Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Building Physical and Spiritual Strength

Happy Easter for Christ is Risen today - Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! One of the great things about being a Catholic School is that we at STM are part of something that is universal - catholic - and that is the Catholic Church. For as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Church celebrates at Easter the Resurrection of Jesus, which gives true meaning, hope, and joy to life! Pope Francis in his “Urbi et Orbi” 2017 Easter Address opened with this:

“By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.
All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).”

In this image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we see how He lowered (“humbled” himself as St. Paul tells us in Philippians 2) himself to a very humiliating and painful death on the cross. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus does this willingly out of love for his “flock” - the Church - to bring them back when we lose our way because of sin.
Many of our STM Spring Athletic teams have banded together for the SportsLeader Stations of the Cross Workout. This workout is both a spiritual and physical exercise meant to draw the person and team into the Stations of the Cross through prayerful meditation on the stations and through various exercises that will challenge the mind and will. In combining the spiritual and the physical, it reminds us that we believe that we are both body and soul and how Jesus’ Resurrection gives us this great hope and joy that one day both body and soul, we can be with Him in Heaven one day. The workout also helps us to reflect on what Jesus endured for us on the cross and offer up the various prayers and exercises for others as Christ did for us.
SL_Stations_Web_site_slide.001.jpegDuring Holy Week, our PE classes went through the Stations of the Cross Workout and discovered that this is definitely not for that faint of heart! As the students and staff prayed the various stations, they would complete some sort of physical exercise to “enter into” the physical hardships Jesus faced while carrying His Cross. For example: the 11th Station is Jesus being nailed to a cross. After prayerfully reflecting on the station, the students joined together to complete a 2-3 minute wall sit and did so in offering up the pain and struggle for someone else.
To see how our STM students did on this Stations of the Cross workout and challenge, click here to view the slide-show and reflections from some of our very own Sabers! The great joy we have in praying and even enduring the Stations of the Cross Workout is knowing that the pain, struggle, and ultimate death Jesus faced on the Cross was not the end. The cross was not a victory for anyone who thought it would be a “victory”, but it was Christ’s Resurrection who brings true victory over sin and death so that we may be drawn back to Him.
We pray that this time of Easter may be a time of great joy and hope for Christ has overcome sin and death! Let it gives us the great hope and joy as well at STM as we persevere through these last weeks of the school year glorifying and praising the Lord in all that we do united as one Catholic School.

See more information about the workout here @ SportsLeader.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

STM's Call for Vocations: A Fitting Image for Holy Week

On Tuesday April 11th, the Peoria Diocese led by Bishop Daniel Jenky celebrated the annual Chrism Mass during Holy Week. It is at the Chrism Mass where Bishop Jenky blesses the sacred and holy oils used throughout the year for a variety of reasons mainly in the use of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders - where those receiving the oil are “anointed”
for their mission. It is also at this Mass that all of the priests from the Peoria Diocese come together as one to renew their vows they take at their ordination. It was a great opportunity to attend this Mass especially to celebrate our Priests who have given their lives over to God in humble submission to His will. A couple of ideas come to mind when reflecting on this powerful Mass especially with the Priests and our own High School of St. Thomas More.

As the priests processed into the Cathedral it was truly humbling to recognize and know many of those priests. We can all look back at our lives to see how the priests we have met and interacted with and how much they have impacted our own lives. Many of those priests were our first true connection to the Church, were those who celebrated our first Sacrament(s), who were regular dinner guests for our family, spiritual directors, and mentors, etc. I can speak only for myself, but am sure all can relate in how I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for God working through His priests to shape and form me into who I am today.

We are very fortunate to have these men who have laid down their lives for Christ acting “in persona Christi” as they give themselves over to a live of service of Christ’s bride the Church. Echoing what was mentioned earlier, we would not be where we are today as individuals and as a High School if it were not for the many priests who have impacted us because of their holiness and love for Christ.

