As I was finishing up my undergraduate studies, I felt God calling me to do something “more” with my life and newly acquired skills and experiences. After much discernment and prayer, I eventually applied to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and was accepted and placed in the New Orleans community. I had grown to love the city through my post-Katrina volunteer efforts, and I knew that if I was placed in New Orleans, it was because God wanted me to be there. In August 2008, I began my journey as a Jesuit Volunteer at the Good Shepherd School (GSS), and I never would have imagined that I would still be there six years later. Least of all, did I expect to find myself serving in the leadership position that I now hold - but if I have learned anything in my time here, it is that God works in mysterious ways!
My first year at GSS was a wild ride, as I started as a teacher’s assistant and was teaching middle school religion full-time within only two weeks. By the end of the year, I had not only taught religion, but also middle school math and science, as well as kindergarten science. I was all over the place, but something in me loved every bit of it! The school went through a tumultuous change in administration and more than half the staff left at year’s end. On the principal’s last day of work, she pulled me aside and said. “Matt, I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about it, but I think you’d make a great principal someday.”
As I began my second year of work, I found myself as a school leader that was and respected by elder colleagues and students alike. The new principal asked me to be a member of the administrative team and I have never looked back. After five years of teaching and various ventures into administration, I truly felt God was calling me into Catholic school leadership. I decided to apply to the Remick Leadership Program (RLP) after hearing about it from various participants and graduates working at Nativity Miguel model schools. Now having completed one summer of the program, I feel comfortable in my role as a school leader because RLP has complimented my experience at GSS by providing me with the skills, resources, and confidence to lead. It has also provided me with an amazing network of Catholic school educators that I can reach out to or lean on at any given moment.
After finishing my first summer at Notre Dame in RLP, I came back to New Orleans with one week to prepare for the school year. Enrollment had greatly increased and half of the student body would be new students, while only two faculty members had more than a year of experience at the school. On top of these challenges, during the first week of school I was left as the veteran teacher and aspiring administrator, when our principal received the devastating news that her mother had passed away. While the stresses were great and the challenges were many, I embraced the challenge head on, and we made it through in one piece.
I am not sure I would have been able to handle all of the issues that arose with students, parents, and staff members without the first summer of preparation in RLP. Knowing that my classmates from RLP were going through similar struggles brought me strength that I in turn shared with my colleagues. The faith-centered community that we formed over the summer was a strong support then, and it became a strong spiritual support when I began work a few weeks after returning. In fact, my colleagues, students, and I have all embraced the oft quoted scripture that I learned to love through RLP last summer as our motto for this school year: “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Right now, at both GSS and in RLP, I feel that I am exactly where God is calling me to be at this stage in my vocational journey as a Catholic school educator and administrator.