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St. Luke Blog
The St. Luke Blog informs our community of news, shares different viewpoints, and provides a voice for our teachers and community. New entries will be shared each month in the Weekly Bulletin and on our website.
The Power of Prayer Intentions in the ClassroomPosted by Ellen Lipo on 5/31/2018
In some ways, I didn’t fully appreciate my own Catholic school education until I left. Growing up in Oak Park, I attended St. Giles, then went on to Oak Park-River Forest High School. My high school friends and I would talk about our grade school experiences and sharing stories of our educational and religious upbringings and backgrounds led me to reflect on my Catholic school education. I realized that the acts of my faith: praying, attending Mass, and participating in the sacraments, grounded me and brought me comfort and familiarity no matter where I was. Coming to work at a Catholic school was a bit like coming home. The same rituals I took for granted and participated in unthinkingly as a child, such as May Crowning, all-school Masses, and Lenten service projects, were something I got to experience with my own students. Reflecting on my Catholic educational experience and turning those memories into usable and relatable Religion class lessons has been a gift that I am grateful for.
One of my favorite parts of the day is prayer intentions. I told my 5th grade students this year something I heard during a grade school homily at St. Giles and have never forgotten. The parish priest told us during one weekday Mass that God cares about all aspects of our lives---the important, the mundane, the joyous and the sorrowful. He said that there was nothing too silly or unimportant to offer up to God, whether it’s a prayer for success in a soccer game or on a math test, a prayer for guidance to fix a fight with a friend, or a deeper prayer of distress or thanksgiving. I’ve found this advice so helpful and comforting, and it’s really helped me to grow in my own prayer life.
At least once or twice a week at the beginning of first period Religion class, I ask students to share any prayer intentions they have. Their intentions range from inane---I want to pray that my best friend steps up his video game skills---to heartfelt and compassionate: I want to pray for my recently widowed neighbor that she isn’t lonely. I want to pray for my brother’s success at his graduation. I want to pray that my mom isn’t too stressed by her new job. These prayer intentions help me to understand my students better and also show me another side to them that I don’t always see in the classroom.
My hope for my students as they continue on through their years of schooling is that wherever they go, they are able to relate their Catholic school experiences to the greater world, and even more, to use those experiences for good. Whether it’s a silent prayer upon seeing a breaking tragedy in the news, or being inspired into action by a past school theme to do small things with great love, my own prayer intention at the end of this school year is that by remembering the power of prayer and keeping in mind that we are one body in Christ, they will enrich and bring light to our world, in Christ’s image.
Ellen Lipo teaches 5thgrade at St. Luke School. She grew up in Oak Park and attended Catholic elementary school at St. Giles. In her free time, Ms. Lipo enjoys traveling, doing historical research, and exploring Chicago.
Being Fed...A Communion StoryPosted by Dorothy Zajac on 5/16/2018
I was preparing a special dessert with my three year old daughter, Julia. We were making ice cream. So much thought, so many ingredients, and preparation went into making this dessert that we would share as a family that evening. Reading through the list of ingredients, Julia helped place the perfect measure of each item into the mixing bowl. As we got closer to a finished bowlful of berry surprise, Julia became more and more excited. She just couldn’t wait!
Drifting off to sleep that night, I remembered the delight of my child as her finger glided through the ice cream, making its way into her eagerly awaiting mouth. I couldn’t help but make a connection between my daughter’s exhilaration and the children I would teach the following morning about God’s most abundant gift of feeding us in Holy Communion. I wondered, ‘How excited do I get about receiving Jesus in the Eucharist? What do I bring in my heart to the altar? How do I prepare for Jesus to feed me His life?’. I thought about the analogy of bringing a mixing bowl to the altar. Often times it is a bowl filled with my prayers of joy, sadness, or petitions. But I always know that Jesus will fill it with exactly what I need.
