Count Your Blessings
Sister Ellen Rose Coughlin, SSJ
When I thought about this year’s Catholic Schools Week celebration, the lyrics to the song Count Your Blessings came to mind. When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings!
Join me in counting the blessings of our Catholic Schools. My list of blessings, by no means complete, includes principals, teachers, pastors, Family Support Coordinators, and families.
In this challenging and demanding time, I thank God for our principals. They provided painstaking, steadfast leadership in their schools beginning with the school closures in March and extending through the summer months as they developed and implemented school reopening plans that met the standards of the NYS Departments of Education and Health. Since September, when our schools were able to open for five days of in-school instruction, principals have carried on as academic leader, substitute teacher (when substitutes are unavailable) and safety protocol monitors. They are witnesses to faith and hope, pillars of encouragement and support for teachers, staff, students and families and steady, well-informed leaders in ever changing circumstances.
We are blessed with women and men committed to the total well-being of their students. Our teachers and staff are indispensable to the school community. While this has always been the case, in these times we acknowledge that without them, students would not experience the “safe haven” that the school provides, well planned instruction (both in-person and virtual) and attention to their social and emotional needs. Schools look different and operate differently. Yet, teachers and staff labor diligently to provide a stable, safe, and healthy environment where students can flourish academically and spiritually.
Family Support Coordinators are on my list of blessings. They strengthen the relationship between the school and its families so needed at this time. Particularly during the pandemic, they organize and implement outreach to families, support principals and teachers, assist with daily safety protocols and plan activities and events for students and families while maintaining safety requirements.
We count families among our blessings. They share with us what is most precious to them, their children. What a privilege to accompany parents in their responsibility to form and educate their children as citizens of this world and one day citizens of heaven.
Pastors are surely among our blessings. We thank them for their continued support of their parish or regional schools as parish financial resources have been and continue to be impacted by the pandemic.
When I was checking the lyrics to the familiar Count Your Blessings, I discovered another song with the same title. The first verse seems appropriate for our time.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated in our schools this year but differently. Some schools will celebrate the last week of January, the week set aside by the National Catholic Education Association; some will celebrate in February and others in March. In every instance, principals, teachers, and staff will be creative in the planning of events and activities that are appropriate and safe for our times.
During Catholic Schools Week, let’s count our blessings and be grateful for the ways in which God is working in our schools, our homes, and our lives. Be open to the surprises “that the Lord has done.” Quoting Pope Francis, “Anyone who is a man or woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. . .. He is the Lord of surprises” inviting us to be surprised by the ways he is working in our lives (Cf homilies 7/24/13; 5/5/19).