One Sheep Lost

Whenever an organization encounters a shift in leadership, the stakeholders, the senior leadership must evolve a new mindset. In Admissions this is exactly what we are doing. We are excited and have implemented a new system for evaluating prospective students and their families seeking enrollment into Verbum Dei High School. The new evaluative formula ensures that all students admitted to Verbum Dei exemplify the school’s mission and will be appropriately served by the resources that we provide.  Transitional experiences are often the most important developmental aspects of any new structure; as such, stakeholders must remain dedicated to the mission. We have a significant responsibility to follow the metamorphosis closely and monitor the change as we evolve.

In my observation, this period of change has afforded an opportunity of analysis which allows a boundless level of appreciation. The security I describe is in the way we have worked together to do the things we needed to do and how we have done them. Father Michael Mandala, SJ and Dr. Brandi Odom-Lucas Interim Principal have pulled things together, assumed their leadership positions and have guided the Faculty and Staff well during this challenge. This certainly can be recognized by measuring the agreement shared throughout the room most recently during our in-service following the revelation of our new Integral Student Outcomes.

The goal of the perceptible transformation we stimulate in the students we serve does not change. As we are seeking to adapt and serve more students and their families during these turbulent times we cannot forget that the change we seek for them must also be reflected in us. Essentially, when we pursue professional approaches to restructuring and replacing stakeholders and humility, empathy and moral courage is not the procedural pursuit, we lose part of the ministry for which I consider to be my most valuable quality and the most valuable part of what we do here. There are always opportunities to reframe problems, reinterpret alternatives and reform strategies and to do so continuously. The goal of this expression, the point of the message, is within the challenge to operate differently in our behavior, in our response. Our continuous challenge is to be merciful, kind, generous, loving and willing to do all that it takes, even at one’s own expense, to help another (‘the least’) in true need.

If a man has 100 sheep, but one of the sheep becomes lost, then the man will leave the other 99 sheep on the hill. He will go to look for the lost sheep. Right? And if the man finds the lost sheep, the man is happier about that one sheep than about the 99 sheep that were never lost. I tell you the truth. In the same way, your Father in heaven does not want any of these little children to be lost. — Matthew 18:12-14

“You Got This”

With the recent transition caused by Dr. O’Connell’s departure, I found myself extremely concerned about my students. How will they respond? Will they be comfortable with my leadership? Is this the best thing for my students? I was confident in the resiliency my boys have demonstrated personally and academically, but I was very nervous that this transition would be a negative disruption to their already busy lives.

Once the announcement was made Donaven, the 6’3” senior who is the Center on the Verbum Dei Varsity Basketball team came up to me and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Odom. How do you feel?” I responded, “A bit nervous!” Without skipping a beat Donavan smiled and said, “Don’t worry… you’re good! You got this!”

I walked away but couldn’t help but hear his voice saying, “You Got This!” What an amazingly simple, yet poignant expression that, to me, represented the lessons the Verb has taught him these past four years. Lessons about having faith in the small things, being a man for others and exercising resiliency were undoubtedly taught both inside and outside the classroom. Donaven’s response to me demonstrated his understanding of life’s twists and turns. He showed that he understands the importance of faith when facing a new endeavor- faith that God’s love will sustain you, faith that you have exactly what you need to face this challenge.  But Donoven also showed the importance of standing with your brother or sister in their time of need.  What more could I want a senior to know as they leave the Eagle nest?

But this is what makes the Verb so different. Not only do the faculty and staff at Verbum Dei seek to edify and strengthen the students’ spirits but we also help students understand the importance of edifying and strengthening the spirits of their brother or sister. Donaven’s response to me was important, not just because it contained the exact words I needed to hear as I began the role as Interim Principal but it reminded me what an amazing job the Verbum Dei parents and teachers are doing in the formation of our young men.

As I work with the Faculty and Staff of Verbum Dei to lay the foundation for an exciting future, I can’t help but say to all our supporters…..Don’t worry, WE GOT THIS!

A Senior Profile

   As Verbum Dei seniors anxiously await responses from the colleges to which they have applied, I find myself taking the time to reflect on the growth that these young men have experienced during their four years at the Verb.  They have grown academically, socially, and athletically, but also, and most importantly, they have grown in their awareness of the human rights and have learned the importance of advocacy in times of injustice.

   The “Nine Key Themes of Catholic Social Teaching” by Thomas Massaro, S.J is beautifully written piece that eloquently highlights the theme of human rights.  According to Fr. Massaro, if we were all formed in the image of God, then each and every human being, regardless of who they are and what they have done in their lives, should have access to basic human rights including the ability to attain what is needed to live fully and completely.  He argues that when opposition to this belief is experienced, it is the role of the faithful to stand up and speak up.

   At Verbum Dei, our mission is to serve the underserved. It is no secret that many of our students come from homes where resources are limited and parents work tirelessly to make ends meet.  Despite the situation of their home lives, Verbum Dei students come to school each day to make a difference both by expanding their minds educationally and becoming men of character who stand against injustice and who have love for the fellow man. These students serve, on a regular basis, giving of their time to make the lives of others better.  They have worked in soup kitchens, in nursing homes, and have stood in solidarity with the homeless and refugees. They have traveled to the United States border to leave water for those who are crossing and paid homage to those who lost their lives on the journey.   They have raised funds to bring awareness and support young people all around the globe.   They have laughed together, cried together, and have created a bond that will last longer than the brief four years they have together at Verb.

   In a recent lecture I attended, the question was asked of whether two high achieving students, one attending public school and one attending Catholic school, had access to the same education.  I believe the answer is no because there is no common core standard that addresses morality and ethics, love and compassion, forgiveness and faith. It is student who attends the Catholic school that will receive the most priceless gift that can never be returned, and who, by far, receives the superior education.

   So as our seniors sit on the edges of their seats in anticipation of learning which colleges and universities have deemed them worthy of acceptance, they should take comfort in knowing that whatever the result, on this voyage, they have become men of character, who are academically competent and socially aware, and ready to be agents of change that this world needs.