One of the many gifts of being a second grade teacher at St. Luke School is preparing and witnessing the children receiving their First Holy Communion. However, the preparation to help them understand the experience of Christ lived out in the Eucharist, begins long before second grade. It is within the family and throughout early childhood where children first experience God’s great love. Through tangible experiences and biblical stories of God’s generosity of creation, the child’s world is nurtured in God’s love. In second grade, we help the children understand how Jesus takes the ordinary gifts of creation - wheat and grapes - and uses them to institute the Eucharist with His disciples. We teach that when we celebrate Mass, we repeat the Last Supper, as Jesus commanded us to do…
When the hour came, he (Jesus) took his place at the table with the apostles...Then he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:14,19).
On the day of First Communion, I behold faces reflecting anxiousness and excitement. Then, in the very next, sacred moment, there is a look on the face of each child communicating, ‘My heart is filled’! To quote one of the second graders, “It feels wonderful when you make a new friend, it is the best day of my life.”
It is our hope as the St. Luke community, parents and teachers, that we will continue to bring our children to Holy Mass each Sunday, so together as families we will be fed the Body and Blood of Christ. As an integral part of our Catholic faith, we are blessed to receive this invitation to unite our lives with Christ to help us grow in holiness. We come together as a community to worship God, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I” (Matthew 18:20). The Holy Mass is our source to receive the spiritual gifts to strengthen our families. We are graced with virtues that help us to persevere when life moments may become overwhelming with challenges. In turn, we answer our personal call for conversion of our hearts to bring love and peace into our families and the world.
Let our children remind us with eager anticipation how to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. May we become as excited as a child who unreservedly glides her finger into the sweetness of a bowl of ice cream...because we just can’t wait to be fed!
Dorothy Zajac is a second grade teacher at St. Luke School and has been a part of the community since 2006. She holds a BA in elementary education with a specialization in Earth and Environmental Science from University of Illinois at Chicago and an MA in Reading, with a Reading Specialist, from Loyola University.
Her Catholic faith is a very important part of her life and she wants to share her enthusiasm with children. She is committed to helping children develop as a “whole” person not only intellectually but spiritually as well. She believes that every child has unique ways of learning and she helps children find those ‘best’ ways to learn. Mrs. Zajac wants her students to develop a love and enthusiasm for learning that will last a lifetime, and will allow them to develop the gifts that God gave them to use and share with the world.
Parenting in the Digital AgePosted by Claire Batherson on 4/19/2018
Children today are exposed to a different technological world than previous generations. When I was a child, homes didn’t have computers, tablets, or even cell phones for that matter. When kids had spare time, they either went outside to play or played board games inside with family or friends. If and when you went to a restaurant, you colored on the placemat or just sat quietly waiting for your meal. Car rides didn’t include videos or electronic games. The games I played on family trips in the car were Slug Bug and Count the Cows and I enjoyed it! We talked, laughed, teased, and had a great time. Truth is, I often miss those days.
Flash forward and many times in restaurants today, kids from age one on up are playing on tablets or smartphones. Kids in cars are either watching videos or playing video games. They don’t seem to be outside playing as much as they used to. They are inside playing video games with other kids (some that they may not even know). Yes, as a parent and now a grandparent, I understand that tablets, smartphones, computers, and video games keep kids entertained. It is easier to go out to eat with your child and sit them down with a tablet or game to keep them quiet. The same holds true for a car trip. And in this crazy world we live in, maybe it is safer for your child to stay inside where you can be sure they are safe. The problem that arises from this constant use of technology is that the art of communication within the family seems to be getting lost. Kids find it hard to know what it means to be patient and to wait for something. Even entertaining themselves when their electronic device fails or is taken away is often difficult for them.
With that being said, the digital age and everything that comes with it is here to stay. Today many young people have multiple social media accounts to which they are constantly posting comments and sharing pictures and with their friends. What happens when their accounts get hacked? What if they fall for a phishing scam where they arecontacted by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure them into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords? These things are happening on a regular basis and our young people may not recognize when it is happening to them. All of the sudden their personal information is out there for everyone to see and their identity may be stolen.So now how do you keep your child safe in the digital world? It’s not easy.
