Sunday, December 25, 2011

......and Mary came into Bethlehem on Training Wheels

My school choir sang and acted out the Gospel at the 3:00pm Christmas Eve Mass for families. Fr. Ariel read the gospel and paused at the appropriate places for the action to be shown.
Here is Caesar Augustus with the proclamation that all from the House of David must come to Bethlehem to be registered.
Mary and Joseph are still journeying down the aisle, ( as you can see the church was packed).
Then it was time for Mary to give birth. ( Baby Jesus was waiting in the front row.) And she wrapped him in swaddling clothes.

Yes, we had a real baby. (The pacifier helped greatly to keep him quiet and still.)
And suddenly, (clue for the archangel to make her move to the shepherds), there appeared in the sky an angel to the shepherds who were in fear!

Then there was a multitude of angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest!"

All went to adore the newborn King-Christ the Lord!

There was no room in the inn in Bethlehem, well, there was no room in our church. Fr. Ariel asked the choir and I to sit on the sanctuary step and give up our chairs for those standing. So going with the flow of things we picked up our song sheets and relocated for the homily and we sang from the sanctuary step for the rest of the Mass. And yes, my little choir did sound like the heavenly angels on Christmas Eve.
Merry Christmas to all!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tis the Season to Party and Sing Carols

Our Lady of the Mountains Convent officially held their 1st party. The school choir came caroling in the neighborhood and then parents and students were invited to the convent for cocoa and homemade Christmas cookies. There were 18 children and about 12 adults in our combined living room/kitchen. One parent commented," I bet you never had so much noise in your house before." I responded, "No, but it is good news."
Adults and children had great fun for their 1st time caroling. One family gave the carolers candy canes as Rudolph looked on.
The choir also sang at the 9:30am Sunday Mass. Their last song was "Stay Awake". When it was announced Fr. Ariel in shock exclaimed-:"STAY AWAKE?" The choir sang the 4 lines of the song over and over and over and over...... as Fr. Ariel smiled in awe at the choir singing this new learned song he had never heard before. We finally stopped and then he processed down the aisle.

The choir in the evening sang carols at St. Andrew's Catholic Church before the performance of Handel's Messiah that Sr. Carol sang in with an ecumenical choir. Never sang so many carols within one weekend.

Sunday morning as I sat in church for the 7:00am Mass I saw two fawn come to the large window behind the altar. The fawns stared in awe as everyone came up for communion.

In the evening at the 5:00pm Mass I watched it snowing on the mountains through the beautiful window. When I left church, it was pouring rain-I think I would have rather had the snow from the mountains.

Monday morning as we drove to school we saw the snow on the mountains all around us. Here is a picture of the mountains that you see through the church window......

Our school has no flag pole. One of my requests for a fundraiser early on in the school year was a flag pole. Woodman's of America donated one immediately. It got dropped off at a school in Tennessee by mistake so we had to wait awhile to get it. Now the Knights of Columbus are installing it for me. Here the cement is being poured around the casing to hold the pole secure. With the strong winds we have coming down from the mountains this is important.

Our students in grades 5-8 made this beautiful stainglass window for our Parish Hall. Our Art teacher-Mrs. Harig-one week had each student draw one part of the stained glass window. The next week they each had to paint it. She put it together for all of us. What a blessing and reminder of this Christmas season soon to be upon us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kino Border Initiative

Fr. Sean, a Jesuit priest, celebrated Mass at our parish one weekend. He spoke of his new ministry of aiding deported families in Nogales, Sonora-Mexico. In talking to him after Mass he said their program depends alot on volunteers and many teen and college groups help out. Through many emails we set a date to bring our Jr. High students to observe the migrant project in action. The parents of the students did not want their child crossing the border. Plan B-the students would stay at Lourdes Catholic High School in Nogales, AZ and myself and our pastor, Fr. Ariel and our school nurse, Dot would go across the border.

One of the six Jesuit priests who minister at the border met us at Lourdes Catholic High School. From there we rode in Fr. Ariel's car. We parked outside the border because the wait to come back into the country would be too long because so many Mexicans are crossing the border now to shop in Tucson for Christmas. As we began to walk it began to rain.

Your first taste of the migrant plight is seeing the caged area they must walk in when the bus drops drop them off on the U.S. side. One side is rocks and rest is a wired cage-top and side that they walk through to Mexico. We walk along side them in the open space. The cage is to keep them from escaping back into the U.S. and also to shame them. We were not allowed to take pictures here, the border agents watched you the whole time till you crossed the border.

