What happens when all of one’s plans for the rest of the year get upended, and unfamiliar ways of working become the norm? At St. Isaac Jogues School in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, where the Sisters of Mary have been present now for six years, staff members and families responded with great courage and faith.
When the Archdiocese of Detroit made the initial call to close school for a long weekend to prepare for distance learning in response to the Coronavirus, it was hard to imagine that the students would not return to the school building before the end of the year. The next morning, Sr. Catherine Marie, Principal, proactively called the staff to organize a plan that would allow for students to finish the full curriculum on schedule and be sustainable as an online learning experience should the coming weeks extend to a longer time period. The staff rose to the challenge. All in one day, they prayed, worked together to brainstorm solutions and accessible platforms for transmitting content, agreed on methods of assessment, collected extra items from the classrooms to send home to students, and learned new technology for distance staff communication.
In order to continue the Catholic Culture of the school in homes, school day morning and afternoon prayers were recorded and made available. Livestream access to twice-a-week school Mass was provided by Fr. David. Teachers gave families a daily schedule and kept up personal contact with all of their students through phone, video calls, and feedback on school work. After the week of preparation that followed at home, they were ready to teach online for the rest of the year.
Instead of finding Sisters in their classrooms, one could find them working through the balance of the year, helping their students virtually in creative ways during school hours. Sr. Mary Jordan made videos to teach phonics and offer motor skill activities, stories, and songs to her Pre-K students — as well as recordings of the songs she used to play at Communion during Mass. Sr. Mary Perpetua kept up personal ties with her third grade students by personalizing her lessons, recognizing individuals in her class. She also had them recreate sacred art pieces with items or people from around their homes. Sr. Imelda Marie taught about the Eucharist in small group meetings over Zoom and did individual interviews for First Communion over the phone. Sr. Athanasius got her students motivated with Math and Social Studies projects, keeping up with them to the very end.
When God gives us a mission, He gives us the grace to fulfill it. Grace was present among the St. Isaac Jogues staff during this unprecedented school spring. The Sisters were grateful to be part of St. Isaac Jogues School during this time. They saw great hope in the school community at the in-person Graduation Mass with the graduating eighth graders and their families June 2nd. The Sisters hope for continued grace as they begin teaching anew this upcoming fall!