Here at St. Luke School, our students participate in digital citizenship training through the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship program required by the Archdiocese. Through this program, they get the basics of how to stay safe when they are online, how to protect their privacy and know what information is ok to give out and what is not, and how to recognize and refrain from cyberbullying and how to stand up for those who are bullied. The students are monitored while using the internet here at school but when they leave it becomes the responsibility of the parent to continue to monitor and guide their children to be responsible digital citizens. As a parent, this is a huge task. There are ways for parents to help their children navigate the digital world safely. You can develop a contract between you and your child on the responsibilities they have when using digital media. Monitor their media usage. Discuss what is private information that they should not share. Set aside family time where everyone is “offline”. Keep cell phones and computers out of bedrooms. Know what they are doing and who they are communicating with.
I have several links on my website to guide you through this digital age. Please take the time to look at them in the ‘Links & Resources’ section of my teacher pages. Sometimes the digital world can be more dangerous than the real one and parents need to know how to keep their children safe. As the boy scout motto states: ALWAYS BE PREPARED.
Mercy That LovesPosted by Kitti McSorley on 3/29/2018
In my role at school as a catechist, one of my greatest honors is faith-building through the richness and beauty of the parables - and one of my favorite parables to share is ‘The Good Samaritan.’
The following is a simple Lenten reflection on the beauty of the Body of Christ as it is shared with, and from, the youngest of our children at St. Luke.
I asked the children to place their hands on their heart every time they could feel their heart beat as they heard an act of God’s love in 'The Good Samaritan'. I found seven, and so did the children!
They heard each one:
- They heard that it was the Samaritan who stopped to help
- Who cleaned the injured man’s wounds and put ‘band aids’ on them
- Put the injured man on his donkey as he walked alongside
- Took him to the inn
- Stayed up all night with the wounded man
- Paid the inn keeper for the night’s stay
- Gave the innkeeper more money for the man to stay longer to heal
I watched with great joy as the children’s arms and hands reach so beautifully for their hearts. This action told me that they had become a part of this parable - the happy parts and the sad parts, as well! Then two remarkable questions were asked of me by the children.
The first question: "Why didn’t the holy man help?" (I thought to myself, what a beautiful teachable moment of God’s mercy that loves!)
They said, “The parable does not tell us why the holy man did not stop to help. It is very sad that he did not stop to help the injured man! I would like to think that when the holy man went to bed that night, he felt badly for not helping. But I also like to imagine that he probably asked God to forgive him.”
So I asked, “How do you think God was feeling about the holy man not helping?”
Their response was “God still loved him.”
The children understood an act of God’s perfect love through God’s forgiveness and mercy. They made a connection of knowing holy men as a good man for God - to something that didn’t make sense to them - to an understanding of God’s abundant love, forgiveness and mercy. WOW!
The second question: "Wasn’t he (the Samaritan) tired staying up all night?"
I love this question as it's a perfect segue into God’s love flowing through their parents.
The children would come to understand what sacrifice means. They connected their lives to the Samaritan who stayed up all night taking care of the injured man to their parents who stayed up all night with them caring for them when they were sick, maybe throwing up in the middle of the night - washing sheets, comforting them. The children understood that this was a sacrifice. They connected the deep love of their parents to God’s love for them. Through each of their questions, the children’s understanding of God’s perfect love is anchored in a concrete experience of their own lives.
The beloved Samaritan got involved and showed us how to be ‘little Christs’, demonstrating a mercy that loves. As we move forward seeking new ways to bring our children closer to God, we join with our parents who are their first teachers to share a lifetime of parables.
