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The Return Home

By: Bridgette McDermott

Bridgette McDermott - ACE MarathonA few weeks ago, I ran a half marathon in Fort Worth, Texas, to raise money and awareness for St. Mary of Carmel School in Dallas. Running was part of an annual tradition in the ACE community – the ACE Marathon. Each year, a community of ACE teachers selects a local marathon and invites current teachers, graduates, and friends of ACE to participate. When Dallas was selected as the marathon location, I jumped at the chance to return to the city that I called home when I taught as a member of ACE 22.

While I was teaching in ACE at St. Elizabeth of Hungary, I fell in love with running. It provided a time at the end of my day where I would get outside, clear my head, and spend a few minutes with God. I would reflect on meaningful moments with students or fellow teachers and express gratitude for those encounters and conversations.

Running continues to be an important part of my personal and spiritual life. However, in the midst of a busy time, it is usually the first thing to drop off my to-do list. Training for a race helps me to keep a consistent routine and to grow in persistence (especially when training during a cold South Bend winter). It also provides the space for meaningful reflection, something that I need and crave.

I’ve recently found myself in one of those busier seasons of life on the cusp of a lot of personal transition. In these moments, I try to look back on where I’ve been and look ahead to where I’m going. Thankfully, running a half marathon offers a lot of time for reflection – 13.1 miles to be exact.

Bridgette McDermott - ACE MarathonOver the course of the race, I thought about the people and places who shaped my ACE experience and who continue to impact my life. Back to School night immediately popped into my head. I met my students and their families for the first time that night, and I was so nervous. A parent came up to me at the beginning of the program and welcomed me into the community. I’ll never forget her words: “We’re so glad you’re here and can’t wait to see the ways you contribute to the St. E family.” Her support and kindness continued to be a gift throughout my two years. I then thought about Ms. Sandy, our school secretary, and the delicious chicken salad that she would prepare regularly for me and my community members. She told me that she always knew when I was at the front door, as she could hear my “thick New York accent” through the intercom. I thought about Mr. Jerry, our custodian, and our meaningful conversations after school. He had so many struggles in his life, but he came to school every day with a big smile on his face. Mr. Jerry took care of all of us – keeping our school clean and safe. I thought about car rides with my community member, Cassidy, who taught right across the hall from me. We had so much fun together coaching soccer after school and dressing up as students on Halloween, but we also navigated some really tough moments together. I will always appreciate her ministry of presence. I thought about long conversations around the community dinner table – laughing, telling stories, and enjoying Becky’s famous taco rings. I feel really lucky that my community members are still in my life and that we’ve been able to stay so close despite the distance. I thought about my students - Mateo, Carson, Marc, Ally, and Vicente. The list could go on and on. They are now in high school, continuing to grow into incredibly gifted young people. I’m so proud of each one of them.

Bridgette McDermott - ACE MarathonI will forever treasure my ACE experience and the community that I found in Dallas. As I neared the finish line of the race, struggling in those final steps, I experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Before I graduated from Boston College, I was told that “BC isn’t the place you go to, it’s the place you go from.” That’s how I think about Dallas. It’s the place that formed me, challenged me, helped me to grow into a better version of myself. While I’m no longer physically there, the people and places that I found are still with me – pushing me forward and reminding me that I’m capable of so much more than I ever imagined.


 

Read more about the 2022 ACE Marathon and make a donation to support St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School!

 

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