By Brian Christopher, S.J.
Friday, September 27, 2019, Belize City, Belize
The academic year is off to a strong start at St. Martin de Porres School, and there is a sense that something new is in the air this year.
Summer break kept us all busy with four different renovation projects. Thanks to a grant we received, we were able to repaint our school buildings, replace or repair all the doors and windows of the school, and install four new rainwater vats with a filtering system, so our school children will have increased access to clean water this year. We were also able to give our office a bit of a “facelift,” to create a more inviting space for the various groups that meet there weekly.
But the changes have been more than superficial. At the start of the school year, we launched a strategic planning process for the school to rethink how we operate from the ground up. Over the last few years, Fr. Matt and his team worked hard to rebuild the hull of this ship; now our challenge is to plot a new course. The process we have embarked upon is more than a matter of rethinking policies or classroom management strategies. We are re-examining and rethinking the culture of our school, so as to root it more firmly in a sense of shared mission.
Over the last few months, St. Martin’s has also welcomed some new, and some not-so-new, faces to our team. Ms. Teresita Tillett returns from her year of working with the government as an assistant principal. Ms. Tillet brings a ton of experience as an educator, and a vast amount of institutional memory. The parish also hired Mrs. Debbie Ordonez our first Parish Business Manager. Debbie will be managing Swift Hall, as well as the day-to-day operations of the parish. Two months in, we are already so grateful for the new energy she has brought to our office.
We have also begun two new ministries in the parish. The first is a monthly grief support group, facilitated by two local therapists. Many of our parishioners have experienced deaths in their families this year. Our hope is to provide a safe space, where folks can come and share the ups and downs of grief with others who are going through something similar.
In September, we also began a support group for people caring for loved ones with dementia of one kind or another. “Caregivers’ Journey” meets every two weeks again to share the ups and downs of caring for loved ones, but also to provide encouragement, a sense of community, helpful information and spiritual support.
In July and August, St. Martin’s parish also hosted its first ever online retreat. The “We Are Called” retreat gave parishioners a chance to reflect more deeply on the five core values of our parish: Be deeply rooted in Christ, Be lovingly compassionate, Be warmly welcoming, Be boldly creative, and Be passionately engaged. Over two hundred people participated in this retreat in daily life!
Finally, on August 24 the parish sponsored a boat cruise to raise money for our school. The “Summa Kyant Done!” cruise hosted 100 passengers, who set sail for a full evening of music, dancing, refreshments, and fellowship, and all for a great cause! Our next parish fundraiser, which will be a shared fundraiser with Project HEAL, will be in early November to raise money for our feeding programs.
It has been a busy few months, but things are definitely moving in exciting directions!