It is our mission at STM to help form our students to be the saints God created them to be as they graduate “sending them forth to fulfill their baptismal call as His disciples in the world.” Part of that formation of our students as disciples is helping them to recognize their vocation or calling from God. As a Catholic High School, we seek and strive to inspire and encourage our students and families to consider all vocations starting specifically with the single, married, and religious/consecrated life. Why not encourage or inspire our students to consider - to prayerfully discern that calling from God to the Priesthood (or religious life)? As we seek the Holy Spirit’s encouragement and guidance each day, we also pray that the Holy Spirit would lead and inspire our students to vocations especially to the Priesthood so that the future generations of Sabers will benefit from these Holy Men who serve the Church and her people.

This week we celebrate Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday leading up to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday celebrating Christ’s Resurrection and victory over death. How does this tie in with the Priesthood and STM?

At Palm Sunday Jesus tells the two disciples to go into the town and tell the owner of the donkey that “the Master has need of it.” Jesus has a “need” for us - a calling, a vocation that ultimately brings us closer to Him in an act of service for others. Our priests have answered that call in humble submission to Christ’s need for Holy Men to lead His church. What is it that Jesus may “need” me for, what is He calling me to?

On Holy Thursday, we see Jesus institute the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders at the Last Supper as the two go hand in hand. It is at Mass where the priest acts “in persona Christi” in consecrating the bread and wine into Jesus Body and Blood, which will be poured out for man on Good Friday on the Cross. After the Last Supper, Jesus goes out into the Garden of Gethsemane and seeks to be delivered from what is about to happen to Him, but nonetheless says to the Father “not my will, but your will be done” (Lk 22:42). Our priests have said yes to the Father’s will in giving themselves to be “alter Christus” (another Christ) for God’s people. We too can look to their example of listening and following the Father’s Will in our own lives.

Ask any priest and they would say that there are times when they carry many crosses or challenges as a Priest. Jesus on Good Friday shows and gives us the strength as He carried His own cross in ultimately handing over His Spirit to the Father. Jesus told his apostles at the Last Supper that “no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13) and in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her” (5:25). It is our priests who in imitation of Christ have handed over their own lives for Christ’s bride, the Church, to serve her children. How can I truly lay down my life in service of God’s call for me and for others?

Finally, let us pray and thank those priests who have heard, listened to, and answered God’s call for them to be his priests; for their service to the Church in leading the people to holiness through the Sacraments, Prayer, and Spiritual Guidance.

Thank you to all the priests who serve in our Diocese, Vicariate, and especially those who have served at STM in leading our students, staff, and families to a greater understanding of our Catholic Faith, holiness, and love for the Lord in truly guiding STM as a Catholic High School living out Her Mission, which is the Mission of the Church.

Thank You Fr. Dittmer, Fr. Dondaville, Fr. Lampitt, and Fr. Hoelscher!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Formation of the Human Person @ STM

One of the marks of Catholic Education that differentiates itself from traditional public school education is the focus on the formation of the whole human person made in the image and likeness of God. It is the mission of STM to help our families form our students morally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically. “We want our students to maximize their human potential and to both be good and do good in authentic freedom. In order to do this, our students need to be able to know how to wisely and fully apprehend and interrogate all aspects of reality from a solid Christian intellectual tradition. This intellectual tradition involves not just teaching facts and skills, but is also essentially focused on seeking to know the value and nature of things and in appreciating the value of knowledge for its own sake” (Cardinal Newman Society: Truth, Beauty, & Goodness). One of those ways we are able to do help form our students in their humanity is through the understanding and pursuit of the three transcendentals of goodness, truth, and beauty. Throughout all of our classes we seek these three things as part of our call to know, love, and serve God in our journey of faith in this life and growth of holiness. As a school we have started to begin working with the Cardinal Newman Society Standards for Catholic Curriculum specifically in the areas of Social Studies, English, Science, and Mathematics. As part of these standards all of our classes are using the three transcendentals of goodness, truth, and beauty to start the conversation and deeper level thinking in guiding our students to a greater knowledge and awe as being made in that image and likeness of God. Our teachers are seeking ways to bring these discussions and questions into our classes to intentionally form a truly Catholic Curriculum that all our subjects point back to the reason why we exist at STM - to bring and pass on the Catholic Faith in forming them as disciples of Christ so they may go out and be “disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).

