On Thursday, March 10th, Holy Names Academy held it's annual "Peace and Justice Day" on campus. For those of you that don't know, Holy Names Academy (HNA) is an all-girls high school in Seattle that was founded in 1880. A few Maryknoll sisters are graduates of HNA, including Sr. Jean Fallon, MM, who did mission work in Japan and was recently honored as a distinguished alumna of the school. Fr. Thomas J. Marti, MM, the director of our Maryknoll Mission House in Seattle, was invited to speak, and I had the honor of accompanying him.
The entire vibe of this day, not to mention the school itself, was inspiring from the get-go. As Tom and I wandered the halls in search of the sign-in desk, a student quickly noticed our confusion and offered to help. As we walked to the desk, many students greeted us with smiles and "hellos," and I was surprised at how welcoming the students at the school were. The student assigned to lead us around, a junior by the name of Angela, definitely went above and beyond the call of duty in offering to help in whatever way possible, and we could sense her genuine interest in making us feel welcome.
We were led into the assembly hall, where we heard a presentation by students and alumni on a building project in Lesotho with Holy Names High School there. The three students spoke very eloquently about what they had learned from the people on this trip, and how working with and within another culture enriched their own lives. The degree to which HNA students are passionate about service and mission was truly moving - and the event that we were attending was a testament to the education that instills this passion.
Peace and Justice Day includes sessions hosted by guest speakers, which students sign up to attend. Tom was there to talk about "People Power" in the Philippines, a country in which he served as a missioner for sixteen years. The man that sat next to me during the assembly, Gary Teale, is the former principal of St. Anthony's School in Renton, WA (coincidentally, my parish), who left to live in Guatemala, where he teaches and works to develop the school system there.
One of the continuing inspirations of this work, for me, is meeting people like Gary, who live out mission in such incredible ways. He was not the only person that I met that had started a small non-profit to work with people in foreign nations. It is amazing to see what people are doing in the world, and at all ages, as well (Tom spoke to the students about a Maryknoll sister who earned her medical degree in her 50's and now provides medical care in the Philippines). This spirit of mission is continued in the students - from the immersion and service experiences in which they participate, to their genuine kindness to all of us as guests. It was just one of many inspiring days for me as a mission educator, in which I learned much more than I taught. Thank you so much to the students and staff of Holy Names Academy for your welcoming and mission-minded spirit!
(On a side note, it was great to run into about ten or eleven former students, most of whom came up to ME to say hello!)