Last week the elementary and adolescent community came together to celebrate our big Thanksgiving feast. It was so beautiful to see the coming together. But there was a new component that I hadn't seen last year.
Following Father Ben's homily about a gratitude journal, I have been encouraging the adolescents to share what they are grateful for to the Lord during morning prayer. We discussed how if we focus on what we have been given, we are much more apt to be grateful for what is present in front of us. I saw small changes in the classroom that week - a slow, steady love, a deliberate choice to be kind, and anticipation of other's needs before their own.
I announced to the adolescents that they had been asked to serve the thanksgiving meal on Tuesday. Some grumbled, some were bummed they wouldn't get to eat until the end. However, I encouraged them that the last will be first and that its a good time to grow their servant hearts. What I saw that day was that their hearts grew three sizes that day! :)
Each time they dishes turkey, ladled mashed potatoes, or served pumpkin bread, I saw a smile of love, a joke cracked, and a leadership of love in each of these teenagers. It was incredible - they were so very themselves, developing their character by practicing virtuous service.
As I was taking photos and noting their attitudes, they didn't know that as they were serving the other students, they were making it onto my gratitude journal that night. How blessed am I, How blessed are we. God is good, all the time.
I pray you had a blessed Thanksgiving.
As the school year is coming to a close, we are finishing projects, cleaning, organizing, planning for next year, and all other things we need to do. We have all been hard at work these last couple weeks. We are finishing up our science and first aid study, while also wrapping up pre-algebra for this year. Research papers, summative essays, and poetry are all part of our last projects too. We also just finished our Mother's day projects. I hope our Mothers are happy!
With only one more week of school left, I have been kind of antsy, but also focused finishing my projects. The end of the year has called us to buckle down and focus. We have learned and developed so much this year. We have become better people and have learned not only academics, but social skills too. We are all very excited for summer and I hope you are too!
Instead of going on the Odyssey, I got to go to Rome! It was amazing to be able to view so many important items in our faith and history. We got to see so many basilicas, relics, churches, statues, paintings, mosaics, sites, and SO much more!! We were there for ten days, and every day was packed full of places to visit and things to see! I enjoyed it immensely. We had so many life changing experiences!
My favorite part of the whole trip was going to Assisi and San Giovanni. We walked in all of the places that Saint Francis and Saint Padre Pio walked. Thinking about that was so amazing! We saw Padre Pio's incorrupt body. It was amazing to think that he only died about 60 years ago! All in all the trip was a truly mind opening and life changing experience.
The Odyssey was such a fun week. We got to do many things which I will share about. On the first day, we went to the Basilica and the Cathedral. We got a tour of the Basilica and the tour guide said that the Cathedral was a lot bigger then the Basilica. We went to Eggys for lunch it was very good. On Tuesday, we went to Vertical Endeavors and went rock climbing. There was many walls and we went on most of them.
Wednesday, we went and cleaned windows at Missionaries of Charity. On Thursday, we helped E1 with their mother's day gifts, they made soap. Friday, we were supposed to go gardening but the weather looked bad so we went the following Wednesday. We planted peppers, onions, squash, cucumbers, and zucchini. We had lunch there it was very good. We learned so much at the farm. Over all, we had a great time on our Odyssey. Samuel Willems
The last day of our Odyssey was extended into this week due to inclement weather, but boy was it a beautiful experience to drive up to Maple Lake and farm for Mr. Jim and Mrs. Audrey Hennen. This piece connected us back to our Erdkinder experience in the fall, working with the soil and coming full circle back to the planting season of agriculture.
We arrived early in the morning and Jim had the boys jump right into planting their plot of land. Mr. Hennen owns over 60 acres of land but keeps only a couple acres for his personal garden. From onions to peppers to zucchini, the boys were instructed on how to plant, how far apart to plant the seedlings, and the growing process. He told them how he grows his seedlings indoors first so that he can prevent them from being affected by frost that extends into spring.
He let the boys use his hot digging invention to expedite the planting process.
The boys got dirty, worked hard, and completed in two hours what would have taken the Hennens over a week to plant! What a blessing not only to see the beauty of Jim's farm but to see the mentorship of this elderly man to these teenage boys.
After our time planting, Jim and Audrey fed us a lovely lunch, with their dog Oscar jumping around. Once we got in the car, I asked the boys what they thought, and they asked when we could go back next.
On the fourth day of our Odyssey excursion, the theme for the adolescents was Handiwork and Mentorship. These are two fundamental pieces of the Adolescent program - working with their hands to make something and also mentoring between other planes and levels.
The boys worked on their woodworking and painting for their mother's day projects. They independently figured out how to cut apart a wooden palette, sand the wood, clean the wood, and stain their pieces before problem solving how to nail them together.
