There is obviously a shared vision of wanting the school to flourish. I think it would be fair to say that there is a burning desire within the hearts of the people to see this school thrive beyond imagination. The energy behind this shared vision is immense, and the success of the dinner-auction clearly demonstrates that level of energy. One person after another said to me, "Let me know how I can help." The level of commitment that stands behind the energy is equally impressive. Lastly, I repeatedly heard words of hopefulness while I was there. This is not to ignore the concerns that are present as well. It simply lets me know that we have much good to build upon while we address the concerns and uncertainties that some people are feeling.
After a day of travel on Sunday, and spending the evening having dinner with the priests of Council Bluffs, I went to bed a little road-weary at the end of the 16 hour day. However, my excitement was already beginning to build. Visiting with the priests of the area was a real blessing. These are some good men striving to serve their people well. I am looking forward to working with them in a variety of ways as we minister to God's people.
Monday's schedule went from 7:00 A.M. until almost 8:00 P.M. The 13 hour day was pretty much non-stop, but it was a magnificent day. I met a lot of people. I am honored to soon be part of this wonderful school community. The potential is huge. I am eagerly awaiting to see how God moves in our midst as we go through the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Please know of my gratitude to everyone who has sacrificed in so many ways throughout the half-century of the school's existence to make this institution a beacon of light and hope.
I will admit that I had a hard time sleeping Monday night. My head was spinning with new information, new ideas, and a burning excitement for what lies ahead. With only a few hours of sleep, it was time to head to the airport in Omaha early Tuesday morning. I made it through the short security line just after 5:30 A.M. The plane was sitting at the gate for our 7:05 departure and I thought all was well with the travel industry. Unfortunately, mechanical problems delayed departure to the point that I knew I was going to miss my connecting flight in Atlanta. After sitting in the airport and on airplanes from 5:30 A.M. to well into the afternoon, I finally arrived home. Was I tired? Yes, indeed. Was the trip worth it? Absolutely!
There were many people doing things behind the scenes to make Monday a successful day. I know my brief sketch here won't include everyone who deserves a word of thanks, but I do want to highlight a few folks.
Dr. Tracy Bonday, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Des Moines, has been extremely helpful in orchestrating many of the details connected with this transition. I am appreciative of her diligence and expertise on many different levels.
I am grateful to Bishop Pates for picking me up at the airport in Des Moines on Sunday. We were able to enjoy some windshield time together as we made our way from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. This allowed for some meaningful discussions about the diocese in general and the Council Bluffs area in particular. The bishop's knowledge of the area was evident as he explained a variety of things as we drove through Council Bluffs.
I am grateful that the new leadership team was able to join me for the entire day. It was our first time to be together and it was a productive day for each of us. Thanks to each of you for your willingness to give of your time so generously.
Everyone involved in preparing for the all-school Mass deserves a round of applause. Turning a gymnasium into a worship space is always a bit of a challenge. You did it well. Obviously, you have had some practice at it. Thank you to everyone involved in setting up the sound system, the risers for the choir, the altar, the ambo, the projector and screen, and all the vessels and books needed for Mass.
I have to give a special tip of the cap to the choir at Mass. You did a marvelous job. You truly helped us to pray more fully. Thanks to the choir director and piano accompanist as well. You have prepared the students well. (By the way, who moves the piano back and forth?)
It was impressive to observe the way the students conducted themselves all throughout the day. Even though it was a "dress-down" day for some, behavior was still respectful and courteous. A tip of the cap needs to be given to the parents and grandparents too. These young men and women (upper class students) have been formed well in many ways. I always appreciate when a young person shakes my hand and looks me in the eye as he/she does so. These types of simple skills will reap big rewards in college interviews, job interviews, and a multitude of other settings. Many of the students have these basic skills firmly in place. That is awesome!
The little children always bring energy and enthusiasm. It is uplifting to see the look of joy in a child's face. Jesus knew what he was doing when he said, "Let the children come to me."
To everyone involved in organizing the various receptions throughout the day--thank you. This provided me an opportunity to visit with many different groups in a single day. I know events like this do not just happen on their own. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in the details of each event.
I want to give a special "shout-out" to the Foundation Board for setting up the evening reception off campus. It touched my heart to see how many people took the time to just stop in to introduce themselves. While it took me two and a half hours to finally visit with the last of the guests, the board members patiently waited even though I ran the event thirty minutes longer than scheduled. Thank you for setting up the event and marketing it in such a way that you generated a tremendous turn-out. It was a beautiful evening.
It is now time to shift gears back into my current role. I still have a couple of exciting events on the horizon here as well. On Saturday, I have the privilege of being the keynote speaker for the Beaufort Deanery Catechist Appreciation Celebration in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Then, on Sunday, I will be the keynote speaker at a Knights of Columbus gathering at the Port Royal Country Club here on Hilton Head Island. We are also working on transitions on this end as well. It is my hope to have a smooth transition as I hand over the reigns here at St. Francis by the Sea to a very capable and outstanding individual.
"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever."