December News

Celebrating 50 Years of Catholic School Excellence

Advent Season - A Reminder of Great Hope

The Advent season is always a special time for Catholics around the world! I believe this year in 2020 provides great clarity for the world in that there is a great sense and search for HOPE.


Advent which means arrival reminds us of our longing and waiting for Christ. It is in anticipation of Christmas and the story we know so well! We celebrate the first coming of the Christ child on that cold, December night. Just this week, we reflected on the "yes" of our Blessed Mother to the will of God. In that "yes" we are given salvation through her Son, Jesus.


As we journey through this Advent and the pandemic, we are searching. We hold on to the hope that Christ gives and we acknowledge His presence. We are reminded that Christ is alive and among us. We are reminded of the importance of that in our lives and that He will come again.


Advent gives us the opportunity to seek Him, know Him, and prepare our hearts to receive Him.


The events and way of the world remind us that true hope and happiness are found only in the aspects of life that matter the most. It is in the things that we may take for granted and in the things that are most important in life. Faith, family, and the love shared is all we need.


Jesus alive in our hearts. May the joy and grace of the Advent season fill our hearts. Christmas blessing from the entire St. Mary's School faculty and staff to our school family!


"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,

they will soar on eagles' wings;

They will run and not grow weary,

walk and not grow faint.


- Isaiah 40:31


In Christ,


Mrs. Ana E. Gomez , M.Ed.

Principal

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The Power of Hope and Faith - Counselor's Corner



No matter who we are, life is rarely easy. It can be fun, exciting, and interesting, but most of the time it is challenging. Even though life does not come with an instruction manual we do have a superpower to help us in all the difficult moments. Our superpowers are faith and hope. Together, they show us where we should be and how we can get there.


As life faces us with a pandemic, uncertainty, and worries, it is especially important to hold on to our faith and consider the power of hope.


Reflections on the importance of hope and faith are found in religion, philosophy, and literature.


Hope is broadly defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It’s an emotional state that promotes the belief in a positive outcome. As we find ourselves with the need to live our faith and continue to hope and trust, we might wonder if it makes a difference.


In my professional experience, faith and hope seem to be an important factor in life, when facing adversity, experiencing fear, making a big difference in our lives, paving the path for resilience, and helping us find the courage to keep on moving forward.


Scientific Evidence

There is actually increasing scientific evidence that hope and faith changes us psychologically and physiologically. In other words, that hope actually makes a difference.

In a study involving 21,000 people in six countries over three years, it was recognized that people trapped in a cycle of suffering poverty, in despair, with low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness, believed they couldn’t change their lives through their own activities.

The power of the study is the surprising finding that when people are given a gift of hope (be it a goat or bees), they experience a boost of self-esteem and life circumstances that is self-fulfilling and continues even after the program ends. According to the researchers’ impression of the findings, we learn a powerful lesson. We learn about "the power of hope."

In a 20-year study of mothers with a history of depression, Lisa Miller found that those practicing a religious faith were less likely to suffer from recurrence of the condition. Miller subsequently linked the regular spiritual practice to a thickening of the brain’s cortex, which thins in chronically depressed people.


How Can We Hold On To Hope and Continue to Live our Faith?

An important factor that is vital to holding on to hope is our faith and human connection. In the face of difficulties and emotional pain, it is very often prayer, faith, and the connection to those we love, that helps us hold on to hope and be able to carry on.

Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel tells us, “…Just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”

It seems that we need hope and it seems that hope makes a difference in our lives. Does hope dispel all pain, take away all sorrow, cure-all illness? No, but it gives us the courage to keep working, praying, connecting, believing, and moving forward.


Advent, Holidays, and Christmas Time

During the holidays, Christmas evokes all kinds of emotions for many of us. There is the grief of loved ones lost during Christmases past and anxiety about how to handle difficult times. There is stress when we add an item or yet another thing to do to our ever-expanding to-do list. There is a sense of wonder when we drive through town and gaze up at all the lights, wreaths, and Christmas decorations reminding us to hold on to the magical feeling we felt when we were kids.

Overall, though Christmas inspires hope. The symbols and stories surrounding the birth of Jesus remind us to not give up and to keep going. Advent and Christmas time, teach us a lesson of hope and optimism.

In a recent article by Therese Borchard, she shares with us 7 beautiful ways Christmas teaches us about hope.


