Making Saints In 2023-24

It was quite the scene in the first grade classroom on the last day of school. After mass this morning, the students returned to the room one last time to pack up items and say goodbye. Many of these 6-and-7-year-olds were crying and giving hugs. As the time arrived for us to go, I had to practically drag Sloan out of the classroom as she protested with tears in her eyes, “But daddy, I don’t want to leave.”

First graders in Ms. Lunsford’s class, including Sloan, say goodbye to each other after the last day of school on June 14, 2024. (photo courtesy of Paola Devila de Muela.

The vibe at St. Mary Catholic School was a little different this year and it extended far beyond just a tight-knit first grade class. With a new focus on the making of saints, St. Mary students were immediately challenged by a heavenly goal. From there, other more earthly goals like academic excellence and social growth fell right in line.

It was a blessing to walk these two across the parking lot and to their classrooms each day at St. Mary Catholic School in the Spokane Valley.

Both in my 2022-23 school year wrap up post and the entry I wrote on the first day of this school year, I outlined the potential that existed for the next 180 days. With new principal Mr. Stephen Hart reinvigorating St. Mary’s Catholic mission and two familiar teachers leading the classrooms of my children, I had high hopes—and I wasn’t disappointed.

St. Mary Principal Mr. Stephen Hart opens the doors for the first time during the 2023-24 school year. He ended up doing incredible things!

Sloan had an excellent year as a first grader in Ms. Emily Lunsford’s class. Although she made strides academically in Kindergarten, she struggled at times with jealousy and acting out. That all disappeared this year. Taking Mr. Hart’s charge seriously, my daughter made an honest attempt to be St. Sloan. Instead of going to the principal’s office for behavior, she was going to the principal’s office to pray. What more can I say? (Ha! I rhymed).

From her first day to her final day, Sloan had a fantastic school year.

Highlights of Sloan’s school year included being named Future Saint of the Week, proclaiming a reading at the first grade mass, being featured in the school promotional video, and performing in the talent show. Her reading efficiency and math prowess grew at the same immense rate as her pure and beautiful faith in God.

Ms. Emily Lunsford is a talented and devoted teacher who helped Sloan so much.

Beau also had a solid year. His St. Mary rookie debut in Mrs. Leanne Shaurette’s Pre-K3 classroom was loaded with cuteness and growth. We loved Mrs. Shaurette when she taught Sloan three years ago and the feeling was re-enforced this year. The tears in her eyes when we said goodbye immediately triggered my own.

Beau had a lot of fun this year and made many friends.

Highlights of Beau’s first year included making many new friends, being class leader, learning basic skills, and building a strong relationship with his fifth grade buddy, Savannah.

Mrs. Leanne Shaurette is very special to our family.

Perhaps the differentiator that makes St. Mary Catholic School so special is that students aren’t the only ones creating highlights. Parents are invited (and expected) to be involved. What a fruitful year it was for Sidney and me! From worshipping at school masses to serving as the guest reader in Sloan’s classroom to attending the school auction to helping out in class, it has been a lot of fun.

It was a year of fun events, opportunities to serve, and chances to grow closer to God.

But the best part of this past school year was the sense of community. As cliché as it sounds, St. Mary Catholic School is a family and the level of support that is championed equally by the staff, students, and families is downright special. How else do you explain teachers using their lunch period to attend Adoration so they can pray for the students? Many of our close friends are parents of Sloan’s classmates and it was nice to meet new parents from Beau’s class, too. It also helps to have a solid friendship and admiration for the school principal along with the man who oversees the entire St. Mary education program, Fr. Jeff Lewis.

Fr. Jeff receives the gifts from Sloan during a St. Mary School mass this year. Community members are always welcome at the school masses and they always foster so much joy.

Speaking of Fr. Jeff, his homily during today’s final school mass drove home an important challenge. He told the students that the arrival of summer vacation doesn’t mean a vacation from practicing our faith. Rather, it is an invitation to remain fired up with the Holy Spirit until school begins again.

Because, let’s face it, the making of saints is a year-round process. Don’t Blink.

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