“It takes a lot of courage to be a principal,” says someone who would know.
Springfield Dominican Sister Mary Paul McCaughey was the principal of two Catholic high schools and now is full-time faculty at DePaul University, where she teaches master’s and doctoral students and coordinates the graduate studies program for Catholic Educational Leadership in the College of Education.
So, when she was invited by Kathy Mears, the Interim President of the National Catholic Educational Association to write a book of prayers to encourage Catholic school principals, she said yes, admitting, “It isn’t anything I ever, ever thought I’d be doing in a million years.”
The slim collection is divided into sections with titles like “Of Worry,“ “Of Work,” “Of Authority” and “Of School Stuff.” Prayers, followed by reflections from others, bear titles like Change, The Copier, Holy Water, and The Drop-Off Lanes.
One prayer that Catholic school students past and present might appreciate is “Permanent Records.” It is brief, and here in its entirety:
Write your words on our hearts, Lord. Nothing else is truly permanent. Give us incredible care in what we write of one another, Word-Made-Flesh, as you dwell among us.
The leitmotif that travels through the pages is this: It is all about the children. On an NCEA podcast recorded in February to launch the book, Sister Mary Paul said, “There are times when we are tired or unsure or even wondering about our own talent. If our own pride and our own fatigue get in the way it’s a needed reminder of who Jesus would put first—the face of the child. The reason for the existence of Catholic schools is to love those children.”
She drew heavily on her own experience as a principal at Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, and Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, Springfield. “The students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and boards of Marian Catholic, SHG, and where I taught at Rosary and Routt, are thumbprints on my heart. I made so many mistakes. As superintendent and professor, I realize that it is easier to give the good advice than to take it. Being a principal is the whole enchilada,” she laughs.