Home of the St. Pat Warriors

The Barns

My family home continues to be in Flemington, NJ, part of beautiful Hunterdon County. We have lived there for over 53 years and although there has been development, there are still wonderful and beautiful spaces that have been untouched. Most of these treasures are old farms and barns.

As I walk and run these old roads – a few of them are still dirt – I marvel at these stately old buildings and wonder about their history. I wonder what stories they could tell? I wonder about the hard work that went into these working farms and barns. I wonder what these old treasures have to say to me?

Over the years I have seen these old friends begin to deteriorate – old farmers have passed on and some of their families do not want to carry on the farming tradition. But these beautiful buildings persist – through rough weather, blistering summers, hurricane strength winds, and below freezing temperatures. They remind me of the Bible story of building our faith and home on a sturdy foundation.

Sometimes I recognize myself in these barns. I too have holes and gaps – worries, failures, selfishness, loss of perspective. This is when I need to direct all my attention to the One who calls me – the One who fills those holes and gaps – the One who likes those holes and gaps because they make me open and vulnerable and willing to listen. Those holes and gaps push me to ask for help and realize that I can’t do it myself.

These Barns, my friends, – they bring me comfort and insight – they call me to challenge myself – they help me to listen and be open – they make me smile and help me experience all that God wants to share with me.

College Football Quandary

Before I was born, I was a Notre Dame Football fan. My dad loved the Irish and all of his 5 daughters love the Irish also. I could go on and on with stories of us cheering for the team – making “tunnels” so it looked like they were running through us as they came onto the field, having noise makers, banging pots and pans – even my father telling the priest on New Year’s Eve that they mass had to be over in 40 mins because that would get us home in time to watch ND vs Texas in the ’78 Cotton Bowl.

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This weekend presents a big challenge for me. Notre Dame plays Navy as they do every year. It is a huge dilemma for me – my beloved Fighting Irish or the Midshipman of the Naval Academy? My dad also faced this same dilemma every year. He was a Marine (Korea) along with his 2 brothers (WWII and Korea). My Uncle, his brother-in-law, (Korea) and cousin served in the Navy. I also had the great privilege of living in Virginia Beach, VA for 9 years. This huge and powerful military area allowed me to make many good and life-long friends who served in the Navy.

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Adding to this quandary, Navy actually saved Notre Dame during World War II. Most of the men from Notre Dame were fighting the war causing ND to almost close because they had so few students. Without Navy, Notre Dame may not still exist. In 1943, Notre Dame offered all of its facilities to the Navy and Navy began sending men, thus saving the University of Notre Dame. At the same time, ND was able to offer support to the war efforts and to the Navy.

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Notre Dame has never forgotten Navy’s kindness and support in its time of dire need. In fact, in the 1950s and 60s when colleges across the country were ending their ROTC programs, Notre Dame stood by Navy and allowed its University to serve as a base for college naval recruits.

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To honor this relationship, Notre Dame promised to play Navy every year for as long as Navy wanted. The mutual respect is evident on the field during and after the game. Each team will travel to the opponents’ end zones to stand and honor their alma mater.

Who will I cheer for????? Go Navy beat Irish! Go Irish beat Navy!

Inclusion – All Are Welcome

This popular phrase “All Are Welcome” can be found in many Catholic schools and on many web pages and printed materials. We even sing the song, written by Marty Haugen, All Are Welcome, at many of our masses. It is a great song, with nice words, but when we think about it in the context of welcoming all learners into our Catholic schools, the words ring hollow.

I recently completed the Program for Inclusive Education through the University of Notre Dame. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done! It was demanding, rigorous, took hours and hours of my time and energy, and yet, completing the program and learning about inclusion is one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life.

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A few verses from Marty’s Haugen’s song

The call for inclusion is not just focused on St. Patrick School. It is a universal call to all Catholic schools made by Pope Francis, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, the National Catholic Educational Association, The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, and most importantly, Jesus Christ.

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How lucky is Pope Francis?

It is our hope that at St. Pat’s, we will welcome all children because every child is a gift from God, every child has unique gifts and talents to share, every child enriches our school community. Our faculty is ready, our children are ready, our hearts are ready to be an Inclusive Catholic School. In Haugen’s words: “let us build a house where love can dwell…”

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The front entrance of St. Patrick School

The Shove



If you have ever been shoved, you know that it can be pretty forceful, and at times, even rough. The shove can propel you with great force as you try to protect yourself from any unintended impact. I have been getting shoved around lately, not by a person, but from God. It began as a gentle nudge, but the more I ignored and resisted the nudges, the stronger they became until they turned into a full blown shove.