You knew immediately when you stepped into Mexico. The poverty hits you in the face. Right on the border is the Jesuit place-Kino Border Initiative-where migrants may come. They are fed two hot meals a day here and can only stay here two weeks. The land is owned by the city of Nogales but the building belongs to the Jesuits but was paid for with money donated by the city of Nogales. The mayor was embarrassed because every border city has a place for deported migrants except them so he willingly paid for one to be built. The Kino Border Initiative came about at the request of Bishop Kicanas, of Tucson. It is supported by the Diocese of Tucson and CRS, which the Bishop chairs. Many donations come in. The Methodist Church of southern California donated hundreds of blankets, which each migrant receives one.

On entering the migrant shelter you see it has a metal roof and the sides are heavy canvas and one side is rock as it is built into the rocks. The floor is concrete. Very dim lighting and crowded. There were about 20 people to a table, sitting very close. One row of just women, three rows of men and a back row for families. There was only one family there. I talked with them and they spoke English. The dad worked at PopEye Chicken in Alburqurque, New Mexico. His wife was sick and the U.S. docotrs could not figure out the problem. She came back to Mexico for medical help and the doctors discovered she had three hernias which they operated on. They had two little boys, ages 3 and 5 who were U.S. citizens because they were born in the U.S. They want to go back to the U.S. so their boys can be educated but it is too hard now crossing the border.
Before they are fed a meal today because it was so cold and rainy, they received a large plastic cup of coffee or hot chocolate and animal crackers. One of the Jesuit priests prays with them before the meal is served. One of the three Mexican Sisters who works in the project explains what they expect of them and the services they can offer them: help to locate their family in Mexico, help in getting a bus ticket to where their family is in Mexico,and medical help. Women and children (no boy older than 10 years old) may stay in their women's shelter. Men stay in a cheap hotel or in the public housing for migrants.

While we were with the migrants, a young, good looking Mexican in his 30's came to the wire gate of the shelter. The Jesuit priest immediately said, "Don't let him in. He is a "coyote" who buys and sells people".

As volunteers we helped serve the food. We passed the plastic plates filled with beans, rice, macaroni and a tamale to the migrants in assembly line fashion. After the meal was done we helped to dry the dishes.

A Jesuit PreNovitiate candidate from Mexico and Fr. Ariel.

Because it was raining very hard and the streets were muddy we were taken by truck to see the clinic for women.

Clinic for migrant women.

There is a nurse from Mexico who treats the migrant women. The most common things she treats them  for are feet problems from walking the desert for days and weeks and for cacti bites. The University of AZ sends their nursing students here at times  for their emergency medicne practicum. Often times the Mexicans wander for weeks, months in the desert of their country before they reach the U.S. border. Often times they are lost in their own desert and the government agency called "Grupo" go out into the Mexican deserts looking for lost Mexican migrants and pick them up and bring them to Nogales.

After this we went to see the housing they are able to provide to women and children. It is a high rise the government no longer wanted. One of the apartments here is the convent for the Sisters and for a volunteer from Georgetown University student who took the semester off to experience the life of a migrant. She is an immigration major and wants to work in immigration. In asking what she has learned from her experience she said, " It is to wake up each morning with a spirit of hope and not despair. This is what  I have learned from the migrants."

We went through the mud and flowing water into the highrise where we watched a power point presentation on the women they have helped. On the walls of the room are posters from the United Nations telling of women's rights.
We then went back to the main project area. No one was left there except for the volunteers, Jesuit priests and the Mexican Sisters. They were peeling potatoes for the next meal. All of the food is donated from both sides of the border and the Sisters cook the meals. The cats are walking on the floor eating any scraps that fell.

After all have gone,the empty migrant shelter.

Because of the down pour of rain at this time we got a ride to the border. We walked to the border agent to present our passport one at a time. Myself and the Jesuit priest got through ok. Fr.Ariel and Dot who are Filipino were detained and put in a room to be asked questions. The Jesuit priest and myself had to stand outside in the rain waiting for them. We were not allowed in the building; a border patrol was inside by the door with a rifle keeping all of us out. After 10 minutes they were allowed to leave. They were detained because they were Filipinos. Fr. Ariel has a green card and Dot has a U.S. passport. The Jesuit priest says he sometimes gets detained and questioned because he has a beard and mustache and that creates suspicion that he might be an Al Quaida terrorist from Mexico.

In asking why Mexcio is so poor right now the answer I got is that the U.S. set up factories in Mexico but then closed them and opened them in China because the labor is cheaper there. In Mexico they had to pay the workers $7 a day. Also, because of the drug cartel problem Mexicans are trying to leave the country to get away from it.

