During second semester of the 2006-07 third-grade school year at St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva, my students took turns taking Darren home. Darren is a stuffed lion. He is our mascot for D.A.R.E., our drug-awareness program. Darren would stay at each home for about four days, and then the students would write a journal entry, using Darren’s voice, describing their activities together.
During one of the final weeks of school, it was my turn to take Darren home. I wrote a few pages in the journal for our D.A.R.E. lion. On one of the last pages of the journal entry, Darren told the children that I had to have two allergy injections. Darren noted that even though I winced when the injections were given, I did not cry. As I wrote the entry for Darren, I was acutely aware of how I cried as a child each time my mother took me for shots. I figured that things probably hadn’t changed that much. Kids probably still hated to get shots. Some probably cry about it. I just had a feeling that this entry would create some empathy from my young readers.
Shortly after everyone read the journal entry from Darren, we prepared to say prayers. We went through our routine praying the morning offering and then praying the vocation prayer. We offered our special intentions, and then what happened next stunned me. One of the girls stopped everything and asked, “Mrs. Schading, would you like us to pray over you?” My heart skipped a beat at such a joyful thought, and I said, “Yes, I would love it.” Another child grabbed a chair and sat me down. There were 11 hands on my arms and shoulders ready to have their souls make contact with mine. One of my students started the prayers, asking God to bless me because of my allergy shots. Another asked for a good day for me. Another asked a blessing for my grandson. And so it went. I could feel the swoosh of the Holy Spirit descend upon me. When it was finally quiet, a little voice said, “And the children all said ‚Ä¶ AMEN.” The amen from all of them was loud and clear.
I sat for a few moments, amazed. The love from their little hearts was overwhelming to me. I told them that this was a gift that was better than a bouquet of roses. You see, during the year I prayed over them each morning. By the time we reached May, they took turns praying over each other. The final, most delightful act was them praying over me. In my mind, these third-graders had all passed their final religion exam.
I am writing this little experience to explain to the world WHY I teach in a Catholic school. It’s not about that financial portfolio. It’s about that spiritual richness that I could never find in a public school. I knew it back in 1979 when I had put in a few years as a substitute and then as a full-time teacher in the public schools. Catholic schools are the place for me. Where else can you give and receive such grace on a daily basis?
Shading has been a teacher at St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva since 1979, teaching pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first and third grades. She will begin teaching second-graders in the fall.