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This school marquee sign for Saint Frances Cabrini Academy welcomes Jonathan Murphy Schroeder, the adopted son of Dr. Pete Schroeder, school principal.A simple “yes” can change the world.  At least, it has changed mine. Five years ago, I said “yes” when I was offered the position of principal at Saint Frances Cabrini Academy in Saint Louis, Missouri. Little did I know how this would change my life! As a new principal, there was much to learn and a pretty steep learning curve to get past. As I matured in my role as principal, I came to realize what an incredible gift the school community of Saint Frances Cabrini Academy was to me.

Quickly, I recognized that I had found my home away from home. People understood life in similar ways that I did; they cherished the core values that I desired in a community where I was going to expend so much time, energy, and commitment. I discovered that I was immersed in a community where respect, compassion, and self-betterment through education was the most common denominator in the members of our school community, which is located on the campus of Saint Wenceslaus Parish and served by the Missionaries of the Holy Family.

What Family Means to Me

It mattered little that we came from a variety of different races, ethnicities, languages, religions, and socio-economic statuses. Cabrini Academy is home to African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic families, in addition to the students from nine different African countries and five different Asian countries. Regardless of our differences, we shared an understanding in our common values. This is what home means to me. This is what family means to me.

Richard Jacobs (1996) describes what a Christian community is like in his book, The Vocation of the Catholic Educator:

“The excellence of the Christian community is not discovered in the perfection of its individual members who draw attention to themselves and their achievements, setting themselves apart from other members of the community who do not possess similar gifts in abundance. Rather, the excellence of the Christian community is discovered when each of its members freely give their gifts to bring about the fulfillment of the community’s purpose (page 62).”

What, then, is the purpose of the Saint Frances Cabrini Academy community? It is to pursue excellence and love in all that we do to help our students become all that they can. It is to overcome the difficulties of language, poverty, and ignorance together so that they can compete with their peers from across Saint Louis when they enter public and private high schools. All of this for the sake of our children. I suppose this is what made the most sense to me when I came to know what Cabrini Academy was truly like. This is what made me feel at home.

God was not Finished with Me Yet

In the summer of 2014, though, I realized that God was not finished with me yet. During the quiet times of summer, when all the students and teachers have left for break, I was given the opportunity to welcome yet another life-changing decision. God decided that it was time to provide me with the “…good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” Luke 6:38

I was given the possibly of a son, and I said “yes.” Through prayer and discernment of my life goals (and after looking over my financial situation), I decided to adopt my nephew upon birth, and on 16 September 2014, I became a dad. A simple “yes” can change the world; it definitely changed mine. 

“I never knew I could love another human being as deeply as I love my son,” I told a Cabrini dad when he asked how my new found life of a single father was going. He smiled and nodded in a way that conveyed complete understanding for the profound gift that children are in our lives. 

Once again, the learning curve of becoming a first-time parent was pretty large, but I reveled in the opportunity to bond with a child that I could call my own. Looking past the sleepless nights, the innumerable dirty diapers and bottles to wash, and the long days and short nights of being both a Catholic school principal and a single parent, I have found the best part of God’s abundant grace in my relationship with my son. Truthfully, I have found the best part of who I am.

My School Family

Over the last year and a half or so, the Saint Frances Cabrini Community has affirmed and celebrated Jonathan alongside me. In fact, the front sign of the school displaying our theme “We are Many; We are One” last year was changed when Jonathan was born to “Welcome, Jonathan Murphy Schroeder. We are Many; We are One More!”

In his short life, he has already attended numerous meetings and school events when I haven’t been able to secure babysitting. From marketing meetings, school plays, and family science nights, Jonathan has grown close to many parents who have taken the time to interact with him.  He has also become a daily topic of discussion with the second graders when I am doing lunch duty.  

My larger family at school embraced my new family at home. What an incredible gift! I never knew that God could show such goodness in my life, and I am honored and grateful. God bless your family, too. +JMJ+

[This Messenger Magazine article is written by Dr. Pete Schroeder, principal at Saint Frances Cabrini Academy.]

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