We were all nervous the day we loaded the car and trekked through the early dawn hours to Mt.Calvary, a tiny town with windmills in the distance, lush farmland, and the cleanest air we had inhaled in a long time.
The glimpse of the ‘castle on the hill’ as my son puts it, was breathtaking and a powerful statement of the faith-filled education to come. The first step on the meticulous campus and we knew this would be no ordinary experience.
Unloading Erin’s things into his sparse dorm, my mind began working overtime:
how would he survive?
would he fit in?
would he find enough to eat with his Celiac Disease?
who he would talk to when there was a problem?
and most of all, would he miss us?
Accordingly, Erin had many of the same fears and spent a few nights weeping into his pillow–missing the comforts and familiarity of home and our traditions. We were also without dry eyes for more nights than I care to count, yet deep inside, we knew this was right.
Each step along his journey, we watched him grow from a shy, insecure boy, to one of growing confidence, unshakable faith, and courageous leadership. Despite his ability to shine in his academics, music, student government, theatre and sports, he remained a humble young man, with the time and compassion to look out for others, and put them before himself.
I love this school.
While Erin is the last of my five, there are days I wish I had five more sons to send to SLS because the school is just that good.
His moral foundation, under the guidance of Fr. Dennis Druggan OFM CAP, Fr. Gary Wegner OFM CAP and Fr. John Holly OFM CAP taught him to live the Gospel through his actions and to truly become Franciscan in heart and soul. His teachers, Mr. Gritt, Mr. Ahlstrom, and so many amazing others imbued confidence in his ability to achieve things he never thought possible. His spiritual director, Fr. Ron Smith OFM CAP spoke to Erin’s gentle soul through regular meetings and guided him towards a close relationship with Jesus Christ.
On our side, some of the best days of our lives were volunteering for weekend visits, attending the annual Hilltopper Cross Country Meet, musicals, plays, concerts and Sunday Masses. Never have we witnessed such a deep and joyous Mass experience as we did there. If you never send a child to SLS, at least attend the 10:15 Sunday Mass during the school year as you will be rocked to your soul by the united voices of over 200 young men worshipping the Lord. If you don’t feel goosebumps running down your spine–I would be surprised!
Working on the Laurentianum with Mary Voell was always fun–writing articles for the quarterly magazine made me feel as if I were also part of the SLS family and it was another way for me to give back a portion of what Erin received.
It is difficult to fathom what path he may have taken if he were tossed into the local public high school. Things may have gone well, but I have serious doubts that he would have exemplified the leadership and faith he has now.
Graduation on Sunday May 19, was the most unique graduation ceremony we have ever attended. His last day ended as every day began in the past four years—with prayer. A beautiful Mass merged into convocation and afterwards, there was no dry eye in sight. Tough boys, who would be embarrassed to shed a tear, wept like babies as they embraced their SLS brothers, as did teachers, faculty, staff and parents. Afterwards, we all lingered as if saying goodbye would change us all…….each wanted another second of the holiness of the Hill of Happiness.
We left as we entered—with tears. But instead of tears of trepidation, they were tears of joy and longing for reunion.
We continue now, towards the next path–Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio where many of the same initial fears will probably ignite, but all will be fine in the end. The foundation is solid and Erin knows he must follow God’s guidance for whatever the future may hold.
Thank you to everyone at SLS for helping to form my boy into the man he is today.
All Peace and Good