Why has God been shoving me around lately? Well, about 3 years ago I began thinking about going back to study on the topic of inclusion in Catholic schools. I wanted to know how we could serve all students and families better. I wanted to know if/how we could use the resources we have at St. Pat’s to teach students with many different learning styles and needs. I wanted to know if we could welcome families who had children with intellectual or cognitive differences. I wanted to know St. Pat’s could really be inclusive – where “all are welcomed.”

However, I really did not want to study again – to write papers – take tests – complete group assignments – give presentations – I love the learning but not the work. “I am getting too old for this – pick someone else,” I told God. Along the way I picked up information from some Catholic Universities who were beginning programs for inclusive education in Catholic schools – I put their brochures into a pile and occasionally would glance at them and say, “No, I should really just throw them out because I am not going to do that.”


For 2-3 years this tug of war continued between God and me – the more he bothered and nagged me about this, the deeper I dug in my heels. And, the deeper I dug in, the stronger his nudges became until they were full out shoves.


This past May, I began studying at the University of Notre Dame in their Program for Inclusive Education for Catholic Schools. I am 2 courses in and I can honestly say that I have never worked harder, never been as academically challenged as I have been for the past 3 months, never doubted if I could do something like I have in this program – full disclosure, every day this summer I thought about dropping out! BUT, I have never learned as much, never been challenged to think totally differently, never been as energized, and never felt as strong of a call as I do right now to lead in a way that prepares St. Pat’s to be a Catholic school of inclusion open to welcoming the exceptionalities of all students.

“We are called to celebrate the God-given potential of every student.”

There is much work to be done – there is still a whole lot of learning to be done – and I am sure there will still be some shoving by God – bottom line – GOD WINS!


Words Matter


I am debating writing about this because I am feeling old fashioned, too conservative, and, antiquated. I want to be progressive – I want to be cool and open-minded. I want to be middle of the road and listen to all sides, but I just can’t do it on this issue.

I am debating writing about this because I am feeling old fashioned, too conservative, and, antiquated. I want to be progressive – I want to be cool and open-minded. I want to be middle of the road and listen to all sides, but I just can’t do it about this.

Recently I have really been bothered by people referring to our Easter vacation as “spring break.” It is the same way I feel when people refer to our Christmas vacation as our “winter break.”


As a Catholic educator for over 30 years, I find it difficult to see some of our Catholic tradition being eased out by secular language and thinking. We have an Easter vacation to remember what happened during Holy Week and the celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Our Easter vacation has nothing to do with the season of spring, but everything to do with Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

We celebrate our Christmas vacation because we want to experience the joy of God sending his own Son into the world, not to celebrate the snowflakes and cold weather of the winter season. Our liturgical calendar gives us opportunities to celebrate liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Ordinary time, Lent, and Easter. These are the seasons for our Catholic faith.

I know I am putting myself out there for criticism and ridicule. “Get with it.” “Don’t be so conservative and uptight.” “If doesn’t really matter what we call our vacations.” “You need to get over it – it is the way of the world.” I have been trying to “get over it.” I have been trying not to rock the boat. I have been trying to let it go and focus on other things. And yet, every time I hear spring and winter break, I cringe – something pricks my conscience and tells me that it is not OK – that I need to say something – that I just can’t keep hiding behind “this is the way it is.”

This feeling – this voice – it keeps prodding me to say something – to stand up for the core of my Catholic faith – and I know from past experience, it will not leave me alone until I do something – until I listen – take a risk – and say what THE VOICE is asking me to say: As Catholics, as a Catholic school, we celebrate Christmas and Easter vacation.

I feel better already.




A Surprise Gift

For two days – this past Tuesday and Wednesday – I complained, whined, and moaned about the snow. I said, texted, and sent my Bitmoji at least 1000 times with this message –  “I am over this.”


I worried and stressed out about how to set up a new standardized testing schedule, how to reschedule meetings and due dates, and how to stay on top of the shoveling. I was on a roll of being negative and then God, as He often does to me, slapped me upside my head. He knows I am not good with subtle – I need a strong and forthright approach! His message to me: “stop complaining and being negative. You are missing the beauty and the gift that is around you – that I am giving to you!”


I was missing how pretty to snow looked on all the trees. I was missing how my 14.5 years old dog turns into a puppy in the snow despite her arthritic left knee and hip – how she loves to roll, push her nose into, and play in the snow.  I was missing the peace that falls upon the Earth after the snow is finished. I was missing looking for miles and miles and seeing white on trees and land. I was missing the strong little crocus popping up through the snow. I was missing a lot because I was complaining, whining, and being negative.