The Jesuits asked that even if we can't bring volunteers down to help if we would form a committee in our parish or on our student council for migration. Many have pro-life and other committees but nothing on migration. Bishop Kicanas wants his priests and people of the diocese to be educated about the plight of the migrant and that is why he so strongly supports this project. It was an eye opener for me. It is a day I will not forget and yes, I will continue to study the migrant plight and hopefully have my Student Council learn about it and do a fundraiser for it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brrr....rrr it's Cold in These Mountains!

Am I back in a Wisconsin winter?? Mon., Tues. and Wed. of this week it was very cold.We were as cold or colder than Green Bay!!! Tuesday morning as I drove to school at 6:30am the thermometer in the car kept drawing as I left the city and headed into the valley within the mountains. It was a down right cold 21 degrees. One degree colder than Green Bay! And to think I left my mittens and long winter coat in Wis. thinking I wouldn't need them. The wind really whipps around by our school. 

At 11:30am that Tues., I was supervising our kids' lunch in the cafeteria when my neighbor calls to tell me I have a broken water pipe. The water is running into the street. I called our landlady but no answer. I asked my maintenance person to come with me to our house. The neighbor's side yard was flooded and water was in the street. We were lucky enough that the pipe that froze and broke was the drip system that waters the tree and couple bushes in our yard. I never knew we had that. We got the water shut off and back to school we went. The landlady got me at the end of the day and asked that I take towels and wrap them around the three outdoor faucets and the three water pipes that are outside. Towels!  We have no extra towels seeing we had to buy them when we arrived. My janitor helped me out by giving me large rags. I did the wrapping as dusk set in.

Wed., we had the Kino Teens from Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Nogales speak to Grades 6-9th about their work with the Jesuit priests in Nogales, Sonora with the families who have been deported. It was an eye opener for my students who only know Mexicans from seeing the border patrol round them up. I asked why Mexico is in such dire straits with their economy. Two of the three students live in Mexico and cross the border each day to go to the high school in Nogales, AZ. They said the factories that use to be there are now gone. They were started by companies from the United States to make staplers, binders and now the U.S. companies have closed the factories and moved their production to China as labor is cheaper there. The Mexicans were being paid about $7.00 a day so just imagine how much the Chinese are being paid by the U.S. companies.

Friday, I led an Advent retreat with the students in Grs. 7-9th. We went to St. Andrew's Catholic Church and were able to use their Divine Mercy Chapel.

Sunday, the 11th was a day of activities. It started early in the morning at 6:00 AM cooking Breakfast with Santa. We had a great work crew and Santa showed up on time.

Santa's Elves who worked the breakfast.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession at night.

Our students in their native costume who led the rosay in their native language: English, Korean, Spanish.

This evening I went back to church for the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It began with a candlelight procession outside under the full moon. We processed with the statue of Our Lady from the church, through the parking lot, onto the road in front of church and back into the parking lot. It was pitch black outside as there are no street lights or yard lights. We sang the whole way. Once back in church the rosary was prayed in church in four languages to represent the four nationalities in our parish: Filipino, Korean, Spanish and English. I was proud that three of my students led the rosaries in their native language. Two of them are coming to Camp Franciscan in June. Our pastor led it in Filipino.

After the rosary we went to the church hall to see the play of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Bishop was played by our online 9th grader. After the play there were Mexican dancers, a fiesta and a Mass starting at 11pm so the mananitas could start at midnight on the 12th. I left after the play because tomorrow I am going to Nogales, AZ and Sonoroa as a field trip with my Jr. High students to see the work of the Kino Teens.

And yes, our pastor wore pink today for Gaudete Sunday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

1st Week of Advent

The 1st week of Advent was a  busy week of special events. Here are the happenings:
Sunday-Christmas lights were put outside our house. We live in a residential neighborhood and WOW! our neighbors have outstanding Christmas lights. We couldn't be the dark house on the block so here is what we came up with.
We received a donation of money to buy some Christmas decorations as we had none. Trees went on sale so I bought one. The school maintenance heard about it and told me to take the tree back as a parishioner donated a good tree to the church that we could have. So we now had two trees in our garage waiting to be put together. It went against my principles to put a tree up the 1st week of Advent but I had to see what the donated tree looked like and if it had a tree stand that worked before I returned the tree in the box. So here is our Advent tree-lights only no bulbs till it gets closer to Christmas. ( Our other janitor donated Christmas bulbs.)
Next on the list was to prepare for Bishop Kicanas' visit to our school-his first visit ever. Bulletin boards were done up, desks cleaned up, a reception planned, 45 minute choir practice with Advent songs never sung before and using the new Roman Missal for the first time at a school Mass! We were ready but low and behold the wind kicked up that night and day (51 mph at noon when the Bishop was here). I arrived at school to find our Jesse Tree blown over, bulletin board pieces all over  the sidewalk and PreK playground ( classrooms open to the outside so outside bulletin boards). So everything was quickly put back together. I have found out that it might be calm at our house but our school is in the midst of the mountains and it is colder and windier there.