1) Follow the North Star

An epiphany refers to a sudden realization about the meaning of something. For Christians, the Epiphany is associated with the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus. They were guided by the Star of Bethlehem that heralded the newborn king of the Jews. The Epiphany teaches us to trust our North Star, the voice inside of us that is guided by the Spirit and will direct us to goodness and truth. The story of the Magi inspires hope that if we follow our epiphanies, we will, like the Wise Men, arrive at the place we were meant to be.


2) Believe

Christmas is about believing in things that defy logic: the Son of God being born to a virgin in a stable filled with farm animals. This holy season prompts us to become childlike in our faith: to think with our hearts rather than our brains, to embrace a world beyond our own, trusting that God is with us every day. Christmas inspires faith – in God and in His goodness, truth, and beauty that are very real but not always visible.


3) Say Yes

Perhaps the greatest story of courage ever told was Mary’s three-word response to the angel Gabriel when he explained to her that she would bear the Son of God. “Let it be,” she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” With great humility, she opens herself to God’s will and submits to His plan, even though she knows none of the details. By uttering her Fiat (Latin for “Let it be”) she initiates the Christmas story and the arrival of God into human history. Mary’s response also generates hope for all believers – that by saying yes to God we participate in the Christian story and find meaning that sustains us.


4) Talk to Your Angels

The angel Gabriel may not appear to us as vividly as he did to Mary, but we are all surrounded by angels that we can call on for guidance and assistance whenever we need it. Like an inspired GPS system, they help navigate the way, getting us from Point A to Point B, if we choose to access their help. Christmas reminds us of the active presence of angels in our lives. They sit at the top of decorated trees as beacons of hope sending the message that we are not alone.


5) Embrace Your Royalty

Purple or violet has traditionally been the color of Advent. It symbolizes anticipation of the coming King, as well as royalty and nobility. The first candle of the Advent Wreath is the Candle of Hope, representing the arrival of something new and profound. Advent teaches us to anticipate the good things that we can’t see and to remember the presence of the royal King in our lives, who bestows upon us gifts beyond measure. As sons and daughters of the King, we are part of the royal family. We can embrace our nobility and wear purple year-round.


6) Consider the Evergreen

Evergreens decorate our homes and churches during Christmas, reminding us of the promise of everlasting life and our ability to weather hardship. The evergreen remains unchanged through the seasons, inspiring a message of hope to persevere through adversity. The Christmas tree is a symbol of Christ, the miracle of Christmas, and God’s gift of life. The green boughs on a Christmas wreath or a garland point us to the perennial freshness of life -- that even when we feel as though our world is growing stale, there is always an element of newness and rebirth.


7) Persist in Darkness

Light shines brightest in darkness. That’s the heart of the Christmas story, an overriding message of hope that is articulated beautifully in the lyrics of “O Holy Night”: “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” God didn’t come into our world at high noon. He entered our lives in darkness -- showing us the way to light, guiding us towards love, and demonstrating how to overcome shadows and blackness. Christmas teaches us that even when things seem dark, we can trust the everlasting light.


Dr. Clara Magallanes , M.Ed.

Counselor and COVID Coordinator


https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/speaking-about-trauma/202010/have-you-considered-the-power-hope

https://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/inspiring-stories/stories-of-hope/7-things-christmas-teaches-us-about-hope

https://www.spiritbutton.com/hope-faith-quotes/#ixzz6gAXp46Rd

https://www.tc.columbia.edu/articles/2016/november/psychology-of-adversity/

The Season At St. Mary's

We Celebrate Together

This year is definitely a different one on how we are approaching the season and festivities. In keeping with guidelines and safety protocols, we are taking a different approach BUT it is no stopping us!


Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Service will be presented by our 2nd-grade students on Friday, December 11th at 1 p.m. in anticipation of her feast day. The service will be live-streamed in the classrooms for the school and community.


Christmas Spirit Week will be observed from December 14 - 18th. Students will be allowed to wear a Christmas outfit to school / virtual Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a uniform day for mass. So bring out your Christmas tees, blouses/shirts, sweaters ( ugly too if you want!) , dresses with any bottom. Head to toe ; lets celebrate the joy of Christmas.


Virtual Run - Joy Run - We are SO excited to connect even from a distance. We thank everyone for their support in our efforts as we "make-up" our popular Mommy and Me Run from this past spring with a virtual one. It is very exciting to see the registration process for a virtual run. We have participants from up the valley all the way to Nashville, Tennesse!


We are still registering runners and there is still time. The first 300 runners will receive an event medal, shirt, bib, and other treats. This is a great family event. The run will take place, Saturday, December 19th. Each participant chooses the time and route to complete! Everyone is a winner for celebrating the Joy of the season and St. Mary's.


Packet Pick-up will be Wednesday, December 16th. Times will be given soon!


