When representatives of the Nativity Network, the Lasallian Association of Miguel Schools (LAMS), and the Foundation for NativityMiguel Schools met in Washington, DC in 2006 to discuss the merger of all three organizations into one unified network, there was extensive conversation about the name by which this network of schools would be known. The school leaders who had assembled brainstormed a full whiteboard of possible names. While ultimately it was decided that NativityMiguel was an established brand with name recognition across the country, there was one other name that had gained considerable traction: Resurrection Schools. While we remain the NativityMiguel Coalition, Resurrection does capture who we are and what we are all about.
Good Friday is the worldview for so many of our students who live in communities often marked by violence and death. The scenes that too often play out in these neighborhoods mirror the crucifixion story – depravity, persecution, scourge, hopelessness. In the last few months, several school leaders have conveyed stories of students who have lost family members to an act of violence, of violent situations that have erupted on the block where the school is located, and of graduates that have become entangled in violent situations with tragic consequences. Unfortunately many of our students feel as if the world is against them and that they have been abandoned. While this sentiment may be typical for adolescents from all socio-economic backgrounds, for students living in impoverished neighborhoods branded by empty lots and boarded up houses, drugs and gangs, or by adults who are either not working or working two or three jobs and just getting by, it is easy to see how they think that they have been forsaken by America’s opportunity and that they are destined for hardship and poverty no matter what they do.
In the midst of the sadness and solemnness of Good Friday, there are moments in the crucifixion story that hint of what is to come – the supportive presence of family, the gentle act of compassion of a woman who wipes Jesus face, the help that Simon provides with a heavy cross, the resiliency of Jesus to get up again even when he keeps falling. Moments like these are found each day in our schools, families and communities, and these small gestures are meaningful in shaping how our students see the world and their purpose in the world. If Good Friday is your worldview, how do you awaken your mind and heart to the glimpses of light in your life? How do you embrace love rather than betrayal? How do you focus on liberation rather than oppression? How do you give yourself to life rather than death? One of our principals said that when the school asked a group of students to rewrite the mission statement for the school they removed identifiers like ‘low-income’ and ‘at-risk’ and opted to focus on the opportunities that the mission affords. This mindset does not excuse, dismiss or avoid the reality in which our students live, rather it is a conscious and intentional decision to focus on the positive assets and strengths in their lives and to trust in the possibilities of what lies ahead.
Good Friday leads to the intense glory of Easter Sunday when the rock before the tomb has been rolled away giving way to new life. The mission of our schools is built on the movement from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection. Even in the deepest poverty and despair, the Resurrection deepens our faith that the sacrifices of today will yield a new reality tomorrow. While hope in the abundance of new life is conveyed in many stories and in many images of the spring season, Jesus’ Resurrection reinforces that our transformation is much greater than our self. This is core to our schools in two ways: First, our schools believe that the glory of this new life is intended for a purpose, meaning, and reason much greater than we will ever know. While we are overjoyed at the growth of a single student, it is the selfless contribution that each student will make to the community and world that truly embodies the beauty and power of the Resurrection in our educational mission. Secondly, and most distinctly, our schools believe that God is present throughout, opening eyes, hearts and minds to be fully aware to a spirit that grants the wisdom and courage to push beyond what we ever thought was possible.