The liturgy was outstanding and the Bishop invited students by name to help him act out his homily. The Bishop has the gift of remembering people's names the first time he hears it.
After Mass a reception was held for parishoners and parents, then the students came to meet with him and had great questions: What is your coat of arms?  What is your favorite part of being a Bishop?  We found out his mother will turn 100 years of age in May and lives in Chicago with some Sisters.
The Bishop then toured the classrooms. He was impressed with the facilities and promised to help build up our enrollment.

Now the week still isn't over-Saturday is the 53rd Sierra Vista Christmas parade-the longest running parade in AZ. It is a light parade starting at 5:30pm so all must have lights on the floats and if possible on yourself. Last year no coats were needed; this year winter jackets, mittens, ear muffs and hand warmers. The wind that came with the Bishop was still with us and snow or rain showers were predicted.

We were at our float at 4pm and we were blessed to be entry #28 out of 80. Parade started on time with the fire department leading the way. The theme of the parade was: Tribute to the Monument Fire Fighters. This honored all those who fought the fire in our area this summer-well chosen tribute.

Our students dressed up as fire fighters and we had a banner made giving tribute to the Monument Fire Fighters. The parade was about 3 miles long and it was the fastest walking parade I have ever been in. I was soon warmed up and off came the earmuffs. Our school choir dressed as fire fighters sang carols the whole 3 miles and when there was a pause between songs they would yell, " All Saints Catholic School the Best-Please come to our school!!" See -everyone is recruiting students to our school. They did this on their own.

The parade was the most different Christmas parade I have ever been in or seen: lots of horses and decorated with lights (this is horse country), tractors decorated, Coke truck with lights, every restaurant had a float.

As we sang our way down the parade route we received many cheers and applause. It was great and kept us singing all the way to the KMart parking lot where all floats ended up.

Snow clouds sitting on top of the mountains-you could see the snow falling. Clouds stayed there and we received no snow or rain.

Waiting for the parade to begin.

Old time tractor with antlers up front.

Border patrol on horses.

We're on our way!

Kiara (Mary) is coming to Camp Franciscan.

Our choir at the Bishop's Mass.

Bishop enjoying the cards the students made for him.

All of us with the Bishop.

Bishop is Lebanese and he is pictured with one of our moms who was born in Lebanon. All 3 of her children speak Arabic.

Horses waiting for the parade to begin.

More horses yet with Christmas lights on.
Tomorrow we welcome the 2nd Week of Advent!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving at All Saints Catholic School

A short week in school before Thanksgiving but a busy one!

We had a procession of food on Monday to our parish hall where St. Vincent de Paul packed over 60 food boxes for Thanksgiving for families in need. Each class filled at least one brown shopping bag of food for the food baskets. Parishioners donated turkeys, pies, celery and rolls. Our parish hall was transformed into a store. Students ate in their classrooms or outside that day-they loved the change.

Tuesday was our Thanksgiving meal for students, parents and grandparents. We served about 175 dinners. Our chef lives down the road from us and donated his time. Turkeys were cooked, dressing and gravy made, buns and pies were baked and the cranberry sauce was sliced. It was truly a Thanksgiving feast. Parents helped to serve and we had a great clean up crew of staff, parents and 7th and 8th grade students. It was truly a community event!  We had food left over which we took to the Forgash House for abused women.

Before the dinner grades 5 and 6 had a class Mass with Fr. Ariel to celebrate their patron saint-Martin of Tours.  Every class selected a patron saint and Fr. Ariel on the feastday of the saint or close to the date has a Mass for that class in their classroom. It is a beautiful experience for the students and teacher. We are grateful that Father "A" takes such a strong interest in our school.

Wednesday we have dismissal at 11:30am to allow families to travel for Thanksgiving. Being a military town most families travel back to see their families.

Apple or Pumpkin? With or without topping?

Men at work-maintenance, chef, grandparent

Serving is done, time to eat before clean up-
L-R: Business Manager, Principal, Pastor

Happy Thanksgiving from All Saints Catholic School at Our Lady of the Mountains Parish!