By Sister Odilia Korenek, CEO
“At first it seems odd to take notes on our own thoughts and words. We have a strange conceit that just because we have thought or said something, we understand what it means!” So wrote Parker Palmer in his book A Hidden Wholeness. In fact, he says that the inner teacher who lives in each of us says that if we don’t record them, later we may well misinterpret, forget or even deny our own thoughts as life continues to flow over us.
I’m finding this to be my dilemma now as I am tasked with writing an update of BSA’s past year. As I sit in the doldrums of my mind, I realize that, at least, I have my calendar to remind me of our past year. So I turn back to December 2012, only to be reminded that as I was leaving Victoria back then, I placed my large 6 year calendar on the hood of the truck before I took off for San Antonio. I left the city limits of Victoria and was buzzing along toward Goliad engrossed in listening to an audio book I had selected the week before at our Mission Library in San Antonio. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I began to see sheets of paper flying. In the rearview mirror I saw the car behind me run over and crunch my beloved calendar. To the left of me I saw said calendar flying sheet by sheet over the fence into a pasture recently vacated of cattle. I pulled over, ran into the road to retrieve the spine of my calendar and then darted over the other lane, climbed through the fence and began collecting the loose pages which held the record of 6 years of my past and future.
Now as I position myself to review the past year, I’m wondering how inspirational calendar tidbits can be? I read: Probation to rake leaves, call Patsy Torres, send in Birdies pledges, Corporate Board meeting at 10:00 am, send bills to Venturity for payment, Christmas breakfast for staff at 7:00 am, Faith Sharing, CDC Christmas party, etc. Still wondering, I thank God for these tidbits and turn the page to 2013.
The richness of life lived on our campus continues to greet me. For instance, the Cultural Friendship Exchange Program reminds me of the bus which shows up each month. One month it comes empty and picks up our K4’s and transports them to the Jewish Family Service headquarters where the children from BSA, JCC and from the Carmelite child care center interact – learning about Hanukkah, singing the dreidel song, sharing foods like latke. On alternating months the bus shows up at BSA with JCC children and we host some of our diversity. For instance, on Cinco de Mayo the children make corn tortillas together. The year unfolds with special days determining the shared learning. Teachers from these centers attend a yearly Diversity Training Conference to help them implement diversity in their classrooms. This experience and training makes a huge difference in how our children will treat others who are different from them in ways their minds don’t understand yet. Their hearts are being primed to be inclusive, caring, empathic. Thus, respectful and responsible behaviors are more likely to follow as they grow into adulthood.
On another level, the Mission Road Collaborative pulls together the groups in our neighborhood whose mission is to provide strong supportive services and a caring environment for children who do not experience this consistently in their families. Blessed Sacrament Academy Child Development Center, Parents’ Academy, Seton Home, Jewish Family Service, Por Vida Academy, St. Peter St. Joseph Home meet 8 times a year to share ideas, programs and look for ways of collaborating among our agencies. We share workshops, pertinent information regarding the clientele we serve, possible solutions to situations confronting us and just some strong good-will along our Corridor of Care. In October of each year we celebrate Neighborhood night out, drawing together the community with music, food, notices of available services in our area and a giant rummage sale. The front of BSA is full of the neighborhood. “I like this better than Fiesta,” one of these neighbors said. When asked why, he responded simply, “there is no fighting.” It’s sort of sad and absolutely wonderful at the same time.
Our strong parenting program continues to draw significant funding from the Kronkosky Foundation for Precious Minds New Connections which offers training for parents and foster parents of families who have 0-3 year old children in their care.
Parents’ Academy extends training to families who care for children aged 4 years through teens. Year after year Parents’ Academy continues to support parents and guardians in their huge task of raising healthy children in an increasingly healthy family. Both programs offer an evening meal and child care so that parents can relax into learning at least one night a week.
Our outstanding Child Development Center is looking for ways to increase enrollment. San Antonio’s K4 Initiative has impinged a bit on our attendance as has a slower economy. We are grateful to those who partner with us in this ministry which strives to make it unnecessary for children, teens and families to fall through the protective nets of society. As the waiting list at Haven for Hope grows, we are being asked to enroll the children of parents who have no steady place to live. Wondering if anyone reading this has some idea of how to bring this to reality? We have the clothing issue covered. Funding is another thing entirely.
I check my calendar for another dose of inspiration. “We are the body of Christ” my calendar reminds me. The topic of our May 2013 retreat startles me as I recognize how fitting this understanding is at this juncture of thought and time. I add a prayer of gratitude for Valero Energy, Corp., the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament and many other donors who keep us flush with ministry as God continues to invite us to build the reign of God in this world.
Despite some financial hits, Por Vida Academy continues to be faithful to the students who call forth the courage and compassion of their teachers. Graduations in our two Corpus Christi campuses and one San Antonio campus continue to give opportunity to young people who had gotten off track. Once they see the path, they make some pretty steady progress. The rite of transition curriculum takes students through a 10 part curriculum in a well-defined movement from aimlessness and destruction to hope and confidence. Joven Noble (Noble Youth) for young men and Xinachtli (germinating seed) for young women is turning our students toward the path of hope, respect and responsibility. It’s easy to spot these young people on our campus these days.
PVA is working toward having Bingo and a couple of other fundraisers to make it possible for us to retain the staff needed for a variety of specialized programs and classes. One of these activities is teaching academics using the Ropes Course. PVA has had success in the Math area using the Ropes concept.
As I round out the calendar year, my attention is called to a statement at the top of the November pages. It says “God, grant me the courage to face my strength.” It came from one of our Directors during our weekly Prayer Circle. It meets me face to face with its challenge. It reminds me that walking away from God’s strength in me is a great disservice to those we serve, to ourselves and to God even – who waits as a beggar for us to say yes to his invitation to serve. God hands out big dollops of strength and love. It’s up to us to reach out and take the whole offering and use it as we walk in service among each other each day.
Blessings for a coming year of new insights, of courage and of walking in strength.