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This experience has caused me to examine and pray about how much more have I missed because I don’t stop to see the gift? Hopefully, little by little, I will continue to see the beauty, the positive, – and, the GIFT! Thank you, God, for slapping me upside my head!


2018 Words




For the past couple of years, my friend Kay has encouraged me to pick 3 words to focus on instead of making New Year’s resolutions. I have been thinking about my new words for the past few weeks and thought I had them, but they just did not feel right and I kept coming back to just 2 different words.


“BELIEVE” is my personal motto that I keep with me all the time. BELIEVE in God, in family, and in relationships. Believe in the goodness of others, in beauty, and in love. Believe in loyalty, in forgiveness, and in compassion. Believe in a good hearty laugh, in a smile, and in the stories of a child. Believe in our flag, in hard work, and in the cathartic feeling of a good sweat. Believe in exercise, in routine, and in the wag of a dog’s tail. Believe in having fun, in taking a risk, in having a bucket list. Believe in a monarch butterfly being the presence of my dad. To believe in listening, in taking time to process, and in prayer. To BELIEVE!


My second word for 2018 is “WONDER.” This might have to do more with the professional side of my life. To wonder about how to improve as a teacher and principal. To wonder how to better support teachers. To wonder how to bring the message of Jesus Christ to our students and their families. To wonder how to deepen learning experiences for the students at St. Patrick School. To wonder how to keep pushing forward – to be creative – to think outside the box.


As I type this reflection, I realize that maybe “wonder” is not all on my professional side – to wonder how a small seed develops into a beautiful flower. To wonder how the sun rises and sets each and every day. To wonder why living includes dying. To wonder what my purpose is. To wonder if I am making a positive impact. To wonder how to become a better person. To wonder how to grow closer to God. To wonder what it will be like to see my father again… To WONDER.

What are your words? Happy 2018!

Bailey + My Vet =Advent


During the Advent and Lenten seasons, we prepare to take all of our students to confession. I will put a short prayer service together that includes a Gospel reading, an examination of conscience, and a short reflection that I give. Preparing and giving a reflection for 2nd – 8th graders is anxiety producing for me: how do I say something worthwhile to that range of ages? What will my focus be? What will be meaningful and help kids prepare for the sacrament? What message will they take with them? I began thinking about what I was going to say for Advent back in August. For months, whenever I would think “what is my focus for the Advent Penance service going to be?” I would come up with nothing and move on to the next thing – I had plenty of time to figure it out!


Fast forward 3 months – Last week I started to enter the panic stage since the prayer service was one week away. I had one little thought – maybe I would focus on St. Joseph? Good, but I just was not really excited about it. Then a thought came to me while I was walking Bailey one day after school – Bailey – she was my idea – she would be my focus for the Advent Prayer reflection coupled with the Gospel passage of Matthew 22: 36-40 – “You shall love the Lord Your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

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How did I get to this crazy conclusion? Here is the inspiration I received: Bailey is 14 years old – she is an old girl with arthritis in her back legs and hips and weak kidney function. Her ailments mean that I buy her a specialty food, renew medicines on a regular basis, pay vet bills, and help her up the stairs at night. Sometimes when I get home from work the last thing I want to do is change clothes and go out for a walk, but Bailey always wants to go and so we go. When I am sitting on my couch relaxing with a book or catching up on a recent Grey’s Anatomy or This Is Us episode and Bailey wants to go out, I will get up and take her out. I will do whatever I need to for Bailey no matter the cost or inconvenience.

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So, this got me thinking – Love the Lord Your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Do I do whatever God wants me to do? Do I take time to pray even when I don’t feel like it? Am I patient with people when they are on my nerves – the honest answer is NO – but I will do whatever Bailey wants – whenever she wants it!


Hmmm – something is a little off here – so, my Advent focus is to have a better balance – to be more attentive to God and others – to Love the Lord Your God with all your whole heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Blessings during this Advent Season!  Go Warriors!


History and remembering are a wonderful way to enlarge the experience of being alive. This thought came to me as I was thinking about writing for Veteran’s Day.

In my family, my sisters and I grew up respecting our flag, our National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and our military. I had 5 uncles and my dad serve in the military: my dad and 2 of his brothers served as Marines – one of his brothers losing his life at the age of 18 at Iwo Jima. His other brother served in the Army. On my mom’s side, one brother was career Air Force and one in the Navy. I also have 2 cousins who served our country in the military: a Major in the Air Force and an Army Ranger while another cousin is a civilian employee of the Navy who designs the electomagnetic launch system to launch planes from the air craft carriers.


