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The Power of Prayer Intentions in the Classroom
Posted 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.