As I watched the Notre Dame Cathedral fire with sadness, I was reminded of another longstanding institution that suffered a great loss, St. Edward Parish.
My relationship with St. Edward School began more than 34 years ago while praying before Mass in what some people call the other “cathedral” of Little Rock.
A tap on my shoulder and Sister Hermana Siebenmorgen, OSB, leaning over the pew behind me and in her not-so-quiet whisper said, “You need to come be my second-grade teacher next year” — a statement, not a question — from one of the longest-serving, revered principals in our diocese.
The following August began my 35-year (and counting) educational relationship with the community of St. Edward as the second-grade and later fourth-grade teacher.
After the retirement of Sister Hermana, Vernell Bowen joined the Catholic school system as principal of St. Edward School. She encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership, which later led to my role as principal of St. Edward.
Long-standing traditions of the St. Edward School became fond memories, such as tours of the museum and art center, and the recesses spent at MacArthur Park (and the occasional Sister Hermana authorized extra-long recess that was appreciated by the teachers as well as students). Cinnamon rolls that overfilled the largest compartment on our cafeteria trays, the annual Play Day, Oktoberfest, field trips and the annual, appropriately named fundraiser, It Takes a Village.
While the 2017-18 school year was a financial challenge for the St. Edward community, the 2018-19 school year was even more difficult. Among those committed to the help were a dedicated faculty, a caring parish, donors who included friends, alumni and other parishioners. Bishop Taylor also directed the Catholic Schools Office to lend oversight and assistance to the school yet it was not enough to secure the financial future of the school.
The parish families, school parents and faculty all shared the common vision of fostering a culture of kindness, generosity and respect for individuality. I continue to meet numerous former students who have grown to become compassionate, independent thinkers.
I offer my gratitude and admiration to the outstanding teachers and staff who worked so hard, for the pastors, both former and current, for the friends, alumni and the caring parishioners.
St. Edward School remains a beacon of light that will shine through all those who walked through its doors and left with a memory.
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