 2015 was greatly anticipated by all the girls and Sisters who helped out. The girls I brought from Sierra Vista were counting down the days. I believe they surprised their parents at how excited they were for Camp.

We began our trip by staying overnight in Mesa since we had a 5:30am flight out of Phoenix. The girls took advantage of the 113 degree heat in Mesa to swim in the pool. And of course, they were up all night laughing and talking. They turned their light off at 2:50am as they knew I was to wake them up at 3:00am. When I knocked on their door, of course, they jumped out of bed.

We flew from Phoenix to Las Vegas and onto Milwaukee. Sister Theresa,from our Motherhouse, graciously picked us up. A stop at Culver's was a much needed lunch then onto the Motherhouse.

Once at the Motherhouse, the girls quickly found their rooms at Marian Hall-a house on Silver Lake. We then walked the property so the two new campers could see everything and those returning relived old memories and told stories of last year's Camp as we came to certain parts of the Motherhouse.
In the evening, we walked over to St. Francis Convent where our retired Sisters live.The girls played Yahtzee with the Sisters and both the girls and the Sisters loved it. The girls also loved winning prizes. The next day, the girls asked if they could play Yahtzee again with the "Seniors". They had such a great time!

Wednesday morning we were free to travel as Camp right now was just for the leaders-girls who are in high school. We took advantage of the time by traveling to my hometown area. The first stop was in Ellsville at Krohn's Cheese Factory. My nephew, Zach, who is an electrician at the plant, gave us a tour. We had to wear white lab coats, ear plugs, safety glasses and hair nets. We weren't allowed to take any pictures. I was amazed at how the making of cheese has changed so much from when I was  kid. As a child, my mom would give me a pint jar and tell me to walk a quarter of a mile to our local cheese factory in Luxemburg. The workers there would take my jar and fill it with cream so my mom could whip it up into whipping cream. My brothers and sister and I loved going to the cheese factory. We loved the smell and could actually see the cheese in the big vats being stirred and made into cheese.

When Zach gave us a tour we saw lots of stainless steel containers where cheese was being processed by machines and computers. We did see the cheese when it was being automatically lifted up and down in the brine. Again, we saw blocks of cheese as robots placed them on the assembly line where the cheese was cut into smaller blocks and wrapped and labeled in saran wrap. The cheese was then taken by a robot and placed on the line where a robot put a box together and the cheese was then dropped into the box. Automation galore!!!

The girls enjoyed shopping for cheese at their cheese store. Cheese curds were the hit. They were eating them all the time.

From the cheese factory we went on to Robinsonville where we visited the Chapel where the Blessed Mother appeared to a farm girl named Adele. We visited the crypt,which houses the spot where the Blessed Mother appeared to Adele in a tree.

After praying for our special intentions, we left and made a quick stop at Subway in Luxemburg. We would eat our subs in the car as we drove back to the Motherhouse as time was getting short and we still had to visit the Seidl farm.

My brother, Gene, runs the Seidl farm. He is the 3rd generation of Seidls to run the farm and live in the farmhouse on the property. The girls got to pet the kitties which they loved.

We then moved on into the barn where the Holstein cows were swinging their tails. Girls got to pet a cow, look them in the eye and even some of them had the cows licking their shorts. One cow starting to eat my skirt which the girls were surprised to see and brought laughter.

My brother, Gene, gave a quick tour and answered their questions. The girls said they definitely want to come back to the farm next year.

We made it back to the Motherhouse at about 12:45pm - just in time for the girls to register and to meet all the other campers. There were 50 campers this year.

Throughout camp, the girls did a variety of activities. They had a chance to paint a silk scarf with many colors. They could wear it as a scarf, vest or belt. A true treasured remembrance of camp.

They also spent a session making a necklace out of paperclips and then they chose different designs of duct tape to cover each paperclip-a lot of work but the girls loved their creation.

They also had a session on prayer and what is a Sister. Girls had a chance to ask their questions about being a Sister.

In the evening, we had a make do camp fire in our gym since the fire pit was flooded with all the rain they have been having. You can't have a camp fire without s'mores. Since marshmallows could not be roasted over the fire, some of the Sisters ahead of time, melted marshmallows and chocolate in a round cake pan in the oven. A sheet was spread out on the gym floor for each group to sit on and a  pan of chocolate and marshmallow was given to each group and they used their graham crackers to scoop out the best part of smores.  All the girls loved it and even got a 2nd pan to enjoy.

