Catholic School Matters

April 14, 2019

Brother Placid

As the school year wears you down, you might be identifying with the suffering Jesus this week. Or you might think the Church is the suffering savior, broken from abuse. I know that from time to time, I need to change my focus in order to see the bigger picture.

Last summer on a road trip with the family on our way to Chicago, we were eight hours in and tired of the car and each other already. We stopped in to visit the beautiful Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota. My wife and I stopped in to the abbey on our honeymoon just a few years ago and thus connected to a special memory. We drove to the back of the property to look out over the expanse. An older guy came up and knocked on my window. “Where are you from?” he asked. We told him Montana and the kids were restless and we needed to get back on the road. “Park over there,” he said, and told us he would show us around.

We had imagined a short detour but the next hour was fascinating as Brother Placid took us on a behind the scenes tour of the living spaces, the cells, the chapel, and the interior courtyard. When he showed us the cafeteria, there was a place setting. He explained that one of the brothers had just passed away and their tradition was to keep the untouched place setting out for a month afterward to remember their brother.

He told us about his life in the monastery and what it’s like with fewer and fewer monks and no young monks. There was sadness in his voice but his warmth and joy shone through. Our kids were fascinated, touched, and excited. The still talk about Brother Placid, who is now on our Christmas card list.

Later I discovered that Brother Placid was the last cowboy at the monastery and was featured in a 2011 New York Times article. The abbot was quoted in the article. “Who’s in charge here? Is God in charge or are we?” he asked in reference to the vocations crisis.

Whenever I get despairing about the problems of the church, I think of the simple, joyful faith of Brother Placid and take heart that there are many holy people in the Church. This week, his memory was bursting forth from the thawing ground like a flower, harkening the beginning of spring.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

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What I'm Up To

Spring is coming (although as I write the snow is falling!) and this week will provide me with a little more office time to get caught up on projects. My only scheduled trip is Great Falls for a Board meeting. In my spare time, I'm working on my NCEA presentation on Missionary Leadership (Wednesday, April 24th at at 9am) as well as my ICSL workshop on Moral Leadership (July 14-17 in Indianapolis).

On Wednesday's Catholic School Matters Radio Hour podcast, Bishop George Murry of Youngstown leads off. He discusses what life is like for a bishop during these trying times and shares his remarkable story of beating leukemia last year. Then Dr. Liz Guneratne of Moreau Catholic HS joins me to discuss why she returned to the principalship after a few years at Santa Clara and the central office. Finally, Dr. Dan DiLeo of Creighton University comes on to discuss Laudato Si and the upcoming summer conference.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Monday: Office (Helena)
  • Tuesday: Great Falls meetings
  • Wednesday: Office (Helena)
  • Thursday: Office (Helena)
  • Friday: Good Friday

Miles next week: 225 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2018-19: 28,600 road miles; 68,754 air miles

Last 5 Books

  1. Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (2015) by Pope Francis
  2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2010) by Stephen King
  3. Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (2002) by Henri Nouwen
  4. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development (1982) by Robert Kegan
  5. Learning to Improve: How America's Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better (2017) by Anthony S. Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow, Paul G. LeMahieu

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

  • Here is the link from the April 5th meeting. The next scheduled Virtual Admin meeting is May 14th

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

April 7, 2019 "Fighting Clericalism"

March 24, 2019 "Cristo Rey"

March 10, 2019 "Prayer and Leadership"

February 24, 2019 "Culture and Relationships"

February 10, 2019 "Leadership"

February 3, 2019 "NCEA Convention Preview"

January 27, 2019 "Catholic Schools Week"

January 20, 2019 "School Choice"

January 13, 2019 "What's Your Story?"

January 6, 2018 "Happy New Year"

December 2, 2018 "Building Community"

November 18, 2018 "Reframing Enrollment"

November 4, 2018 "Looking at Disaffiliation"

October 21, 2018 "Getting out of the Ditch"

October 7, 2018 "Truth, Mercy, and the Synod"

September 23, 2018 "Native American Experience"

September 16, 2018 "How Are We Forming our Leaders?"

September 9, 2018 "Where is Your Attention?"