Parade of Lights - This will be a celebration like no other! A small scale but full of great cheer. Our blacktop, school and church grounds will be adorned with Christmas lights and images to bring a smile to those who drive through. There will be music and special guests to greet our families. We encourage you to decorate your cars, put on your Santa hat and join us! This will take place from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.


Interested families may pre-order and pick up a "to-go" kit/ treat to share with your family when you arrive back home! Bunuelos, cookies and hot chocolate to go! Ordering information may be found below.


Those who wish to order and pay with cash/check may download the form and send in. For your convenience, a link to our school's paypal service is included. Those who pay using Paypal do not need to submit a form but are asked to place their full name within Paypal (required) and in the note section type in Christmas Box Kit . Thank you!


Christmas Program - This is always an event we enjoy to the fullest! However, due to the situation, we will approach this in a different way this year completely!


Little Saints and Montessori will piece together their Christmas message with a video recorded presentation. Each group will be taped individually and then the magic happens.

We will share the details with our school community on how this will accessible for you to view during the Christmas break. The great thing is you will be able to share with your friends and family!


1st - 6th Grade will present a Christmas message! It will be made of songs and images to project the meaning of Christmas. This will be shared as well with our community during the holidays.


We thank our teachers and staff for all their help in putting this together!

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COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION

Communication remains essential in ALL things. As we continue to work together as a community, we must support one another in every aspect of student life at St. Mary's and their overall growth.


Academics


The times we live in has presented challenges across the board in the academic world for all students and teachers from PK - university level! There is a dramatic shift in instruction, tools, engagement and the like. We are all learning and growing and adjusting to the change presented to us. I look forward along with teachers to review achievement benchmarks to identify strengths and areas of growth for each St. Mary's student. This will be shared with parents.


Constant, positive, constructive communication is essential from parent to teacher and teacher to parent to support each student. Teachers are charged with communicating with parents via weekly email, update in Google site, and provide reminders on the Remind App. Parents are charged with supporting students, reviewing progress, and addressing questions or concerns to the teacher in open communication. Parents support students in a variety of ways however the goal is always to assist the student to be responsible and independent.


There are many additional stressors during this time and the social-emotional element is important and part of the academic process. Communicating with the teacher or school counselor on these concerns is critical.


Connections from all ends must be made to have a positive working relationship.


A virtual conference schedule will be provided at the end of the 2nd Quarter in January to meet with teachers. However, a conference may be called at any time.


Health and Well-being


Communication is essential all-around to ensure the safety and well-being of our community. We appreciate the continued cooperation of our families both in-person and virtual.


Completing the health screening form and providing needed information daily is essential.

Communicating with the teacher if your son/daughter is ill and providing information from the doctors continues to be absolutely necessary. All information may be provided to the classroom teacher or Mrs. Alma Gonzalez in the office where it is documented and stored.

All information remains confidential.


As we continue to work with the virus and mitigating its spread, be assured that any information a family needs to ensure safety will be communicated to you immediately. Our Return to School Plan is in full implementation and as we stated in August, if there is exposure/contact the persons involved would be notified immediately and for safety a quarantine implemented. To adhere to all HIPAA, FERPA, and Diocese of Brownsville guidelines only the persons affected will be notified. This is the same with any communicable illness as per guidelines from the state for schools in Texas.


We continue to receive and be in contact with local health officials with CDC and Cameron County updates. St. Mary's Catholic School is now an official testing site in collaboration with the Texas Division of Emergency Management in coordination with the Texas Education Agency. We have been provided Abbott BinaxNow Test kits, appropriate PPE, and training to administer testing to students and staff only and report to the state/county. A student

( parental consent required) or faculty/staff member may request testing but must qualify with certain criteria. We are grateful for this opportunity.


A reminder that when and if there is a need for quarantine it is for the safety of all of our students, teachers, and the school community.


Our school remains dedicated to all that is outlined in our Return to School Plan in regards to our daily life at school. I remain very proud of our students, teachers, and staff for their dedication in carrying out all that is expected of us to the best of their ability. We are in this together!

A Very Special Gift

As we celebrate our 50 years in Catholic education, St. Mary's Catholic School has been the home to many, many children in this area. It becomes a second home and a safe place for many with fond and great memories. Our alumni continue to go out in the community and do great things! They shine bright in so many ways!


This year, our school community was blessed with a graduate from the class of 2015 at SMS, Allan Samano, that before beginning his senior year at Math and Science Academy at UTRGV chose to give back to his elementary school. Below in his words, he describes the special details of a very special gift!