This is just a small part of a bigger project as we at STM seek and strive to stay true to our Catholic Faith and Identity. In our world today it is not always easy, but with the virtue of resiliency - the strength to to be able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions- we can stay true in carrying that cross as part of the Mission of the Catholic Church. Our own patron Saint - St. Thomas More - shows us this resiliency in standing up for his Faith, loyalty to the Church, and following his conscience even to his death. Let us have the same spirit of resiliency and be inspired by our patron St. Thomas More to be resilient in our learning and pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness in our school and in our lives. Today - April 7th - we will be praying the Stations of the Cross together and in Jesus carrying the Cross we see the ultimate example of truth, beauty, and goodness displayed in His humanity in showing us the way to the Father in whom have and find true goodness and beauty in our own lives. Pray with us that at STM we may continue to strive to form our students and staff in this way always with resiliency even when it may be difficult!

Lord, You were the most RESILIENT man ever. You encountered every possible difficulty ... hunger, humiliation, traveling, insults ... not to mention all You suffered in Your Passion and Death. May we learn how to be RESILIENT like You especially with and for our family members, classmates, and teammates. Help us to develop the habit of looking for ways to do good for others in all of life.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

STM Community, Communion, and Competition!

One of the "marks" of a Catholic School is the community aspect and reflection of the Church as a body of many believers united in one Faith that is "rooted both in the social nature of the human person and the reality of the Church as "the home and the school of communion" (The Holy See's Teaching on Catholic Schools Archbishop J. Michael Miller).  At STM, we strive to bring the community of many students and teachers together as one not only in our learning and extra-curriculars, but most importantly in living out the Faith. With the start of Saber Advisory and our journey to St. James Academy, STM is heading towards bringing this community aspect of a Catholic School with the House System. We have taken "baby steps" this year with that transition and will be taking even bigger steps over the next few years until STM is truly a House Community. 

Part of the House System and bringing the students and staff together is through fraternal competition that creates unity, sportsmanship, and glorifying the Lord through the many talents and gifts He has given our Sabers. To get a preview of this and and early start on the fun and excitement of competition, this Wednesday March 29th will be the first school wide competition with first annual "CanStruction." Each Advisory will be paired up with another and given a designated location for building their structure. The goal is that each student brings in 20 can goods (or non-perishable food item). There are two components to this competition. The first part is reaching the goal of 20 cans per student. The second part is the CanStruction, where each paired Advisory will build something out of their can goods. This will take collaboration and planning, and is an excellent opportunity for the students to take charge in leadership and team-building! The Advisory groups will be building their structures during Advisory on Wednesday, April 19th. The students and staff can start bringing in cans to their Advisory classrooms, and will have a location in the classrooms for them to store their donations. The paired Advisories who win the overall competition will get DONUTS in their next Advisory!! 

Our Saber Seniors will be competing on their own in three groups of 20 students. As Senior Leaders they have a higher challenge and incentives if they are able to reach their goals as small groups and as a class. If an assigned group of Seniors reach their goal of an average of 20 cans per student (ie. 400 cans for the group), that group will get a small DQ Blizzard at lunch on a designated day. If all three groups reach their overall goals (400 cans per group) they will earn a "Study Day" on May 16 in order to prepare for Senior Final exams!

The House Competitions are designed not just for competition and rewards among our STM Sabers, but will have some benefit towards our community and world as we seek to serve others. All the cans/food collected will be donated to the St. Vincent dePaul Food Bank at Holy Cross. This shows our Sabers putting their faith and love into action in serving others especially through the corporal work of mercy to feed the hungry. It also reflects our mission as a Catholic School to love one another as faith community, which gives us the strength to be intensely and deeply attached to a person or group of people. In this case we are willing the good of not only those Sabers in our advisory groups, but also our community. 

We encourage all the students to participate as much as possible - the more cans the more possibilities for their "CanStruction." We have already had some cans come in and are excited for this opportunity to serve and feed the hungry, while growing in fellowship and sportsmanship as one Saber Family! May through this act of charity and teamwork may our Sabers grow in greater love for one another and for our God who as our Father gives us our daily bread. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"The Hope for a brighter future at STM"

Sometimes in our human “frailty” we can often fall into the trap thinking that “the grass is always greener on the other side.” We get lost at times in the weariness of life in our current circumstance and forget to see the goodness around us. Especially during this time of Lent, we are placing ourselves on this 40 day Journey towards the Joy of Easter. During this journey and the practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, it is a reminder for us to keep the virtue of “Hope” alive.

