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Patron Saints and Growth in Faith

By Michael Averill (ACE 29, Brownsville)

Inside of Church

ACE Brownsville is blessed to serve three Catholic schools in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley: Guadalupe Regional Middle School, St. Joseph Academy, and Our Lady of Sorrows School. During my two years at Guadalupe Regional Middle School, I have grown to see how the patroness of my school has become an integral part of my faith. For my community members, I know that St. Joseph and Our Lady of Sorrows have acted similarly as beacons of faith throughout their time in ACE. The patrons of our Catholic schools serve us as examples of humility, leadership, and prayer throughout our time in service to these communities. St. Francis statue

Within my home parish in Upstate New York, far from the Rio Grande Valley and Guadalupe Regional Middle School, I recall as a child being fascinated by a large depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe within the main chapel. Yet, for most of my youth and young adult life, I never quite grasped the significance of this specific apparition of Mary and the vivid story the image entails. That was until ACE sent me to Brownsville, Texas to a small Catholic middle school on the grounds of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.

The appearance of Mary to an indigenous peasant, St. Juan Diego, in colonial Mexico sparked a Catholic movement throughout the Americas that reverberates today through justice and peace movements in and around the Church. In my social studies classes, there is a constant recurrence of Our Lady of Guadalupe's image throughout the course material. She is found in the protests of the Creoles during the Mexican Revolution that we study in 7th-grade Texas history, in the cultural fabric of Mexico we analyze in 6th-grade world studies, and in the streets and churches on both sides of the Rio Reading at Mass at Our Lady of GuadalupeGrande, we discuss in 8th-grade local current events. And of course, Our Lady of Guadalupe is with us each day on our own campus, whether it is the mosaic statue in the courtyard, the framed image in the cafeteria, or upon the uniforms donned by the students in every hall and classroom. As I have grown accustomed to the culture of the Rio Grande Vally, I have seen the ways in which the Catholic faith here has transformed my own faith, with our Lady of Guadalupe becoming a symbol of hope for me. During this season of Lent, I reflect on the sacrifices Mary made in her own life to say "yes" to the monumental task of raising the Son of God and witnessing Him experience His Passion and Resurrection. She walked with Jesus every step of the way. Her many apparitions around the world, especially on Tepeyac Hill, are proof that she continues to walk through this world with us, her feet firmly on the ground and her body shrouded in the rays of Heaven.

I'm sure every ACE teacher, in ways both small and large, can think of a time when the patron of their school, whether a Bishop, Saint, or the Holy Mother transformed their faith for the better. Spirituality is an essential pillar of ACE, but like all things as a Teaching Fellow, the experience within this pillar is unique and completely dependent on our placement. I hope during this time of Lent and Holy Week, we can all reflect on the ways in which the faith of our school communities has shaped our own. I am forever grateful to the community of Brownsville for giving me the opportunity to grow closer to Our Lady of Guadalupe.