My name is Allan Samano and I am an Eagle Scout from Troop 11 in Brownsville, TX. For the past several months, I had been working towards achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and leading a community project. I am grateful to St. Mary's for allowing me to lead a service project on their grounds and providing me with any support I might have needed. Mrs. Gomez and the school placed their trust in me and I am more than pleased to have been able to deliver this project to them.

I chose to paint a sensory pathway filled with interactive designs along a sidewalk for the children. The pathway stretches over one hundred seventy feet and helps address any overwhelming fidgeting or frustration in a positive way. A child can become frustrated during or before school on any given day, so the sensory path is a way to reset and refresh his or her mind. Before I could even brainstorm a project, I immediately knew that I wanted to manage it at St. Mary's. This school nurtured me as a child and made my elementary school days unforgettable, so it was only right that I do my best to give back to it in some manner.

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Giving Hearts

We know that we are in a time of need. Though we have also kicked off a campaign of giving, Saints Forever Fund - https://stmarys-cs.org/sms-saints-forever-fund ourselves to support our school's mission, we are aware of the needs of our neighbors.


We thank all of our students for delivering toys this year that will go to the Works of Mercy in our parish. They partner with the surrounding area to give toys at Christmas time and continue to be of service to others in providing basic needs such as food and clothing.


The last day for the toy drive is Wednesday, December 16th. They will be distributed to families on the 19th. Thank you for your generosity.


We will also be supporting two other organizations in our community with donations to our Mission bag. We are happy to support the Rio Grande State Center and the Red Wagon.

The Rio Grande State Center provides care for mental health patients and the donation will go to assist simple Christmas requests from their patients. The Red Wagon is connected to the Good Neighbor Settlement home and is a ministry that provides homeless in Brownsville meals on the weekend and a place to rest. We will be providing coffee, creamer, sugar, and paper products at will be purchased with Mission money.


We continue to be aware of the needs of others and together lend a helping hand. I thank the St. Mary's community for their generosity and giving hearts.

Calendar Dates - Mark Your Calendar

12/11- Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Service - 2nd Grade Live Stream @ 1 p.m.


12/14-12/18 - Christmas Spirit Week


12/ 16 - Children's Liturgy - 3rd Week of Advent - Mrs. Garcia 3rd Grade Class Live Stream @ 8:15 a.m.

12/16 - Last Day of Toy Drive - Thank you!

12/16- 2nd Quarter Progress Report via FACTS SIS


12/16 - Joy Virtual Run Packet Pick-up Times will be announced Drive-thru


12/18 - Last Day - Christmas Break - Noon Dismissal for St. Mary's and Little Saints


12/21- 12/22 - Student Make-Up Work Days - Teachers will direct students if applicable and students will work virtually from home.

Additional vacation days granted by the Catholic School Office - Diocese of Brownsville


12/22- 1/4 - Christmas Holiday


Looking Ahead


Pending community health situation, a quarantine following Christmas break may be implemented. Families will be notified via email and Remind as soon as the procedure is set in motion.


1/15 - 2nd Quarter Ends

1/16 - 3rd Quarter Begins ( Option form for In-Person and Virtual will be sent out after January 4th)


1/24 & 1/25 - Virtual Parent Conference - Scheduled - Information forthcoming


1/24-1/29 - Catholic Schools Week Celebraton

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Christmas Blessings

The above photo from Christmas Around the World (2016) and below Montessori Christmas Eve presentation (2019) of great times together. They will come again! Our prayers and thoughts are with all of our St. Mary's Families in this Advent and upcoming Christmas Season. May 2021 be filled with God's blessings, love and grace. We remain united as a community of faith. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us!



Glory to God in the highest!

My precious Lord, Jesus,

I adore You with profound love and rejoice in the celebration of Your birth.

Your love for us is unfathomable,

it is glorious

transforming,

awe-inspiring,

and deeply personal.

You chose to come and dwell among us,

being born into poverty, rejection and humility.

Yet Your mother knew whom she bore,

Her heart was filled with the tenderest love

as she adored her Child and her God.

Help me, dear Lord.

to come to love You with the heart of Your mother.

Invite me to adore You with St. Joseph and the poor shepherds.

Reveal to me the glorious power of Your birth

and change my life on account of this perfect gift of Yourself.

I love You, dear Lord Jesus.

Help me to love You with all my heart.

Newborn Savior of the World,

I trust in You.

Mother Mary and St. Joseph,

Pray for me and for all.

Amen.

https://mycatholic.life/catholic-prayers/christmas-prayer/

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