During a visit to Holy Spirit School, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, right, was telling students about serving as a military chaplain in the Iraq War. Without missing a beat, a student raised his hand and asked, "Your Excellency, did you survive?" This was the bishop's reaction. Rev. Brandon Macadaeg, left, served as interim principal.
Lesson learned: 'Be a priest for those kids'
In January, I attended the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines. At that time, I felt the Holy Spirit strongly renewing the sentiment that I felt at my priestly ordination three years ago: "Lord, whatever you want from me, I'll do it."
I never struggled with obedience and generosity in my priestly duties. It was always natural for me. Yet for whatever reason, the Lord wanted to reinvigorate this sentiment in my heart. Little did I know that God was preparing me for the amazing and frightening adventure that was to about to unfold.
Some weeks after the Eucharistic Congress my life changed dramatically, when I was appointed as the interim principal of Holy Spirit School in Fremont.
My initial reaction was to say no, citing my lack of experience in education and administration: I never taught in a classroom. I do not have fancy degrees in education. I am a professor of nothing. I never worked in a school. Additionally, I was also apprehensive about having two full-time jobs — school principal and associate pastor of a very large suburban parish. However I said, "Yes!" because I was confident that it was the Lord's will and that he would guide me through it.
My spiritual director, Father Ray Gawronski, SJ, wisely encouraged me, saying, "Your school does not need you to 'just be the principal.' It needs a priest — another Christ. Father, you are a priest forever! Do what you do best — be a priest for those kids!"
I embraced those words, but sadly this was Father Gawronski's last advice to me because he passed away shortly afterward.
To be successful, I just simply had to do what I love most — be a priest! That was easy. Thus by seeing the position in this light, the transition from parish priest to parish school principal was flawless. I approached the new task in the same way I approach any other pastoral situation. I had to be another Christ in the school.
Quickly I realized that being principal of a Catholic school is not just a job to fulfill, but a ministry to be lived out in love.
Daily Mass, prayer, sacrifice, a respect for the sacred, firm but gentle direction, a love for Catholic Tradition and the invitation to others to strive for greatness served as the backbone of my ministry.
In effect, I wanted the community to discover that true freedom and happiness comes from profound generosity to God's will and a confident trust in his grace.
Like many schools, our school has its challenges too, but the greatest accomplishment we achieved this school year was to renew a joyful missionary zeal in the hearts of the parishioners and families.
I am confident that such a renewal paves the path for the amazing future of our school and all our Catholic schools.
In the end, it's all about Christ … and we principals are just here to help Him!
(Father Brandon Macadaeg is parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont.)
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