Kitti McSorley has served at St. Luke for more than 24 years in a variety of roles. She was a second grade teacher for almost 20 years and now serves as the Director of Faith Formation while also leading Enrichment Programs for students in grades one through three. Mrs. McSorley loves that St. Luke’s Partner Program brings younger and older students together for Mass, prayer services, and other activities giving them the opportunity to identify with, and care for, others besides their peers. She also enjoys the freedom of guiding children to use prayer as a means of resolving conflicts.
How Prayer Centers Me as a Teacher and Allows Me to See Students in a New LightPosted by Minnie Glosniak on 2/8/2018 8:00:00 AM
I recently had an open conversation about the power of prayer with the junior high students. This conversation was sparked when we were watching a documentary about the civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a migrant farm worker in California during the late 1960’s. Chavez, the son of migrant farm workers himself, led the fight to unionize grape pickers as an adult. Chavez had gained national attention when he led his fellow migrant workers on a 300-mile walk or “pilgrimage” from Delano to Sacramento, California. The strikers carried picket signs, union signs, and a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their journey. Farm workers were fighting for better wages, better living conditions, education for children and union representation. Chavez would always lead his meetings with prayer. Prayer became habit for these migrant workers and their struggle for justice.
And so, began the conversation about daily prayer, the power of prayer and how many of us make prayer a daily habit?
But the question still remained: How many students made daily prayer a habit outside of school?
Prayer has centered me as a teacher
It is customary for all students to pray daily in Spanish class. But the real question at hand was: Do you talk to God and open up your heart to God through prayer? I must confess that I am extremely lucky to be able to pray in class with all my students. Prayer is practiced before class starts, before a meal, and at the end of our busy school day. The daily habit of prayer has kept me centered as a teacher because it reminds me of the importance of keeping an open dialogue with God, seeking strength to do His will, and being thankful for all that I have.
Through daily prayer in Spanish, I am able to pray with my students and share the wonders of prayer. I am able to lead by example and guide students and help them see that they are able to strengthen their personal relationship with God.
An epiphany came over me
Since I pray the Holy Rosary, why not introduce the power of prayer to my students through a lesson on how to pray the Holy Rosary in Spanish? And so it began. Our latest lesson was the introduction of the Holy Rosary and all the steps of praying the rosary in Spanish. It is God’s will for His children to rejoice in Him, to pray to Him and to give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
To pray without pause means that we, as Catholics, should make daily prayer a habit and never stop doing so. As followers of Jesus Christ, prayer is the best way to communicate with God and a great way to keep a personal dialogue with Him.
-Daily Prayer is an opportunity for students to show their gratitude to their loving God for all things.
-Daily Prayer also presents us with the opportunity to repent for our sins and ask our loving Lord for forgiveness and the strength to do His will.
-Daily Prayer is also an act of worship to our Lord and most importantly, a reminder of who is in control of our lives and to bring our concerns to Him. Jeremiah 33:3
Seeing students in a new light
Recently, junior high students learned the steps of praying the Holy Rosary in Spanish. With my guidance, we paused and talked about the effects that prayer has in our lives. Some students said that they pray in silence before a game. Some prayed for wisdom before a test. Others pray for guidance when dealing with personal obstacles. Some students revealed they pray before every meal with family.
While students were sharing their personal reflections, I noticed that many of them were speaking from the heart; they spoke with such reverence that it convinced me that they too were feeling the power of the Holy Spirit!
While praying the rosary, I observed many students taking a silent pause and reflecting. Others closed their eyes and held the rosary closer while praying. Some students that normally have a hard time focusing during normal Spanish lessons I found to be in complete contemplation.
I then saw the power of prayer
Prayer seemed like a powerful meditation for some students in that it became a personal process for them. This personal process and the powerful force of prayer helps us learn more about God and what plans He has for us.
Minerva Glosniak teaches Spanish to students in grades one through eight at St. Luke School. Ms. Glosniak began teaching Spanish at St. Luke in 2016. She graduated with honors from University of Illinois at Chicago with degrees in Spanish Language & Literature and Latin American & Latino Studies and a minor in Linguistics.