You know how sometimes you think, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I am experiencing one of those times. Due to reduced seating at church, the kindergarten through fourth grades attend Mass on Wednesday morning, and with the “COVID seating” we seat half of the children upstairs in the balcony. We decided that it made sense for the two younger grades to sit upstairs since they do not receive Holy Communion and would not have to go downstairs to receive and back up again. That is why every Wednesday I find myself scaling a veritable Mount Everest of stairs while wearing a face mask. By the time I reach the balcony I am gasping like a guppy that’s flip out of her tank.
One of the biggest changes that COVID has brought to schools is the use of remote learning. Last month I told you about the web cameras installed in all the classrooms so that students in quarantine could continue learning with their class. Last school year when the schools were shuttered, many of us relied on Google Classroom and we were sure that we were the first educators to deal with remote learning, at least at St. Mary’s. Well, not so. St. Mary’s used remote learning back in the early 1960s. My mother had saved a newspaper clipping from the Greenville Daily Advocate. The news item was about a seventh grader from St. Mary’s who had been stricken with rheumatoid arthritis and was under doctor’s orders to stay home. He feared losing a year of school. However, with the help of the local telephone company a two-way communication system was installed at the student’s home and in his classroom. Back in those days each grade at St. Mary’s was self-contained and students did not change classes as they do today. The system allowed the student to hear what was going on in his class and to respond. He had a bell that he could ring to let the teacher know he had answer or needed to ask a question. It is interesting to note that even “back in the day,” teachers at St. Mary’s made use of the technology available at the time.
St. Mary’s students were present for the Veterans’ Day parade on Nov. 11. Each student had an American flag to wave during the parade. However, my class almost lost a teacher. I had turned my back on the parade to position some of the children on the courthouse steps when without warning the 21-gun salute was fired. Good thing when I jumped, I landed on the same step I had been standing on! It could have been ugly!
This year we will not be having our traditional Thanksgiving luncheon prepared by the students due to, what else? COVID. This luncheon has taken place for around thirty years and has served as our Homecoming. Our alumni who are in high school are invited back as honored guests. Sadly, there will be no “hand-made” stuffing by the first graders to enjoy. It has been strange not having my windowsills filled with cans of fruit for the fruit salad, and broth and soup for the stuffing. There are no loaves of bread waiting to be torn apart by eager little hands. I think what I will miss the most is that deliciously maddening aroma of the food cooking in the morning before the feast. The whole school smells like Thanksgiving that day.
The student council is sponsoring “Comfy Day,” not to be confused with “Pajama Day” on Tuesday, Nov. 24, the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. For a donation, students will be allowed to wear sweats and tee shirts. The money collected will be given to the parish to distribute. I like the idea of comfy day, but it seems like I need to wear sweats the day after Thanksgiving, not before.
Our pastor of over 20 years, Fr. John White, passed away early Nov. 2 after a valiant struggle with cancer. Although he was often in pain, he continued his ministry. He presided at Mass and heard confession up to the last month of his life. When he became too weak to stand, he offered the Mass sitting at a small table in front of the altar. He was a stellar example of dedication and fortitude.
Although we are saddened by his death, we rejoice knowing that he is no longer in pain and is enjoying the rewards of a faithful servant. Rest in peace, Father.
On behalf of the staff and students of St. Mary’s I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.