As many of you know, I'm a convert. I joined the Church when I was 17 years old. Now 35 - I've now lived half of my life as a Catholic. Pretty awesome.
The reason I'm bringing up that ostensibly random fact is to say that I'm still getting used to things Catholic. For instance, not having experienced a Catholic childhood, I am now experiencing it with my own children, so to speak. But what draws my attention to this right now is my amazement at the generosity that is appearing amongst faithful Catholic people in response to OLSWA's serious financial problem. I grew up in what could probably best be described as the Protestant work-ethic environment. It's both a virtuous and a vicious thing. Suffice it to say that those people who are now giving so generously to OLSWA are completely blowing my mind. I'm just not used to people who can love something so much, and believe in something so strongly that they are willing to separate themselves from that thing that has always been something of an idol for me: money! That's how I was raised. Many of our donors have not merely given money that they easily have to spare, but have even given when it hurts - the widow's mite.These people totally edify me. OLSWA is by no means safe yet. Not nearly. The scariest prospect from my perspective is that I can still loose my job if there is no money in the budget to offer the courses I teach. Imagine that: mortgage, wife, 4 children, no job...
But the hard work that our awesome President, Keith Cassidy, our Director of Development, Maria Reilander, and the head of our Financial Resource Committee, Karen Hanlon - as well as many others - have been doing to fund raise is just amazing. And, you know, Mrs. Hanlon is a volunteer! Grounds to hope, my friends. For all of you who have supported the Academy, I thank you so much.
For those of you who would like to donate to OLSWA - tax deductible, 100% Catholic, 100% yeah!, please click on this.
Do I have to sing praises to my beloved school again? Are you forcing me? There is one aspect of OLSWA - really the most important one - more important than our academics even, that I find so hard to articulate. If you will indulge me for a moment.
My nickname for the Academy: NET University. (NET, for those unaware = National Evangelization Teams.) This nickname encapsulates for me this thing I am trying to describe. The best thing that the Academy does is give these young people a joyful, positive, Catholic environment. That is the best thing - I imagine, since I've never been on NET, but I've been around NET people enough - that NET does. It gives young people the joy and excitement of living amongst life-affirming and faith-affirming people, and the hope that they can bring Christ to the world, thereby making it a better world. Combine all of that with a smart Liberal Arts program that grounds a person in the Faith and in the thought of the world, and you have a powerful combination.
In the three years I have been at OLSWA I have seen people grow in love and knowledge of the Lord, and grow as people to become smart and balanced young adults. I have grown in love and knowledge of the Lord from being here, and I don't mean in some small way. The positive, and by no means invasive influence of these good people - faculty, staff, students, and our holy parish community at St. Hedwig's - has made a great difference in my life, and I know also in Anne-Marie's life. These people make you better just by living their lives. When I came here almost 3 years ago now my faith-life was worn thin. So many set-backs had discouraged me, and I was drifting on the fumes of grace. I'm not saying that I've gotten my self all together, but now I have hope, now my marriage is so much better, now I have my personal and professional life in order. It's thanks to God, and to all the wonderful Catholic people He's put in my life. When we lived in Nova Scotia we had (and still have) some fine, really fine, Catholic friends, but they were few and far between. Because of the size of Halifax at best you'd see them once a week. Parishes are just such worldly places, that it's hard to get excited about your Faith and keep going. Faith pervades life in Barry's Bay, whether in the parish church or at the Academy or walking down the streets. It has profoundly shaped my soul. When I was back in Nova Scotia to see my father who was dying, I went to the church were I was baptised and confirmed. They have a good priest, but I was horrified at how worldly and how unedifying the Sunday Eucharist was. I had forgotten that life in Barry's Bay is not the norm. What a blessed memory lapse.
So, my friends, make this thing work! Make this amazing Catholic College work its charm on an ever-wider audience. It is an instrument of grace in Canada, one of the most powerful. I can personally vouch that every single penny you donate to her is put to good use. Its mission is to form Catholic young people in faith and knowledge, and only that.