Since I have come to Douglas, I have noticed a very different philosophy. Douglas is in a different Diocese from Phoenix. There is nothing overt that I can really point out. It just seems that there is more of an acceptance of differences in people and all of God's children.
I have said before that I thought the emotional part would be leaving the wonderful school I had been at with the great staff, families, and children. And it has been. However, being down here in Douglas has also been very emotional. I have posted about that before. But it has also been a spiritual experience for me.
When I first got arrived in Douglas, I received an email from Sister Ann Patrice. She was the principal of Loretto School when I went there over 45 years ago. I thought the world of her and had kept in touch sporadically over the years. Her email said:
Art Atonna and Jerry Reidy very kindly let me know about your new position in Douglas Public Schools.
Congratulations on your new appointment! I am confident that you will fulfill this new challenge with wisdom, courage, and grace. Your generosity in leaving what I understand to be a comfortable and secure position to accept one that will have unique challenges, confirms in my mind that you have what it takes to make a difference in the lives of our children and families on the border. Most of all, your faith will be your firm foundation. God's children--and we all are that--deserve caring and effective leadership, which I know you will exhibit. I still have very fond memories of Loretto and the people of Douglas.
Sheila, I promise my prayers for you. Moreover, I will place your name in the Book of Intentions in St. Catherine Chapel here at our Adrian Dominican motherhouse. Please give my love to your family and save lots for you.
Peace, love and prayers,
S. Ann Patrice Remkus OP
I cannot explain how touched I was to receive this email from her. We have corresponded since and I feel privileged to have her in my life again.
Last week, my assistant superintendent and I went to the funeral of the husband of one of our district teachers. As we were driving down 15th Street, we passed St. Luke's Church which is the parish that our family has belonged to for over 55 years. The pastor was walking out with two other men. Bonnie, my assistant, said that one of the men was the Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson. She had met him when he came down to say the Funeral Mass for Rob Krentz, the rancher who was murdered down here last spring. The funeral mass was at the Douglas High School Gym and Bonnie was the principal of the high school at the time. We pulled over and went to talk to Bishop Kicanas and Father Gilbert. The Bishop remembered Bonnie. He was down here for the opening and dedication of an abused women's shelter that was just built here in Douglas.
So we took him and Father Gilbert on a tour of Douglas High School. The kids were so excited to see him and to see Bonnie. Staff members came up and introduced themselves. We went to a couple of classes and the high school students were incredible. We went to a culinary arts class and the Bishop told the students that he is a vegan and asked if they knew what that meant. They did. Right after that, we went to the special ed class with the more involved students. They also do some work with the culinary arts class. Several of the students knew Father Gilbert and were excited to see him. The kids were also glad to meet the Bishop. One student who had been drooling came over to say hi. His teacher wiped his mouth with a cloth and the Bishop walked over to him and shook his hand and talked to him!!
Needless to say, I was "blown away" by the whole experience. I called my Phoenix cousins to tell them about this and of course, called Teresa.
Today when I got to my office I had a card in my mail. It said, "Sheila, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to give me a chance to visit Douglas High School. Economic challenges have made your important job even more difficult. Our community needs strong educational leadership. Thanks for your service." Gerald Kicanas.
These two experiences have had a profound impact on me. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. I did not expect to see some of these reasons in quite this way. I feel blessed!
Yesterday when we took Cameron to Tucson after he spent the weekend here, we met Kerri, Judy, and our friends, Paula and Marty for dinner for Kerri's birthday. When Teresa and I left to drive back to Douglas, we saw the most beautiful rainbow with another one next to it that was faded just a bit. This rainbow was there for over an hour of our drive. It was so beautiful and I believe had a message.......