My wife and I believe that, when we bring a child into this world, we have an obligation to insure that they receive the education, love, and support necessary to be successful in an evermore challenging world. Our son is an 8th grader, who has attended St. Mary School in Mokena since he was a kindergartener. The teachers at the school gave him the individual attention, the academic challenge, and the faith-based culture that we believe are critically important to his development. We could not be more thrilled with the wonderful young man our son has become and our decision to send him to St. Mary School in Mokena.
– Tim and Andrea Taylor
To The Faculty and Staff at St. Mary School,
We wanted to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your contribution to our children’s education over the years. As Carly graduates, and Jake moves on to 8th grade, we have had an opportunity to reflect on our decision to enroll our children in St. Mary School.
Nine years ago we chose St. Mary School because we wanted our children to receive a faith based education. We knew St. Mary’s would provide an outstanding education which was very important to us, but we wanted more. The “more” that we desired was the extras that a Catholic school could provide. We chose St. Mary School because faith is incorporated in every classroom, no matter what the subject. St. Mary’s offers daily prayer and weekly mass. Teachers at St. Mary’s reinforce faith and values taught at home and our children are encouraged to respect one another and make the right choices—in and out of the classroom. Our children have names, not numbers and each teacher and faculty member recognizes their individual talents, skills and importance.
When you walk through the doors at St. Mary School, you feel the warmth. Mrs. Dexter is always ready to welcome you with a smile. Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Wolski are devoted to the curriculum and maintaining high standards of excellence. Committed teachers and aides are dedicated and always willing to go the extra mile to provide students with the lessons and tools they need to succeed. Parents share their talents and participate in the myriad of volunteer opportunities available which helps provide a nurturing atmosphere for the students. St. Mary School is truly a community.
As we attended the many graduation festivities recently, we also witnessed the “more” that we desired. The activities were a celebration of the years spent together as a class. Attending the last school mass with the 8th graders wearing their caps & gowns and receiving their ribbons was very special. Seeing the entire 7th grade community of students and parents coming together to make the 8th grade banquet a memorable evening for the graduating class and their parents was heartwarming. The recognition that each teacher presented to students for their accomplishments throughout the night made the recipients and their parents shine with pride. The personal touches throughout the school honoring the 8th graders contributions made them feel important. But the pinnacle was the graduation mass. From Fr. Dindo’s homily to the Principal’s inspirational address to the class, to the emotional graduation ceremony itself, the events were a culmination of many years of hard work, challenges and effort put forth by the students and faculty. The lasting friendships made throughout the school and the camaraderie among the entire class was obvious. It was touching to see attendance at mass by every faculty member and the hugs they gave to the students afterwards. That says it all right there—St. Mary’s is a family and the dedicated faculty is there through it all supporting their students from beginning to end.
Please accept our sincere appreciation for your commitment not only to our children, but to all of the children at St. Mary School. The investment that you make in each child is evident by your dedication and encouragement in all that you do to help each child reach their full potential. We are so grateful that we chose St. Mary School. Thank you for the “more” you provide to our children each and every day!
Christine & Rick Renfro
I am the Secretary of the St. Mary School Board and I have been a member of the parish since 2004. I am also a member of the St. Mary School Men’s Club and I volunteer at many school and parish events. It is an honor to very briefly share with you today my thoughts about how important your Stewardship is to the mission, vision and future of St. Mary’s parish.
I think that my story is unique. I am not a cradle Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed as a Protestant. My family and I went to church every Sunday. My mother taught Sunday School and my father was very involved in the running of our small church which was part of the United Church of Christ. I left home to go to college and spent time in the Army. I stopped attending church, but didn’t really miss it. When I started dating my now-wife MaryKay, I began attending weekly Catholic mass with her and her family. But, I was simply going through the motions of attending. I felt like I was doing the right thing. However, I never felt a calling and never really had any faith in what I was doing. MaryKay and I were later married at St. Kieran’s in Chicago Heights.
After I served in combat with the US Army in Iraq, we moved to Mokena and we joined St. Mary’s. I initially just continued to attend mass and our youngest two daughters were baptized here. Eventually, we enrolled all three of our girls in St. Mary’s School. That is when my life changed. I felt I was missing something, and I set out to talk to someone about it. I reached out to Sister Deloris. She asked me a lot of tough questions. She did not just let me sign-up for RCIA, but challenged me as to why I wanted to participate in all the sacraments. She wanted to know about my faith and how I felt about all sorts of things. Sister Deloris and RCIA changed my life. Until then, I had not understood that I had the power to change how I live out my life. I had not understood the love of the Catholic faith.
That is what Stewardship is all about: Being a disciple to understanding that we can change the way we all live our lives. I began to volunteer at the school, coached my daughter’s St. Mary School sports teams and I was selected to participate on the School Board. I saw the impact that my justice and my love with others was having on the girls on the sports teams and many of the children in the school. I now finally began to understand that I could receive God’s gifts gratefully…. the way we are all supposed to.
But my story does not end there. In June, 2014, my oldest daughter McKenzie, when she was 11 years old, was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. She desperately needed a new liver and was placed on an organ transplant list. The members of this parish, many people I did not even know, prayed constantly for McKenzie. People reached out to help. Anonymously, Walgreens gift cards showed up in the mail to help pay for McKenzie’s medicine. These came from people that obviously already understood how to receive God’s gifts …. and they knew how to cherish and tend to those gifts in a responsible manner. Those people already had all they needed in their own life, and wanted to help others. Initially, I resisted the help of others because I did know how to accept their help. A close friend got in my face and said that if someone else needed help that I would be one of the first ones there to help out. Now I got it – Stewardship came full circle for me – my measly gifts to others were returned to me with an increase, a hundred times over – thanks to the Lord’s intervention.
After 15 months of waiting, McKenzie received a donor liver. All of our prayers had been answered. When McKenzie was in surgery, the students prayed for her at the school. All the members of the parish continued to pray for her, and even other local parishes prayed for us. While McKenzie and MaryKay were at the hospital and then later at the Ronald McDonald House, people brought fully prepared meals to our house, drove our other two girls to events, picked them up at school, and visited McKenzie downtown. The St. Mary’s School teachers even went to the hospital and then to the Ronald McDonald House to tutor McKenzie. They wanted to make sure that she had the opportunity to finish 7th grade with her classmates. Every single student in the school wrote a personal Get Well Card to McKenzie – that school, its Administrators and it’s Teachers are teaching about Stewardship every single day. And the student’s already get it. They understand stewardship from their perspective. The children don’t have money or treasure to give but they understand God’s love and give, and serve in countless other ways. If you have never attended a school mass on a Wednesday morning, I highly encourage you to do so. It is a very moving experience.
Still to this day, people buy t-shirts with McKenzie’s name and picture on them, drive our other girls to events and bring food to our house – even the anonymously sent gift cards still arrive in the mail at our house. The very little bit of sharing of our time and treasure that MaryKay and I had previously doled out to others, continues to be returned to us a hundred times over.
Today, in closing, I ask that you make a commitment, together, today, to this parish and to our school, in any little way that you can. Help us on trying to achieve our mission, and in trying to live up to our full potential. We have a great thing going with such a strong parish and an excellent school, and we can only make it better by fully understanding that each one of us individually can do and give even more. I promise you that if you do so, it will be returned to you a hundred times over, in this life or the next. Thank-you and God Bless.