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Magical storyteller weaves faith into program

Posted By January 30, 2015 | 11:12 am | Lead Story #1
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By Tanya Connor

WEBSTER – A magician brought the three Catholic schools in town together, unwittingly but at a good time.
Each year St. Anne Elementary has a show for Catholic Schools Week, according to the principal, Sister Constance Bayeur, a Sister of St. Anne. But the performer they chose for this year – Jed Doherty of Jedlie’s Magic Circus in Hyde Park – couldn’t come during Catholic Schools Week. So St. Anne’s scheduled him for the Friday before and invited St. Louis and St. Joseph elementary schools to join them.
St. Louis sent 124 students (kindergarten through grade 8), St. Joseph sent 110 students (grades 1-8) and St. Anne’s had 120 students (pre-kindergarten-grade 8), Sister Constance said. Principals and teachers attended too.
“When our enrollments were high, we wouldn’t have had the room,” Sister Constance said of St. Anne’s School gym, where the show was held. “This actually seats 500. … You might as well fill the bleachers. When you have a nice building, you might as well use it.”
Linda Oakley, St. Anne’s seventh-grade homeroom teacher, made welcome signs for the other schools, and her students helped hang the signs, Sister Constance said.
Last spring, a plan to bring the three schools together as a new entity was being discussed. But that’s not why St. Anne’s invited the others to this show, Sister Constance said; they’re always thinking of things they can do together.13-14 CSW_Logo_Circle_CMYK
Last fall it was decided that St. Anne’s and St. Louis will combine to form All Saints Academy, to open in 2016. Sister Constance said that’s why these two schools were scheduled to get together for another Catholic Schools Week event: Mass with Bishop McManus at St. Louis Church Jan. 30. (That Mass was rescheduled for Feb. 12.)
During the show Jedlie told his audience, “Jesus has taught us that each and every one of us are great at something. Being part of our beautiful Catholic Church means that we can share our talents.”
He said he hopes students know they’re not good at everything, and that Pope Francis said it’s important to be humble and ask for help.
Jedlie asked for volunteers to “help” him; to line up and say what they were thankful for. Brady McKay, a St. Anne’s student, said he was thankful for his life.
“Hey, Brady, you didn’t deflate those balls did you?” he joked, referring to the Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and allegations of soft footballs during a playoff game.
Back on point, Jedlie told the audience, “We have a responsibility to take care of that life, make healthy choices.”
Another student was thankful for her teacher, who was also in the line up. The teacher said she was thankful for her students. Jedlie said the teachers could make more money elsewhere, “but they choose to teach because they love you.”
In response to a student’s gratitude for God, Jedlie said, “I’m really thankful that I know God, that my mom and dad brought me up” to love him.
With the help of St. Joseph’s eighth-grader Joseph Starr, Jedlie
performed more magic tricks to illustrate the parable of the Good Samaritan. He portrayed the Samaritan as a magician who could transform one object in to another. The magician learned that the greatest transformation was to become a person who helped others rather than stepping over them.
Jedlie had the audience applaud Joseph, saying it’s not easy getting up in front of your own school, and “it certainly wasn’t easy getting up in front of every Catholic kid in town.” The three schools are not rival schools, he said; “in the end you guys know you are all part of this beautiful Catholic family.”
“Jews and Samaritans – they didn’t speak to each other,” Jedlie said. But the Good Samaritan didn’t see a different race or religion; “he saw another human being who was suffering. Each and every one of you here are going to be asked to be somebody’s hero.”
Using the title of his show, “My Life is Magic,” Jedlie told listeners they can do amazing things. (He’d just laid St. Anne’s fifth-grader Kaya Lukasek on a board stretched between two chairs, then removed one of the chairs and the board, leaving her “balanced” in midair.)
“Yes, it was scary,” Kaya told The Catholic Free Press afterwards. “I thought he was going to do the cut-the-person-in-half trick.”
She didn’t really think he was going to cut her in half, did she?
Kind of.
“Some of the things Jesus asks us to do can be really scary,” Jedlie had told the audience. He asks us to forgive and love everyone, not just the people in our school or church.
“All people?” a student wanted to know.
“Yes, all people.”
Having the three schools come together for this show was like getting the family together in “the pope’s ‘Year of the Family,’” said Mary Ann Weaver, a St. Joseph’s eighth-grade teacher. “We’re very appreciative of being invited to join in with St. Louis and St. Anne. We all can get together.”
“I think it was really nice that we all got to spend time together,” said Jessie Gardner, a St. Joseph’s seventh-grader. She said she knows students from the other schools through sports, and that she thought the show funny and exciting. Aidin Rosario, a St. Joseph’s sixth-grader, said it was “fun” and “amazing.”
Jedlie said afterwards that he’d learned the previous week that three schools would attend the show. He learned about the planned merge of two of them after the show.
“I loved coming, having the three schools together,” he said. “There was a beautiful spirit.”