In his Ash Wednesday Homily, Fr. Hoelscher placed the three spiritual practices in the context of relationships. The first practice of prayer helps us to grow deeper in our relationship with our Heavenly Father and this can help us to receive the gift of Hope. What is hope? Hope is one of the three theological virtues that are a gift from God that allows us to
order ourselves towards overcoming difficulty, challenges, and sin in our lives to aspire to a real union with God in Heaven. It is the strength to hold on that your interior longing will be fulfilled - and that interior longing is for a greater good, which ultimately is our union with God in Heaven. Prayer then helps us to order our “HOPE” to our true good, which is God. We are placing our hope in a better and brighter future rooted in our Faith and Love for God.

How do we practice this “HOPE” at STM? With daily school prayer, class prayer, and individual students and staff visiting the Lord in the Tabernacle in our Chapel for prayer, we place our “HOPE” in God because as St. Thomas Aquinas says “we hope for something that is possible for us through God’s help, our hope attains to God Himself, whose help is being relied on.” We hope for a brighter future for St. Thomas More as individuals and as a school. We hope to inspire students to a greater love for learning and wisdom, for our students and staff to make the right moral decisions with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for building relationships with one another, for excellence in academics and extracurriculars, and ultimately for a greater love of God. It gives me great hope when we see our students helping one another, a teacher going the extra mile, our dedicated parents helping with extracurriculars, alumni succeeding in the next step of their lives, and our benefactors continued support for STM that we are doing great things at STM.

St. Francis of Assisi says “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We first then go to the Lord in prayer because we can’t do it by ourselves as we place our hope in the loving goodness of God to send His Holy Spirit upon STM to inspire our students and staff to be the best they can be to create an atmosphere of joy and love at STM where relationships are built and community is lived each day. We do what we can that is “humanly” possible and then with the help of the Lord can do the impossible at STM!
As we journey through Lent, let us place our Hope in the Lord to see the goodness around us and trust in His plans for the future of STM. We do this asking our Mother Mary’s intercession whose example of Hope in the Lord can inspire us in our own daily lives!

Don’t forget to join the STM Lenten Challenge! Especially the “Prayer” Challenge!
“Lord, we need encouragement and motivation at times. We get down and we forget that You are always there for us. Stay close to us, Lord, and shine a light in our darkness with Your Holy Spirit. Help us to spread the virtue of HOPE this week by speaking life into someone in our class or family this. May we say something positive and encouraging to them to lift them up to You.”

Check out Bishop Barron's Podcast on "Hope."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Being "OTHER CENTERED" during Lent @ STM

This week we began the first full week of Lent and so it would be helpful to reflect on Lent and how we live it out at STM. Last week at our Ash Wednesday All School Mass, Fr. Hoelscher presented the three spiritual practices of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving during Lent through the “lens” of relationship and how we can foster our relationship with Our Father in Heaven and those around us on Earth. These challenges then allow us to be “other-centered.”

What does this mean? OTHER-CENTERED is a virtue (***quick reminder - a good habit)***, which means to have “the strength to attend to the needs of others.” With our culture and society so very much focused on each individual self, it can be difficult not to stay off of our phones, spend hours gaming or watching Netflix, or staying “plugged in” to our own world and not think of others. These practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving allow us then to be “other-centered” by connecting with our family, friends, classmates, teammates, teachers, etc. in a way where we share our own human experience with them. At STM we strive to live this out as a “Saber Family” and that is one of the goals of bringing the House Community System to STM.