It was so valuable to see them independently figure out what they wanted to build, how to follow multiple steps to prepare all their materials, and then work together to create something they had envisioned. Not only did it help them in their multi-step processing and planning, but it gave them the pride and sense of accomplishment of finishing something that they made entirely themselves.
In the afternoon of that Thursday, we went to South Campus to help Miss Novak's E1 class make THEIR mother's day projects - foot soak. Myself, Matthew, and Sam took a group of children and helped them through the multi-step procedure to make their gifts. Not only did they combine epsom salt, baking soda, and essential oils, but they had to measure and beautifully contain their foot soak and wrap it in tissue paper and place it in a bag.
Seeing the Adolescent boys in this environment, their confidence glows and their leadership is evident. The younger students love having them come in and it seems like it is a mutual feeling. We completed the mother's day gifts in an efficient amount of time and I believe the E1 students were grateful we came and sad to see us leave. What a beautiful day of handiwork and inter-level mentorship and leadership!
On the third day of our Odyssey Excursions, we visited the Missionaries of Charity house in Minneapolis. Accompanied by Mr. Steve Willems, the boys had a chance to visit with one of the Missionaries, see their chapel, and help take care of the home of the sisters and many women and their babies.
Sister had us jump right into cleaning the house: from mopping to cleaning ALL the windows, we all got sweaty and used our elbow grease to perform the chores that would make the home more beautiful for its residents. The women that stay at the home are either pregnant or have just given birth. Many of them are either homeless or left their home because of difficult circumstances. It was such a gift to meet each of them and see their newborn babies and pray for the ones that had not had their babies yet.
Following our time cleaning, sister shared with us the map of all of the Missionaries of Charity sisters around the world. Many of them had been martyred and some had been martyred very recently by ISIS. Sister shared with me the hardship of leaving behind her family, that she visits her family in India once every 10 years, and every time she visits them, someone has usually passed away who was very dear to her.
Sister shared with us also the struggle of the women who are residents in the home. Many of them are young moms, a few of them teenagers. They can barely take care of themselves let alone new babies. The women are asked to follow certain rules and protocols in the home and Sister shared about how one of her hardest jobs is telling a woman she needs to help herself and find somewhere else to live so that they can give a bed to another women and baby in need.
This time in the home allowed for us to discuss the difference in lifestyles between the residents and ourselves. I think it was eye opening for the boys to recognize that people can have such difficult lives only 25 minutes from their own homes in the suburbs. We talked about Mother Teresa and her mission and how we can emulate her maxims in our own lives. Not only did the entire day inspire gratitude, but I heard them say that they want to go back to help the Missionaries again!
On our second day of our Odyssey trips, we went rock climbing at Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul! Not only was this a good day of personal physical challenge, but it also involved learning about the parts of our bodies that get especially strengthened during rock climbing as well as discussing the problem solving necessary when finding your route up the wall.
The boys seemed excited as we drove to St. Paul on Tuesday morning. We talked and read about the certain muscles that rarely get used in our bodies that would probably be sore after we left the facility. These parts included the muscles in the forearms, the back of the calf, as well as their biceps and lats. I did not have to encourage the boys to jump on the wall and give 100%, they did that without any prompting!
Both Matthew and Sam began climbing the walls together, starting at the kid's wall. By the end of our time at Vertical Endeavors, they were venturing to different routes up the wall, challenging themselves personally, not creating competition between each other. They even took a stab at bouldering and did very well!
The boys challenged themselves personally and seemed thoroughly empowered and exhausted by the time we were done! I know Ms. Post sure was.
On Monday of our Odyssey Excursion we toured both the Basilica of St. Mary and the Cathedral of St. Paul. Starting at the Basilica, we were guided by a very kind tour guide who was a plethora of knowledge about the Basilica, from when it was originally built to even some mistakes that the architect and stain glass window maker had made! She walked us around the outside of the basilica, showed us the importance of the Basilica's insignia, and explained the role that the Basilica has in the Global Church.
She walked us through the story of Mary painted on the stain glass windows, she showed us the organ, the choir loft, and the designated side chapels and side altars. These altars were devoted to the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, and St. Therese. The architect that designed both the Basilica and the Cathedral under the guidance of Archbishop John Ireland was very French and his taste and saintly devotions were evident. The architect, Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, kept all his blueprints so that when the Basilica was being renovated, they were able to return the designs to their original intent.
After our tour, we took an hour to pray in the sanctuary. Either with a Scriptural Rosary or their prayer journals, we all took some time meditating on Christ's Mother and the beauty she holds.
After lunch, we headed to St. Paul to the Cathedral. Knowing what we knew about the Basilica informed our understanding of the Cathedral since they shared an architect.