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Loving support... courageous resolve

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Sept. 17, 2014

On Sunday, September 7th, I visited St. Mary’s in Ticonderoga to offer prayers and support in light of the recent fire at the school. 

When I saw the charred structure, my heart sank.  I was greeted by some parents and youth who, under the clear, blue sky, were cleaning the soot off student desks. 

Father Kevin McEwan and Sister Sharon Dalton, SSJ were over at the United Methodist Church with teachers and Education Council members determining whether their facilities would work as interim classrooms.  The parish secretary led me over to the Methodist Church.

When I arrived, I entered an environment where I experienced, first hand, the lifeline of St. Mary’s School: love and care flowing from tender hearts. 

With the blurred vision of tear-filled eyes, teachers, students, parents, friends, staff, Education Council members, pastor, Sisters all came together to plan for tomorrow. 

You remember that St. Paul used the beautiful image of the body when referring to Jesus’ followers.  When one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.  This image was a reality unfolding before my eyes.

The United Methodist Church of Ticonderoga made their facilities available to St. Mary’s.  They, also, held a spaghetti dinner that very evening to benefit the school.  I learned that another organization was offering chicken wings for lunch on Sunday with the proceeds going to the school. 

Since that day many, many other acts of kindness and generosity have been offered.

I met the Superintendent of the local public school, a graduate of St. Mary’s, who was working to ensure that the busses would run smoothly for the students at this new temporary location.

Parents arrived, asking Father Kevin where they could place their boxes of school supplies that they purchased for the students.

Other Sisters of St. Joseph came to offer their personal support to Sister Sharon.  Sister Ellen Rose Coughlin, SSJ, Diocesan Director of Catholic Education had arrived Saturday, providing assistance to the school family. 
Other schools offered to send textbooks and other items for the classrooms.

Monday morning, Jack Carter, our Diocesan Risk Manager was on the scene to begin assessing the damage and consider insurance questions.

On Tuesday, Father Kevin told me: “we have thirty to forty volunteers who are doing amazing work” getting the classrooms ready for the students. It seemed that the whole community and beyond was engaged in supporting St. Mary’s School at this moment of crisis. 

Under the steady leadership of Father Kevin and Sister Sharon, the Spirit of God has been enlivened.  

The fire has not disabled or deterred the People of God in Ticonderoga and beyond from supporting one another.  Surely, hearts have been wounded, but not broken.  Courageous, determined hearts have been kindled to move forward, one step at a time, to ensure that our children will continue to be formed in a faith-filled setting in Ticonderoga.  What a remarkable witness of loving support and courageous resolve! 

The members of the Body of Christ are energized and engaged, showing us all what it means to be “church.” The entire Church of the North Country expresses our sorrow and solidarity with all the folks at St. Mary’s. 
As a family of faith, we rely on Jesus’ healing Presence in the midst of such heartache. 

Let us all pray that Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, will keep all the people at St. Mary’s in her tender embrace.                               

Fourth through sixth grade students at Trinity Catholic School in Massena sent prayers to their sister diocesan school, St. Mary’s in Ticonderoga, after the school burned earlier this month.  The group posted this picture on Facebook to help their friends know they were being thought about during their time of suffering.

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