FIND Catholic Schools Week photo album at

Sharing the faith, deepening knowledge, serving others

By Tanya Connor

UXBRIDGE – The bishop learned a few things when visiting Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School Monday, just before a snow storm cancelled part of Catholic Schools Week. But a good weather forecast and a clear snow day itinerary weren’t among his lessons.
First he played his role as chief teacher, asking students questions during his homily at the Catholic Schools Week Mass, held in St. Mary Church next to the school.
After asking about the week’s theme – “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service” – he spoke about sharing faith, deepening knowledge and serving others.
He asked about the difference between Catholic and public schools, which both teach the same facts about things such as arithmetic. But in Catholic schools students learn about their faith, he said. Christ is the reason for those schools.

When he asked the students how many of them own computers, numerous hands shot up.

Photos by Tanya Connor Bishop McManus quizzes the younger generation at Catholic Schools Week Mass Monday for Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School in Uxbridge. He celebrated Mass in St. Mary’s Church.

Photos by Tanya Connor
Bishop McManus quizzes the younger generation at Catholic Schools Week Mass Monday for Our Lady of the Valley Elementary School in Uxbridge. He celebrated Mass in St. Mary’s Church.

“Oh, my word!” exclaimed the 63-year-old bishop, remarking that computers are to them what paper and pencil were to him.
But he had something to teach this technology-savvy generation: “There is a huge difference between being knowledgable and being wise.” He said the wise person knows the answers to three key questions: “Where have I come from?” (God) “Where am I going? (Home to God at the end of life) and “How do I get there?” With help from a student, he explained that one gets there by finding a good way, the way of Jesus.
The bishop told students their parents sacrifice to send them to a Catholic school.
“My prayer for you this week, once we get through the snow storm,” is to be safe and get back to Catholic Schools Week and be thankful for a Catholic school education, he said.
He learned more about that education on a tour through the school after Mass.
In kindergarten he learned from the teacher, Sally Albin, how the students are taught to print, in preparation for cursive writing. (They haven’t used the Palmer Method in years!)
In preschool, he found Amy Drew, a teacher who has 22 students (but not all of them every day). He remarked how cute they were – and told her he hopes she’s well rested when she comes in!
In sixth grade he was informed students were doing religion.
“That’s right up my alley,” he responded, and asked what they were studying.
“David and Goliath.”
“Who won?”
He also learned from Father Nicholas Desimone, St. Mary’s pastor, that the school has a championship basketball team. Bishop McManus told sixth-graders, 17 of whom are on the team, that he’d have to do 1-on-1 with them, like he does with students from St. Mary Elementary School in Shrewsbury.
“Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose,” he mused.
“You did a great job in church,” he told Our Lady of the Valley students. (At the end of Mass he’d told the whole school their celebration of the Eucharist was well done, and praised the students for their singing.)
“What are your plans for tomorrow?” he teased the sixth-graders. “Come to school?”
Their teacher, Sandy Robbins, answered: she didn’t plan to come to school.
The bishop repeated the question in fourth grade, where he met the newest altar servers – twins Julie and Sophie Compston. A student said she planned to sleep in.
“Think you’re going to have school tomorrow?” he asked fifth-graders. As in other grades, there was little response to the weather question, other than hesitant silence and a shrug or two.
Bishop McManus asked if anyone remembered the Blizzard of ’78. The principal, Marilyn Willand, recalled school being called off for three weeks. The bishop also recalled an ice storm that postponed Ash Wednesday to “Ash Sunday.”
On the way to fifth grade, Father Desimone had asked the bishop if he wanted to have fun there; if so, ask the students to recite the school’s mission statement, which they all know. En route, the bishop caused some fun of his own.
“What happened to you?” he asked costumed, giggling students leaving another room. “The laughing lab?” More giggles.
In grade three Bishop McManus learned that the students were studying sacraments, and taught them briefly about grace.
Having already visited the other grades, the bishop was ready to leave, but not before telling the principal, “You have a wonderful school.” Mrs. Willand affirmed that she does, crediting her collaborators. The bishop praised the pastor-principal team.


FIND Catholic Schools Week photo album at