Jay Bowes led the founding of St. Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven, CT in 2005 and served as Executive Director until 2011. At our Regional PD Day in Hartford, CT last Friday, Jay reflected on the last ten years and what he has learned to be essential to our educational mission and design:
“The spiritual development of our entire school community, including families, donors, volunteers and board members as well as our students and staff, is foundational to our shared mission. If we are to actually be faith-based schools, we need to create an environment in which God’s presence permeates every aspect of our school community.
When we focus on the spiritual development of our entire school community, our goal is to bring an awareness of God’s presence to all elements that make our school whole:
- Our schools learn about God by being given opportunities to experience God in themselves and in their lives. Being experiential learners, they come to know a more personal God who is present within them as well as around them and calls them to serve others.
- If we as teachers and staff are to be the educators and models for our students, we too need spiritual enrichment if we are to fulfill our mission.
- And our parents, board members and volunteers must be aware of and be part of the spiritual environment that we strive to create.
Isn’t that what we hope to be in our faith-based schools?
If so, is my spiritual development a priority of our mission in your school and my school?
Is there a conscious awareness of that spiritual richness in the daily experience of our students and staff within the classroom and without, at our board meetings and in times with our families?
The responses to these questions are at the core of our mission as NativityMiguel Schools. And they need to be addressed by the teachers who impact and nurture our kids each day, by the administrators whose policy decisions guide and direct our program, and by the board members who oversee our adherence to that mission.
There is a very profound quote from the Jesuit theologian and scientist, Teillard de Chardin that puts our spiritual development and our ministry at our schools into perspective:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Whether we accept it or believe it, we are spiritual beings – we are one with our God, the God who is love. And so, God’s love is within us and we strive to have that love be present in all that we say and do. It is our power of love that transforms the lives of our kids! And it is that power of love that makes our schools unique because we are grounded in a belief that we are not alone in fulfilling our mission. God is with us in all that we do!
Do you and I truly believe in and trust that we are spiritual beings, filled with that presence of God’s love?
Do you and I believe that our love can truly transform lives?
Do you and I truly experience God’s presence in the daily happenings, often the daily grind, of our school day?
You will probably never levitate or walk on water. Like me, you would probably say that your list of faults and imperfections is quite long. But trust me, the power of God’s love is within you and me. And if we could truly believe that and respond to the myriad circumstances that we face each day from that core of love within us, knowing that we are not alone, miracles will truly happen and we will recognize them for what they really are.
To function each day from that place of love, consciously believing in God’s presence with us, be it in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the budget meeting, or the parent meeting, creates an attitude of hope and trust that all will be well. It is a belief that will permeate our schools and positively impact every aspect of our mission from academics to fundraising to graduate support. Most importantly, it will permeate our kids and ground them in the reality of God’s love and presence in their lives and open them to being that loving presence for others. And they will know that they will never be alone. There is nothing more important to give our kids than that. It is the fertile ground for miracles to take place.
There is a brief reflection that I love that puts into perspective the power of faith in fulfilling our very challenging mission:
“When you have come to the edge of all the light you know; And are out to step off the cliff into the unknown; Faith is knowing that one of two things will happen; There will be something solid to stand on… Or … you will be taught how to fly.”
We metaphorically step off the cliff into the unknown every day we walk into our school. May we have the faith to trust in the power of God’s love and grace that is always present in ourselves and in our schools. And may we trust that when necessary we will be taught how to fly!