Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What we are Thankful for at STM

In reflecting on what we have experienced so far at STM this 2017-18 school year, we have been very blessed by the Lord in all the student and school accomplishments. The students and teachers/staff have embraced the mission of Catholic Education at STM in striving to give God the glory in all we do in and out of the classroom. We must then say thank you to all of our students, teachers, coaches, directors, and families for all of the hard work and dedication that has been put into the classroom, sports field, the stage, canvas, and our faith. We are truly grateful as well to all who are a part of the STM Family - alumni Sabers and families, GrandSabers, and benefactors. It does take a "pack to raise a Saber" and we would not be able to live our our mission to assist our families in the formation of our Sabers in becoming the people God made them to be without you! 

Check out the many ways that
The High School of Saint Thomas More has been blessed this school year already!

  • Volleyball won the first ever Class 2A State Championship in STM History
  • Girls Tennis won the first ever Sectional Championship in STM History
  • Girls Golf 4th place finish @ State; Sophomore Alaina Bowie placed 3rd as an individual
  • Girls Cross Country placed 10th; Sophomore Fran Hendrickson placed 5th in Class 1A
  • Boys Soccer broke every school program record on their way to the Sectional Championship
  • Senior Michael Lee was named a “Commended Student” in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program.
  • Senior Ethan Smith for being named a semi-finalist at the 24th Annual Millikin Vocal Festival and sang the National Anthem at the State Championship Volleyball Game
  • DAR & SAR Winners Maddie E and Michael Lee
  • 13 Seniors have scored 30 or above on the ACT with one as high as a 35
  • Over 30 Junior & Senior Students on the Fall LOGOS retreat
  • $1306 donated to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Houston TX for Hurricane Relief Fund
  • 4,442 canned goods were collected for the annual “CanStruction” House Competition and were donated to the local St. Vincent de Paul Society
  • Our Saber Showcase was a huge success as we had the highest number of performers and a record attendance
  • The Fall Concert - A Musical Portrait - had excellent performances from our choral and music students as they went with a creative new direction incorporating art into the musical production.
  • ILMEA - Michael Lee and Will Hoerner auditioned for the ILMEA District #3 Band - Michael Lee was success in his audition and was accepted into the District #3 Band
  • Students Earning academic letters (10th grade:  above 3.5; 11th grade:  above 3.25; 12th grade:  above 3.0; All grades:  NO grades D OR F)
    • Sophomores:  43% of class
    • Juniors:  53% of class
    • Seniors:  73% of class

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reflections from a State Volleyball Championship

What an amazing past two weeks! Our Girls Volleyball made school history not once, but twice as they won the first ever Sectional and State Championship for STM Volleyball. It was a lot of fun to watch the girls compete and work together to achieve their goals and dream of a state championship. It was also encouraging and a joy to see STM students, teachers, staff, families, and community come together to support the girls. In looking back on their historic season, let us reflect on three key ideas to see what we can learn and apply to our own lives.

Togetherness: Teamwork to make the DreamWork
"It's a really good group of girls...Most teams struggle with some drama being girls and kind of not getting along. With this team, we haven't had one problem this year. It's been a lot of fun playing with everyone...We've learned a lot this season, from skill-wise to team bonding...We've realized that without the chemistry, things don't go as well as planned." Senior Mica Allison

Their team motto for the year was “stronger together” and realized that they could only achieve their goals by working together this past season. They believed in and encouraged one another to strive for their best and each one stepped up to the challenge when their number was called. Their love for and trust in one another helped them to be stronger together in overcoming adversity and the many challenges a sports season can bring. This is a great example for us to see how working and coming together as one for a common goal and letting God show us the course that we can do remarkable things.

Setting Goals
"Knowing how far they went and how close we could have been to moving on, it was the realization that this is a possibility...Every year, we have five goals that we could possibly get. We've reached all of them that we could get to so far except for one. The dream of a state title is the new thing we added to the repertoire of the preseason discussion this year...The dream was to get to state...We're living the dream, and now we've just got to keep pushing forward." Coach Stan Bergman

When a captain sets sail he must know where the ship is headed and have a plan to get the ship to it’s destination. This vision and plan cannot be successful without setting goals that will help make the voyage a success by reaching the destination. In our own personal lives we make goals to help us keep our vision and focus on our dreams for our lives in becoming the person God made us to be. These goals help us to grow in our areas of expertise, leadership, virtue, and faith. In setting and working to achieve those goals, we make God’s dream for us a reality and what a joy it is when that happens! In the same way, many athletic teams set team goals for their year that they hope to accomplish so that they can keep their focus on the end dream in mind. This is very similar to the saints who kept their end goal of being with God in Heaven at the forefront of everything they did in their lives. The Volleyball team made their goals for the season and accomplished them along the way to fulfilling their dream of a state championship. Those goals would not have been possible to achieve had they not had the focus, determination, and togetherness to make them possible.

