It is August and back to school time. This summer there was a 100-year celebration for the Cathedral of St Raymond Parish, where I attended school for eight years. I look back at my time attending the Cathedral of St Raymond School very fondly. I always loved learning and was excited to head off to school with my next door neighbor and friend, Tim Slattery. One of the big things was that I would be wearing a uniform. I remember shopping for my white blouse with the Peter Pan collar, red socks (only red), and plaid jumper. When I went to sixth grade, I transitioned from the jumper to a pleated skirt (and, again, red socks).
St. Ray’s was a special, magical place for learning, athletics, musicals, and weekly Mass. It was at St. Ray’s where my love of science began. I really enjoyed hands-on projects and our annual science fair was the foundation for my passion for STEM. I did a solar cooking project working with my friend Sue Stonelake. Yes, you can cook an egg through solar cooking! We set up the solar cooker on the driveway.
What was so great about heading to St. Ray’s each year was attending with my friends and the community that was established. My classmates were from the neighborhood and also the broader Joliet area. Our families had known each other for years and the bonds now continue with children and grandchildren. There is a strong connection to the past and focus on the future. Generations of families have stayed friends for many years. It is awesome to still have friendships with people I went to grade school such as Sue Ryan Runde who keeps us all connected and in the know, even many years later. Karen Barnes Condon has us laughing with her jokes, observations, and funny Facebook posts. The St Ray’s community supports each other during challenging times too, through illness, tornadoes, and job loss.
Back in June while visiting Joliet, I met Fr. Elizeo from Malawi in Central Africa, as he wrapped up his two year visit with St Ray’s community. He had spent the past two years with the Cathedral of St Raymond and participated with the parish and school. His message and the way he lives his life focused on the importance of empowering one another to do well and do good. He also helped students, families, and the community to understand more about Malawi and life for students in Africa. During his two years in the parish, he learned how to drive, cheered on the Cubs, and enjoyed Aurelio’s pizza, a local favorite.
These are dynamic times in our country and world. Lessons learned early in school carry over to day to day life. What can I do to help others? How may I serve? How do I live a life filled with compassion and gratitude? Last week, I volunteered with my ACT Center for Equity in Learning colleagues at a local food pantry whose mission is to engage our community in feeding and clothing our neighbors. I am grateful for my eight years at St. Rays and the legacy of education, community and kindness that I learned there.