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Celebrating the Harvest

Monday, June 16, 2014


Written by: Garrett Mandeville

As the tour draws to its conclusion, I can’t help but look back on what we have learned and what we have lived. There are many memories that stand out. Each stop had its own particular flavor and beauty. Reconnecting with friends and graduates in each city was incredible, but I can’t ignore the fact that the greatest joy that I experienced throughout was always found with the students of the schools we visited. Recognizing this, my mind is persistently drawn back to a Mass that we celebrated in the ACE house in Santa Ana.

After finishing a raucous school visit complete with Baile Folklorico, student speakers, and Fr. Scully and the bishop wearing Cinco de Mayo sombreros, we headed to the ACE house for a brief team Mass. Our ACE team was joined by another member of the ACE family, an ENL student named Elizabeth. We went around the room introducing ourselves and giving a brief description of our roles with the organization. When Elizabeth’s turn arrived, she talked about a long career spent teaching in Catholic schools, of hard work, of lives transformed, and of the transformative impact on her own life. She talked about the fight for Catholic schools being one worth fighting as an essential ministry. Her passion and commitment articulated even more deeply by the tears through which she spoke, she talked about showing these students that they are not just the seeds; they are the harvest.

This image has been one that has stuck close to me ever since that blazing morning in early May. When talking about the work being done in Catholic schools, I so often conceptualize it as a planting of those seeds. While that is absolutely part of the picture, there is an abundance far greater that I often ignore.

Elizabeth unlocked the beauty of this bus tour for me: a celebration of the harvest. We were able to recognize, honor, and take joy in the amazing students, teachers, and school leaders across the entire country.

Far too often the Catholic schools narrative reads like an obituary. This tour was the antithesis of an obit; there is more life in these schools than ever, and we were so privileged to see it, celebrate it, and have a small part in it.

What a tour, what an adventure, and what an amazing opportunity. The past eight months witnessed 30,000 miles, 50 cities, and over 70 schools, but most of all, the tour witnessed the incredible harvest found in our Catholic schools. We need to keep planting seeds, but this year is one that I will always remember for the rich harvest that I was so blessed to see.

Catholic schools are good for America. And the harvest is ripe.