Letting go and letting God
"(I told them), 'Don't get caught up with the hype of everything...We've got to treat it like a match. It just happens to be a four-team tournament. We've just got to control our nerves, control what we can control on our side of the court, and the rest is up to God.'"

"I think (the start of the match) was a wakeup call," Allison said. "We've been put in that position before, and throughout the season we've been through a lot of matches like that, and it kind of prepared us for that moment. Even though it was a state championship game, we were like, 'We've got this, we'll come back.'"

"I wouldn't say we're all stressed out," STM senior Lucy Lux-Rulon said. "We're taking this as a gift, and we really value how far we've gotten."

Many times in life we can lose our cool because life takes an unexpected turn that we may not have been expecting or were not ready for. It is how we react in these moments that can either maintain or disturb our inner peace and freedom. This ability to “go with the flow” of life is really a deep and abiding trust in God’s Provident love for us. We can’t possibly plan out every detail of our life and so ultimately must look to Him for guidance and strength. The Lady Sabers realized this in those moments of adversity that they faced throughout the season especially in the crunch time and pressure of the postseason as every point could make or break a season.  There was and is a trust in one another that flowed from their trust in placing their season in God’s hands that no matter what happened they knew they were successful in His eyes. They could only control so much and the rest was in His hands and when we are able to do that we better have our seats buckled because sometimes the Lord can take us for quite a ride!

The volleyball season was quite a ride and a joy for all of us at STM to be a part of that ride that the Volleyball Team took us on. Congratulations ladies as we are proud of you! We hope to learn these lessons from the season and apply them to our own lives so that we can win the “championship” of the victory of Heaven. Of course this has already been won for us and all we have to do is get on God’s team!

"It's just a lot of fun, just knowing that I can be part of such a wonderful team, a very God-centered team," Coach Bergman said.

Quotes from the various articles:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Keeping our Focus in a Distracted World

On November 4th STM had its annual ABO Dinner to support our Athletic Programs in providing the resources for our student-athletes, coaches, and teams with the resources to help them grow in their skills and develop the teamwork needed to be successful through growth in virtue first and then “winning” follows. We were very fortunate to have bestselling author and international marketing consultant Tim Miles speak on “The stupid game of golf, moonwalking bears, and other butterfly effects.” One of the themes that Tim touched on is how we live in the most distracted  generation in the world from all of the noise and images that we take in each and every day from social media, advertising, music, speech, smartphones, media, tv, etc. In describing our distracted society, he spoke on how we tend to lose our direction and focus in life especially when we get “lost” in social media.

In a recent article “Decoding Social Media and Teen Suicide,” Archbishop Aquila of Denver describes the dangers that can come with social media and the distractions it can bring especially being distracted from whom I truly am and relationships with others. Oftentimes we can get lost in all the excitement and joys that we see on social media and get a false sense that everyone is so happy because of what is posted on various social media sites. The trap then becomes to reflect on one’s life and start to question why my life is not like that or I must not be happy because my life is not like those who post on social media. Archbishop Aquila states that “one theme that I see running through the stories of teens who struggle with suicidal thoughts is the pervasive influence of social media on their identity and sense of self-worth. The teenage years have always been a time of uncertainty, as physiological and emotional development takes place.” Recent studies have indicated that over 75% of teenagers today use social media on a daily basis and that a high school teenager will send and receive almost 4,000 text messages in a month.  Because teenagers are so “entrenched” into social media and technology then can become distracted and lose their direction in life, which leads to them not knowing who they are and leading them down troubling times especially as we see the rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide in recent years. Our teenagers face many challenges and pressures in life and it seems that social media is not having a positive impact in helping them overcome those challenges, but seems to be fueling their distraction and causing them to veer away from their true direction in life.