The House System seeks to form and nurture bonds among the students and staff of a school to create an atmosphere that is not self-centered, but other centered. Our students and staff will get to know students on a much more deeper and personal level by building a small “family” or house within STM that they can look to for support, guidance, encouragement, inspiration, hope, faith, and love. The students who were our “house leaders” on our trip to visit St. James all saw this at St. James and are excited for this to happen at STM as many echoed these same words from one of our Sabers: “SJA is a very special school. Everyone there makes it feel like one, big family. They made us apart their family when we were there. There was a very loving atmosphere at school and everyone looked like they wanted to be there. It was something that they enjoyed waking up to every morning. They found a way to make school very fun for the students through the house system. I really want STM to be an even better school for the students after me, and I definitely think that is possible for us to do.”

Let us this Lent see how our lives at home and at STM are in continuous relationships with others whether it be our family, friends, classmates, or our teammates. We can ruin our lives by being self-centered and ultimately fill our lives with excitement and joy when we live with an OTHER-CENTERED purpose and outlook.
“Lord, You were the most OTHER-CENTERED person who ever lived. You came to Earth for others, You worked, prayed, and sacrificed for others. You even gave Your life for others: for us, all of us, for me. Give us the strength to be OTHER-CENTERED like You. To play, sweat, work and strive for each other without worrying about ourselves.”

Don’t forget to join the STM Lenten Challenge!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

STM Lenten Challenge

Today we begin the Church Season of Lent with Ash Wednesday as we enter into a 40 day journey of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to prepare for Jesus' Passion, Death, and Resurrection. What is the significance of this though?

“What is Lent?”
“Lent is an extended period of time during which the Church prepares herself to celebrate the great mysteries of Holy Week. During Holy Week, the Church recalls the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and celebrates the startling revelation of his Resurrection from the dead. The culmination of Holy Week is presented in three days of intense prayer and worship; Holy Thursday (the Church commemorates the gift of the Blessed Sacrament and the priesthood); Good Friday (the Church mourns the death of the Lord Jesus, but also celebrates the event of Christ’s death as fulfillment of the Incarnation) and with the ritually evocative vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, the Church marks and remembers the joyous and startling revelation of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The day of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, commemorated with the vigil on Holy Saturday and at the Masses on Sunday, is popularly known as Easter."
From Fr. Steve Grunow on "How to get ready for Lent"

How are we entering into the Lenten Season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving at the High School of St. Thomas More? During this 40 day journey, we are embarking on an STM Lenten Challenge!

Please prayerfully consider joining The High School of St. Thomas More’s Lenten Challenge during the upcoming Liturgical season of Lent leading up the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.

The High School of St. Thomas More is at a pivotal moment in her young history as we move forward in our 17th year. You are invited to prayerfully discern your positive impact on STM’s history.

To do this we are asking you to join us in the STM Lenten Challenge. During Lent, the Church practices three “ways”of the Spiritual Life to grow closer to the Lord: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. You can participate in this challenge in one of the three ways:

St. Thomas More’s Memorare Army will pray the Memorare 5 times each day from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, for a total of 230 Memorare per person.  In this prayer we seek Mary’s intercession in raising up the future of STM to her Son, as we pray that “never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was unaided.”

St. Thomas More’s Fasting Friends will fast or abstain as an offering for the future of STM.  Many of us will give up soda, sweets, or some other “delight” during Lent as a reminder that our true
fulfillment comes from the Lord. Fasting doesn’t have to be about food, though.  We offer a creative list of fasting/feasting options.  

St. Thomas More’s Almsgiving Allies will offer the sacrifices of small (or large) delights and donate alms for the advancement of STM. For example, our daily coffee at Dunkin Donuts or our ice cream from Custard Cup will be offered up for the good of STM.  It just makes “cents.”   

We ask our STM Family of Parents, Students, and Staff to join us in this STM Lenten Challenge as we grow closer in solidarity and ask the Lord's guidance over our future throughout this Lenten season. Our goal is to have over 200 participants in our Lenten Challenge from our STM Family. As Lent is a time to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ Passion, Death and ultimately His Resurrection, this time can also be a time to prepare ourselves for the great things the Lord has planned for STM.  United in prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a family, we are stronger.

Want to join us in this Lenten Challenge? You can go to the STM Lenten Challenge on the STM Website and sign up for one of or all of the challenges. We pray that this time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving would bear great fruit for you and for the High School as we are reminded of our need for the Lord and prepare for His Passion, Death, and Resurrection at Easter.