Evening prayer by our grotto of Mary concluded each evening.

The annual skit and chorus program for the Sisters was on Thursday night. The girls had three practices with their choir director, Sr. Carol Ann or with Sr. Kathleen who wrote and directed the skit. The results were outstanding.

Not often do you get to dress up in a religious habit when you are in 8th grade. A lifetiime memory here.

The Camp concluded with a very festive Mass.

The girls shared phone numbers and emails with each other and said, "I will for sure see you next year at Camp Franciscan."

Friday, May 8, 2015

As This School Year Comes To An End

Ten school days left to this school year and only five of those with graduates and yes, I am counting and I think some students are too. I always tell people that for a principal, the beginning of the school year and the ending of the year are the busiest and have the most work for a school principal.

Here are some happenings in Sierra Vista as we say good-bye to the 2014-2015 school year.
We had a control burn around our playground, church grounds and in front of the new parish rectory. The tall, dry grass in the "wash" around our playground was just ripe for a good forest fire coming down from the mountains and canyons. Four years ago this summer was a really bad fire- The Monument Fire - that burned acres and homes for weeks.
The firemen were invited to come and do a control burn. But I have to say, when I saw the flames this close to our playground, I thought for sure it was out of control-but it wasn't.
After the burn all the firemen gathered in our parking lot to recap how all went.
This is what our land looks like after the burn - like a war zone. We have seen an increase of animals that evacuated from this area. When I saw my dog catch a rat on our playground I knew that was just too much for me. I quickly informed the janitor who set out traps.

This time of the year there are lots of rabbits all over. Every day after school I take the neighbor's Husky-Sarin-for a run. She waits for me by the fence when she hears my voice at dismissal time. She dutifully stands there watching my office window in hopes I will soon come out and get her for a run to hunt. And that she does. She has caught two bunnies and I won't tell you the end of this story.

She hears something and smells something. 

Time to go in and check it out. This one I think got away from her!
Our First Graders by May are reading well enough to read at Mass and that they did. They did outstanding with their reading, pronunciations, loudness and they didn't show any signs of being nervous.

She read the introduction loud and clear. We knew the Mass was beginning. 

He read the long reading from the Acts of the Apostles naming almost all of the cities mentioned in Acts such as, Syria, Antioch etc. An extremely confident reader. 

"Fold your hands like steeples" I always tell them. 
PreK 4 are so grown up at this time of the year and are so proud to carry the gifts of bread and wine to the altar.

We also celebrated Nurse's Day! We have a fantastic nurse who volunteers at our school. Here are some of the cards the students made for her that tell it all.

                                             Creativity abounds in our school.

One of the last activities for 8th grade is their class retreat. 7th grade joined them since they are together in the same classroom this year and in fact the last two years. They are a close knit class.

The day began at LaPurisema Retreat Center outside of Hereford. No one had been here before but myself so they were all curious as to where I was taking them. Their teacher and two of the parents helped out with the day also.
According to the students' evaluations, the day was a hit! Thank God!
The theme was coping with peer pressure as they go on to high school of about 4,000 students.
 Balloon Pressure was a game they loved. One person had to illustrate only the secret word by drawing it on a balloon and no talking. The rest of the group had to guess the word.
 We were all surprised by the artists we have in this group of children.

Acting out the Prodigal Son - he was so poor he had to eat with the pigs!

It was a great feeling to see them really get into acting out this Gospel story.
 After lunch we took the two mile hike up the side of a large hill to the shrine - Our Lady of the Sierras.

 We made it up in three groups: the fast paced, the leisurely walkers and those who asked-"Sister Carol-what are you trying to do to us before graduation?" These came up last -out of breath.
This picture here-is the most impressive part of the whole day for me and that just "made my day". All the years we spent teaching Religion class to them, praying the rosary as a school together on Tuesdays and here the oldest students volunteered to lead the decades all by themselves without any cheat sheets in front of them. I could tell they truly were sincere and were praying for their classmates as the 7th graders say good-bye to their friends in 8th grade. This is what we work for in a Catholic School- the proof of why Catholic Schools are so important.
 Next, we walked the outdoor Stations and students took turns reading each station and then sharing their reflection about the station. Why would Jesus do this for us? How was Mary able to walk each step of the way with her Son?
 "The wood of the cross reminds me of the wooden stable and manger where He was born. The beginning of His life to the end. "  Quite a reflection from an 8th grader.

 Great view from all the Stations.

Getting close to wrapping up a perfect day together.