The danger that this leads to is a loss of identity in knowing “who I am.” Archbishop Aquila describes the danger in this “ that we become convinced that our identity is found in how our peers and even strangers speak about us online. When a person’s relationships are so dependent upon online interactions and social standing in an anonymous environment, then one becomes an easy target for manipulation and lies.” When we lose our identity of who we are as a son or daughter of God, we start searching for anything that will “fill” us and give us a sense of purpose and these worldly goods will only satisfy for a short time and can lead to addiction, anxiety, etc. What we at the High School of Saint Thomas More strive to do is to help our students know who they are as sons and daughters of God as their true identity. Through daily interactions in the classroom, hallway, teams, clubs, house, etc. our students are “plugged” into relationships with others that seeks to build them up as human beings. Our teachers and staff see that goodness in our students and hope to bring that goodness to the forefront for our students to know who they truly are. In helping our students experience these positive relationships we can “bring our experience of encountering Jesus’ love in prayer, the sacraments, and authentic community with others to those who are awash in the digital realm.” As we grow our Family System, this authentic community will continue to grow at STM to help all of our Sabers be connected to one another.

As we seek to keep our focus and direction in life in our distracted world, Tim reminded us to keep our focus on our True North Star, which is Christ. When we keep our focus on Christ we have our identity as a son or daughter of God the Father and that is what truly matters most. Pope Francis has highlighted the need to have relationships with others and with the Lord.  “It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply ‘connected;’ connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness.” The saints have shown us this that their true identity is in Christ and not what other said about them or how they may be compared to others (another trap of social media). They engaged in true relationships with one another because they first had a relationship with Him who has loved us first (1 Jn 4:19). It is our patron Saint, Thomas More who can be an example and inspiration for us as he famously said:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Becoming Saints at STM

In his newest book “To Light a Fire on the Earth,” Bishop Robert Barron uses an analogy to explain a great spiritual principle of “to know thyself.” In knowing ourselves, we come to realize our human brokenness and need for God. This is a sign of great spiritual maturity on our path to becoming a Saint. “When you study the saints, you see this over and over again: the holiest people are paradoxically those who are most conscious of their sinfulness. Look at Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Augustine, or Therese of Lisieux - all spiritual masters- and you’ll find people who were painfully aware of how much they fall short of sanctity.”

As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints Day today on November 1st, it is a reminder that we are all called and are on the path to becoming saints. To be a saint is to be the person God created us to be in his image and likeness. What those saints knew about themselves is that their end goal of life was Heaven, but yet in walking that path they knew that they would often fall into the mud of sin. Especially at the High School of Saint Thomas More, we are reminded of this everyday as it our mission to help our students on this path of holiness. In guiding them on this path we hope to build them intellectually, morally, physically, and spiritually. Like those saints who have modeled and showed us that path of sanctity, even our students will sometimes fall on their path of holiness in many different ways. They are still coming into their own and understanding what that means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
In growing in this spiritual maturity they are still forming their conscious to help them make the moral decisions that help them to become the best version of themselves. They will fall into the “mud” in their decision making whether that is through how they treat others at school, wasting time, misuse of God’s creation, use of social media, etc. However, it is our great responsibility and opportunity to help them in these times to pick them up when they fall. As much as we hope that our students at a Catholic High School would be perfect angels and saints, we know that in reality this is not always the case. We hope that our families have given them a firm foundation of faith in building the student’s morals and virtues so that we can assist those families in building our student’s spiritual maturity and decision making. We also have the opportunity to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation for our students. In the Sacrament they have the opportunity to experience the Lord’s love and mercy in picking them up and setting them back on that path to Him.

As Pope Benedict XVI once said  "they were sinners and they knew it, but they willingly ceased to gaze upon their own wounds and to gaze only upon the wounds of their Lord, so as to discover there the glory of the cross, to discover there the victory of life over death." In those times when our students may not make the right or best decision, we can help to pick them up and see that in those moments of failure we find victory. It is a moment of victory for our students because they have the opportunity to turn back to the light of God’s love and to let that light guide them on their path to holiness. What an amazing opportunity we have to look to the Saints on this All Saints Day as a model for our students because even the saints were once teenagers and many may have veered off the path at times, but with the grace of God found their way to him. We always hope and pray for our students as they continue to walk this path during their years at STM and beyond.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Drawing Strength in Failure

Sometimes what gets lost in our Catholic Christian Faith is that it is not all roses and Resurrection. The core message of the Gospel is that God became Man in His Son Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and rose from the grave three days later. That glorious and joyful moment of the Resurrection gives us hope for something greater in life. To get to that moment of Resurrection, Jesus as man experienced humanity in suffering especially in carrying and dying on the Cross. When life brings it’s crosses and challenges it can be daunting and overwhelming at times so much that we may not see a “way out.” In those moments we can look to Mary, who like Jesus, experienced all the range of human emotions and feelings while she walked right beside Jesus.

