As with all of life, school year is filled with new beginnings to seize and share
By Dr. Susan Miller l For The Catholic Post
While it’s hard to imagine with the recent heat wave, from a school perspective, summer is nearly over. Now that my own kids are grown and gone, the thought of school shopping for notebooks, pencils, uniforms and new sneakers brings a bit of nostalgia for days gone by. I didn’t enjoy those days at the time. Instead, it felt like a flurry of activity trying to find the specific notebook colors, or exact markers that one child just had to have.
Now, however, I can appreciate that it marked a new beginning for our students.
The Church reminds us that life is full of new beginnings. Baptism, the sacrament of initiation, is the ultimate symbol of new beginnings in the Catholic faith. Through baptism, we are cleansed of original sin and welcomed into the community of believers. It is a powerful reminder that no matter where we’ve been or what mistakes we’ve made, God’s grace offers us a clean slate and a chance to live in accordance with His teachings.
Similarly, the sacrament of reconciliation provides us with an opportunity to start afresh. In this sacrament, we acknowledge our faults and seek forgiveness from God. Through the absolution granted by the priest, we are reconciled with both God and the Church, ready to begin again with a renewed spirit and a desire to grow in holiness.
At Easter, we were reminded of the triumph of Christ’s resurrection over death. Easter is the ultimate celebration of new life and the promise of redemption. It is a time when we can leave behind our past failures and sins, embracing the hope and joy of a fresh start with Christ as our guide.
MOMENTS OF RENEWAL
The beauty of education is that there are many fresh starts. . . . One of the greatest lessons I learned as a teacher was that every day was a new day, and it was OK to begin again.
The beauty of education is that there are many fresh starts. Sometimes students need a fresh start when they’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Sometimes classrooms need a fresh start when the structures and routines have gone awry. Sometimes the lesson just doesn’t resonate with the students, and teachers take a deep breath and start anew the next day. One of the greatest lessons I learned as a teacher was that every day was a new day, and it was OK to begin again.
This made me ponder what other fresh starts might be possible as we begin the new school year.
REVIVING FAMILY, FAITH
For families, perhaps it’s a fresh start in reviving family time. During the pandemic, everything slowed down. There were no sports to run to, no late practices, no juggling after-school activities. This allowed us to spend more time together as families.
As the restrictions of the pandemic eased, the frenetic pace of life began to return. Sports and other extracurriculars came back, parents returned to the office, and students returned to school.
Is it time for a fresh start? Can we rethink all the extras and find the happy medium between time with others and time for family?
For some families, perhaps it’s time for a fresh start with your faith life. The pandemic took a toll on us here, as well. This was absolutely true for our family. As churches closed, we switched to watching Mass online . . . but the difference was that we could watch the Mass anytime we wanted to. We didn’t have to plan around a set Mass schedule. As churches began to reopen, it took a while for us to get back into the habit of going to Mass. We found that we needed a fresh start, and began with true intention to return to the church. Is this the fresh start you might need as well?
LIFE IS A JOURNEY
As we embrace the dawn of a new school year, it is essential to remember that the concept of fresh starts extends beyond the classroom and family life. Our communities, too, can benefit from this spirit of renewal.
Just as we eagerly anticipate the beginning of a new academic year, let us carry this enthusiasm into all aspects of our lives — our relationships, our faith, and our commitment to building a better world.
Moreover, the world at large calls for a fresh start in addressing issues of social justice and caring for the environment. As stewards of God’s creation, we have a responsibility to protect and preserve it for future generations, advocating for sustainable practices and demonstrating compassion and empathy for all living beings, including those marginalized and oppressed.
The start of the new school year is a reminder that life is a journey of continuous growth, and each day brings the promise of a fresh start. Just as we eagerly anticipate the beginning of a new academic year, let us carry this enthusiasm into all aspects of our lives — our relationships, our faith, and our commitment to building a better world. With God’s grace and the determination to embrace fresh starts, we can become the people He envisions us to be — compassionate, resilient, and united in love for one another.
DR. SUSAN MILLER is the new superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria.
Prayer for a New School Year
Loving Father in Heaven,
as we embark on this new school year,
we seek Your guidance and wisdom,
Bless our teachers and staff
with patience and understanding,
grant them the ability to nurture
and inspire us each day.
May Your light shine upon
our studies and endeavors,
helping us to grasp knowledge
with open minds and humble hearts.
Guide us to make the right choices
and seek truth in all things,
as we grow in faith and
understanding of Your divine plan.
We place our trust in You, O God,
for You are the source
of all knowledge and wisdom.