For Catholic Schools Week, principals, teachers and parents wrote reflections about what it means to serve students and families during this time of pandemic.  This essay is by Gerald Smith Jr., the principal of St. Thomas More Catholic Academy in Washington.

In her transcript entitled The Pandemic is a Portal, Arundhati Roy states, "Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” 

When considering Roy’s writing, as a leader within a Catholic school, one might find the journey through the current pandemic to be turbulent, however it is in our faith and trust in God that we lead with conviction and the belief in our Savior’s call to take up this good work in guiding the youngest children of God closer to His divine love through their education. 

For over a year now, leading in schools within the Archdiocese of Washington has called on one’s ability to be both gracious and resilient, two of the greatest qualities of our beloved Christ. In some ways, one might compare the current state of our world as an opportunity to retreat not into ourselves, but rather into our faith and trust in God; you might call it the extended version of our Lenten season. In order to lead as principals within our school buildings, we must find ourselves in daily discernment and prayer as we transverse the complexities the pandemic has revealed. 

In a photo from January 2020, Octavian Culver (above), then a sixth grader at St. Thomas More Catholic Academy, reads a book in the school’s new St. Jerome Library. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Each day as principals, leaders are given the grand opportunity to recreate the world anew. For Catholic school principals, we know all too well the importance of imagining the world as Christ has commanded us to do; during times of leadership, especially in a pandemic, it is important for us to foster an enormous amount of love for those around us; it is through love that we promote learning, and strong relationships in a world that is yearning for connection. 

As a principal, one might find it vital to promote the cardinal virtues within his or her community in order to build a strong culture and community rooted in faith and guided by hope. Roy completes her transcript with a very simple question, “as you journey through this portal the pandemic has opened, what will you leave behind, what will you bring with you?” 

Catholic school principals must ask the same question of their communities, as we lead our communities through the pandemic, the complexities of virtual learning, the opportunity to heal our broken nation, as we build young men and women with the tools to make the world more just and humane; what shall we as Catholic school leaders leave behind? What might we take with us? 

Gerald Smith Jr. has served as the principal of St. Thomas More Catholic Academy in Washington since 2018. (Photo courtesy of St. Thomas More Catholic Academy)

As leaders in our Catholic school communities the answer is always the same; as we lead, teach, and inspire, we are called to take up our crosses and follow Christ; through Him and with Him, we have and will continue to develop learning spaces rooted in faith and guided by hope.