In the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, we can enter into those moments of Christ’s life where he experienced the utmost psychological, physical, and spiritual suffering. In the Agony of the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning of Thorns, Carrying the Cross, and the Crucifixion, Jesus fully enters into humanity and does not shy away from the suffering. He embraces it and takes it on. In meditating on these mysteries of the Rosary, we can ask for Mary’s intercession and strength to persevere in those same moments of anxiety and suffering. In “The Passion of the Christ” we see this as Mary is right there with Jesus throughout these difficult moments. In the movie, Mary is such a strong character that many of the other characters seem to draw strength and inspiration from her to endure what is taking place and happening to Jesus - even Jesus himself. What a great inspiration for us as well to know that we have our Mother to draw strength from even in those most difficult moments.

Recently, studies have shown that anxiety has become the main “obstacle” for teenagers and young adults over depression. These studies have indicated that some of the reason why teenagers and young adults face such anxiety is from the external pressures from social media and performance - classroom & extracurriculars. These young people feel the need to perform at a high level all the time and to “have it all” figured out as expectations for high grades, all-conference, scholarships, and happiness on social media, etc. can start to weigh heavily on them that they begin to feel they are not good enough if they don’t meet these expectations or expected achievements. When they start to experience “failure” or not live up to these expectations, they then begin to question their identity and who they are. As a Catholic High School, it is important for us to keep these things in perspective. We do hope that our students achieve at a high level in the classroom and competition, but most importantly to not let those external achievements define who they are. It is their identity in Christ as a son or daughter of God that we focus on building in them. It is our mission to help them grow in internal strength - virtue and character - in becoming the saint God made them to be.

Our students, families, teachers, coaches, and sponsors, etc. all can draw inspiration and strength from Mary who did not worry about the external achievements or even the “failure” of the Cross of her son Jesus, but on the much greater picture and great story of Salvation. May we have the STAMINA - the strength to do something for a long time - in those moments of failure to pick ourselves up and learn from them. Let us not be identified by our external achievements and performance, but on our spiritual growth of holiness and helping our students at STM on this path. This is not easy for us and it was not easy for Mary and Jesus during those Sorrowful moments of the mysteries of the Rosary. However, we can look to them through meditating and praying the Rosary to draw strength and inspiration to overcome and to know that we are good and loved in our Father’s eyes even in those moments of “failure.” It is in those moments that we learn to pick ourselves up and look to the Lord for the strength to find hope even in the darkest moments as St. Pope John Paul II said “From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.”

Lord, You showed heroic STAMINA as You carried Your cross, falling down three times but always getting up. Carrying a huge and heavy cross after you had been beaten and starved. Thank You for suffering so much for us, Lord. Please give us the strength to follow Your example.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Asking Mary to help us in Discipline

One of the toughest challenges in life is to be “disciplined” in all the things that we do. To have discipline is “the strength to be in control of oneself regardless of the circumstances.” Many of us take on a variety of challenges and opportunities for growth or service in life and it can be overwhelming at times. We feel stretched and thin by being pulled in many different directions and sometimes cannot seem to focus or do not even know where to begin. The virtue of discipline allows us then to discern in each moment what is most important and to be focused on that task, challenge, etc. that is present to us. In his book “Discipline Equals Freedom” former Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink describes how through discipline we are able to overcome and rise up to those challenges and opportunities we face in life.

