Let me just say that Gov. Larry Hogan has done a great thing, and we should all thank him. No, no, I don’t want to drag you off into the realms of political controversy; I am talking about something that is easy for everyone to applaud: starting school after Labor Day. Gov. Hogan initiated it for the public schools, Montgomery County parish schools chose to follow, and it was GREAT.
As something of a seasoned observer of families and schoolkids, let me just say that several years ago, as the start date for schools continued to creep earlier and earlier until it was more than a week before August was over, I saw discombobulation, disappointment, and disorientation in our kids and their families. They were not ready yet; they were not done with summer yet. It was untimely.
Of course, it was exacerbated for the teachers, who start a week before classes begin, and for the administration, including me, who start in earnest several weeks before that. It was as if August was not a summer month at all!
This year, it was clear on the first day of school that the schoolkids and their families were ready. It was obvious in the preceding weeks that they were enjoying having time to wind down their summer program, and to do their preparatory work for the change in mission that comes with the school year. There was less angst, less anguish, and far less anxiety. In their place was eager anticipation.
Our start to the school year was marked by the careful oversight of our new principal, Mr. Ted Ewanciw. Having been in the leadership of the school for years, and being a parishioner here for decades, he has a clear vision of what our school can be and should be. It was clear in the preparation for the beginning of class, and there is also a clue in the motto he has chosen for the year: I must become a saint. These are the words of our own patroness, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.
The first day of classes fell on the new feast of the newly proclaimed Saint, Theresa of Calcutta. Most of us remember Mother Theresa as someone who was very much of our times, and even of our place, as she visited the US frequently. Saints are not long ago and far away, they are here and now!
And the first Friday morning school Mass fell on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the seventieth (70th) anniversary of the first opening day of our parish school, September 8, 1947. Can you believe? Harder for me to believe is that I have been Pastor for more than one-seventh of those first days: this was my twelfth, and counting!
It is important to keep these anniversaries, and we have more of them as the year unfolds. But it is also important for families and kids to have time together to play, to travel, and to learn in other ways, as well as to prepare for school. That all of this occurred for our kids this year on days that are blessed with local and eternal significance is a good reason to thank, of all people, our state’s governor.