This Veteran’s Day, I want to write about my dad’s oldest brother, my Uncle Eddie. He just turned 93 years old and is a World War II and Korean War vet. He also served as a Drill Instructor for the Marines at Parris Island. My Uncle Ed’s story is amazing.

In March of 1943, Edward O’Donnell joined the United States Marine Corps in Wilkes-Barre, PA. He was sworn in in Philadelphia, PA and sent to boot camp in Parris Island, SC. He was assigned to 19th Company 3rd Marine Division. After training and a few stops along the way, he eventually ended up in Guam where he worked on construction projects and unloaded mortar shells. He sailed out of Guam on the U.S.S. Hercules and arrived off of Iwo Jima-Volcano Islands on February 19, 1945.


While my Uncle Ed was awaiting transport to the island, his ship was attacked by Japanese Kamikaze pilots. Eventually he and his division were transported onto the island and he immediately began hauling supplies from the beachhead to the combat units. He told me his main job was to get ammunition up from the shore areas to the plane drops on Motoyama Airfield.


Knowing that his brother Tom was also on Iwo Jima, my Uncle Ed asked his Commanding Officer, Captain Thomas, if it was possible to find out where his brother Tom, 5th Marine Division, was. The CO gave my uncle a pass, keys to his Jeep, and the location of his brother Tom’s unit. My Uncle Ed found his brother’s unit and was told he just missed them by a few hours – many of men from Tom’s unit had moved up on the lines but that they would be back in two days. He returned two days later to this news – his brother was missing in action. Tom was 18 years old and died leading his unit closer and closer to enemy lines.

Ed returned home to begin work on the railroad but eventually re-enlisted with the Marines. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and became a Drill Instructor on Parris Island, SC until 1951 when he ended his military career.


My Uncle Ed is 93 years old and still very active with the Marine Corps League. He serves breakfasts, attends parades, and has been honored for his military service. The picture above is a Marine thanking my uncle for his service to our country. This took place while we were attending the Wreaths Across America event in Arlington Cemetery. Each year we place a wreath on my Uncle Tom’s grave – it is always an emotional and powerful experience.SKMBT_C36417110715120_0001

This Veteran’s Day make sure you honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Consider changing one light in a visible location in your home or office to green, and keep it glowing every day as a symbol of support and appreciation for our veterans. Thank you, Uncle Ed, for your service to our country – I love you!




From as far back as I can recall, I always followed my father around – I can remember having my own Play School wheelbarrow, shovel, and rake. I can remember sitting on the couch and asking him a million questions about the rules of football. I can remember being in the garage with him watching him check the oil in the riding mower, change a bike tire, and wax the car. I learned a ton of things from my dad, but the one I treasure the most is learning how to appreciate and care for the Earth – to respect creation – to marvel in its beauty. I know he would have loved Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si – Caring for our Common Home!

I have been writing this piece since the early spring – when the plants began to emerge from the winter soil and the sun burned longer into the night. I began writing this in my head because each and every year I am in awe of the miracles that happen in our gardens at my parent’s house in New Jersey. I never tire of watching the buds turn to flowers, never tire of watching the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds feast on the pollen in those flowers, never tire of thinking of all the lessons my father taught me about planting, watching, pruning, composting so we could nourish the plants the next season, listening, protecting – enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.


It is my extreme delight to get my hands dirty and work and sweat in those gardens – to build up a few callouses due to pruning, trimming, shoveling, and raking – not to mention the ever present weeding! I find that this time alone in my father’s gardens is pure gift – it allows me to be with him, to listen, to remember, to smile, to wonder if he would be happy with how all his plants are doing,  – to pray.


This time also allows me to cherish all the time we spent together working in these gardens – our conversations about life, family, plans, relationships, work, friends, service, but most importantly, faith. My father was a wonderful Master Gardener – he took classes, did the helpline at the agricultural center, went to people’s houses to give them advice on flowers and bushes – he loved it! The reason he was so great at this was because he knew who the real Master Gardener was – he knew who was really in charge of those gardens and he passed that onto me – a gift I will always cherish.


It has been 4 years since my dad left to meet the Master Gardener – 4 years of missing him every day – and yet, I feel his presence – I hear his voice – I see his smile – as a person with whom I respect very much always tells me, “it is a very thin veil between heaven and Earth.” Thank you to both of the Master Gardeners in my life – thank you for the gifts of Creation and most importantly, for the gift of love.

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