As a Catholic School, it is our mission to assist our Saber Families in the formation of our students as a whole person, especially in their growth in virtue. We - teachers, staff, coaches, etc. and families - want what is best for our students and children. It can be tempting at times to “bail” them out of a situation that we either can foresee them failing or they may have already fallen. In reality, sometimes this is not always what is best for them. It is difficult to “detach” ourselves from the situation and to simply let our students go and attempt to solve their own challenges and life situations. In his book, Jocko Willink argues that sometimes by helping our students and children that we are actually “hurting them” because we are not allowing them the opportunity to grow and learn from those moments and gain the practice and skills needed to overcome life’s challenges. It is alright to allow them to fail, to do something incorrectly, or make mistakes, but most importantly afterwards then to help and let them learn from those times. We know that our students are not perfect and so we hope to guide them on their path of life even when they fall that we can be there to pick them up and help them start again. This is how we as Catholic Educators and Parents can model and show discipline for our students and children. We can show them to have the discipline in the moment to do what is right and most important in the present moment and that can happen in a variety of different ways: time management with classes and extracurricular, family vs. friend time, going to Mass on Sunday and taking time for prayer, etc.

In this month of October, we seek our Mother Mary’s intercession through the Rosary. In praying the Rosary we are showing discipline in being focused on the next Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, etc. in being present in meditating on each mystery of the Rosary. Mary shows us the discipline needed to live a life of holiness in doing God’s will in each present moment. Let us seek our Mother’s intercession to have the discipline needed in each moment that allows us to grow in holiness and to do the will of God each and every day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Rosary and Growing in Spiritual Maturity for our Seniors

In continuing our reflections on the Rosary during the month of the Rosary in October, it is always important to keep in perspective the purpose of the Rosary. As St. Pope John Paul II said “From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.” In two of the mysteries of the Rosary we hear Mary surrender to God’s will in all things when she says “let it be done unto me according to your Word” at the Annunciation and “do whatever He (Jesus) tells you” at the Wedding at Cana. In both of these mysteries, Mary is able to trust in God even when it may not seem very hopeful in those moments not knowing what is coming next. In praying and reflecting on the Rosary we too can learn and grow with Mary in spiritual maturity in putting our faith and trust in God in all things.

This week’s SportsLeader virtue focuses on “maturity,” which is the strength to correctly understand the relationship between privileges and responsibilities. This growth in maturity is one of the many joys that we at the High School of Saint Thomas More have in being able to see the maturity in our
students grow as they journey through their four years in high school. As our students go to their various classes learning about the various topics of the created world, participate in extracurricular and athletic programs, and grow in their faith, etc. their maturity grows in being able to order things rightly. In all of our lives it is important that like Mary, everything is ordered towards God’s will and knowing what is the right thing in every moment.

In Luke’s Gospel, he writes of the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary. In this story Martha is busily preparing for Jesus’ visit, while Mary goes and sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him. As the story goes Martha “let's Jesus have it” in asking Him to tell Mary to help her. Jesus responds that Mary has chosen rightly in putting the most important thing - being with Jesus - first. There is so much more we could talk about this passage, but what we see is that Mary’s spiritual maturity is deeper as she is able to correctly understand the right choice in that moment.

As a Catholic School we have that great responsibility and privilege to help our students grow in maturity from an intellectual, physical, spiritual, and moral maturity. We see how through their four year journey the students grow in all forms of maturity so that when they come to graduation they have come to a point where they are able to go out as Christ’s Disciples into the world in building up the kingdom. What are some of the ways that our Sabers grow in maturity?

  • Time Management Skills in balancing academics, extracurricular, social, family, and faith activities
  • Critical Thinking and Analysis/Understanding of the various topics they learn and being able to apply that to their own lives and to the world we live in
  • Leadership & Mentoring of their peers, underclassmen, teammates, etc.
  • Relationships with others in building up their friends to be the people God made them to be
  • Striving to grow in their faith and taking personal responsibility for their relationship with Christ

These are just some of the ways we see our Sabers grow in maturity during their time at STM. As our Senior Class of 2018 goes out on their Senior Retreat, we see how many of them have taken these steps of maturity in their own lives and have helped others to grow in their own maturity. A mark of leadership is the ability to help others grow and many of our Seniors have stepped up to that challenge in the classroom as House Leaders and in extracurriculars especially as captains on sports teams, etc. Let us pray for them on their retreat that it would be a day that allows them to open themselves to the Holy Spirit in taking that next step of maturity just as Mary let the Holy Spirit work through her in doing God’s will in her life.  Even though our seniors may not see what the next step in their journey of life will bring them, we know with Mary that they and all of us can grow in spiritual maturity in trusting in God’s will in every moment of our lives.