Excitement is the word I would use to describe the feeling I got when I first set foot on the campus of Forest Ridge to meet with Mary Rose Guerin about a teaching position. Especially after I immediately spotted a quote by RSCJ Janet Erskine Stuart taped to the desk in the welcome lobby, I could not wait to talk about all things Sacred Heart. I fell in love with the Goals and Criteria when I taught at our sister school on 91st Street in New York City, and so the potential opportunity to continue to do the work of its mission filled me with delight. When I returned later to give a demo lesson to the freshmen class and had the chance to meet students and faculty, I was again thrilled that for me Forest Ridge held the same culture of community that I had felt when I was in New York. Everyone was genuinely interested in getting to know me and there were authentic ways for me to get to know them. It felt like the grace of being a child of the Sacred Heart had not left me when I came to the West Coast.
So gratitude and joy are the two words I would use to describe the feeling when I then returned to Forest Ridge as a hired teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed continuing to get to know people and to develop relationships with students. Yet the beginning of this school year was different from other school years for me because I was also nine months pregnant, which meant I would go on parental leave just a few weeks after having started. Before I left, the full support that had been given to me by the school and also by the students was deeply encouraging, and I gained an absolutely enormous blessing in the time spent bonding with our new baby and having extra time with his siblings. As the countdown to returning to work dwindled, however, I could not help but wonder: how hard would it be to fit back in when I returned? What relationships and school cultures had been created without me?
Yet my return reminded me exactly of why I love being immersed in a Sacred Heart education. I decided to return during the week of Cor Unum not only so that I could participate in service learning, but also because it would be a nice way to transition back and reintroduce myself to everyone without the stresses and routines that often can come with classwork. The spirit of Cor Unum day truly fulfilled my wishes – I was able to chaperone the freshmen class and enjoy seeing my advisees work hard in the pouring rain to help others. I was able to see the bright smiles of sophomores when they welcomed me back in the gym, and the screams of delight when they saw pictures of my newborn son were the warmest sounds to my ears.
All of this has me ruminating on Goal 4 and the building of community as a Christian value. It sounds like such a simple goal, but in reality fostering and nurturing relationships that bring joy is not always easy. But to feel it lived on our campus as I stepped into the rhythms of school brought me immense gratitude again. As the weeks of my return continued and we ended up on the day before the holiday break, we received our feast letters. Beyond just the daily moments of relationship building, this ritual provided beautiful expressions of just how much different members of the community are sought and held in relationship. As a result, my return to campus has been an experience of the Sacred Heart mission and one which can be added to my treasure trove of memories being a Sacred Heart educator.