Community of Caritas

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BELOW: Indians!!! Every year of school introduces a new theme. The students have been greeted by Indians, Israelites, Old Testament characters, soldiers and angels…the adults who didn’t grow up here, love to “go to school” again during each opening of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse.


Our Lady of Victory School Opening


 “Peace will come through the children of the Queen of Peace, who are birthed and schooled in holiness by Her…” - a Friend of Medjugorje



poster hanging on the door of a pizzeria displayed several youth looking down at their iphone, laptop, or tablet screens. A single word titled the poster: “Screenagers.” The word “screenagers” evolved from the word "teenagers." Teenagers did not exist until the 1950s. Before that, through the early 1980s, there were only three categories: children, youth and adults. Youth were considered young adults evolving into adulthood; accepting more responsibilities; learning work skills; becoming responsible citizens; maturing into their roles as future husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. Monumental changes were happening in the culture after World War II, which led into a time of prosperity and a more materialistic outlook on life. Instead of evolving into adulthood, those from 13 years to 19 years of age moved into a new developmental stage that became known as the teenager. Rather than taking on more responsibilities, their lives centered around fun and entertainment; rather than learning work skills, learning sports became their afternoon activity; rather than developing love and patriotism for their nation as a good citizen, they became more and more dependent and less and less free; rather than looking towards marriage and building a strong family, many became the product of divorce and continued the destructive patterns in their own lives and the lives of the future generations. By the time Our Lady began appearing in Medjugorje, She would say the “youth” of this generation “...find themselves in a difficult situation....”

 

Our Lady of Victory School

In Our Lady of Victory's Little Schoolhouse, Our Lady places Her Son at the center of everything, from the curriculum taught, to the inspired decor on every wall. Since God controls all of history, history is just the telling of His-story, and who better to learn that from, but through Our Lady Herself. Being that Our Lady is the primary teacher in the community school, Her statue is always placed in a prominent location in the schoolhouse.




Our Lady of Victory School morning prayer

The students of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse pray at the feet of Our Lady at the beginning and end of each school day. Just as the adults open to a message of Our Lady to begin their day, so too do the youth of the community in school. Our Lady said on August 25, 1995: “…let your morning begin with morning prayer, and …end with thanksgiving…” The students not only end their school day in thanksgiving, but also with an Act of Contrition.

 

 Shortly after the founding of the Community of Caritas, a Friend of Medjugorje broke from the world’s system and founded Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse in 1993. In this school of Our Lady, the desire of a Friend of Medjugorje and the community adults is that Our Lady teach and shape the children, just as She taught Jesus and His little friends. Students begin each day with the school prayer written by a Friend of Medjugorje, which is addressed to Our Lady so that She would: “...Teach us and help us to understand that the most important lesson to learn is not from a book but how to love...” (link to School Prayer below). All of the community parents and single consecrated are very much involved in the school. Various members come in for different classes or to speak on particular topics, keeping the youth closely connected to the adults in the community. As Scripture states in Proverbs 22:6,


“Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”



Community adults have the assurance that the training of their children rests on their shoulders and is not handed over to strangers. Medjugorje visionary, Ivan, has said that Our Lady’s school is, “the school of peace, the school of love, the school of prayer.” At Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse these three elements of prayer, peace, and love are central in every lesson.

 

The Holy Spirit and Our Lady guide the choice of a different school theme every year, which has ranged from Kings and Queens, to Indians, to the Holy Land, to Pioneers, to God’s Creation. A few weeks before school starts, the adults in the community cover the windows of the school so that no student can peek into the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is slowly transformed into the new theme with everyone in the community using their talents; be it carpentry, painting, researching, decorating, sewing, computer graphics, garage sale hunting, writing, acting or cooking. For two weeks, the schoolhouse is surrounded by a whirlwind of activity, until the first day of school arrives, and the theme is revealed to the students with a dramatic, rehearsed production put on by community members, including the graduates of Our Lady of Victory's Little Schoolhouse that brings the theme to life. It may very well be more fun for the adults than it is for the students! The school opening is a much-anticipated event and is also attended by others outside of the community. The theme has revealed itself over and over again to truly be an action of the Holy Spirit in that it speaks about something more than just what happens in the classroom. In fact, often it is even prophetic in regards to events that take place in the world, or with Medjugorje, during the school year. A Friend of Medjugorje is always asked to write something for the first day of school, only given a very basic idea of the school theme. Some of his most profound writings have been for the school opening in which he writes, from his heart, directly to the youth of the community. These writings have often been shared in Caritas of Birmingham newsletters, and one has even been engraved in a bronze plaque and rests beside the Cross on Penitentiary Mountain (our Cross Mountain), but they are first written to the children of the community to pass on to them the lessons of Our Lady learned by a Friend of Medjugorje—and will continue to be passed down to the future generations of children raised in the "Way of Life" of the community.



School is about learning and educating, but what, in particular should a child be learning in school? A Friend of Medjugorje raised his children to give them the life skills to, “get to Heaven and be able to put a roof over their heads.” The 3 “R’s”, reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, are taught in the school just as in any other school, minus the social indoctrination, however, in addition, a large part of the teaching is done through apprenticeship. The students in Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse participate in meaningful work as part of their everyday life, side by side with the adults, in the agrarian work and the mission work. A Friend of Medjugorje has always said that if you teach a child to “think” and to “read” then there will be nothing he cannot teach himself his whole life. The youth are exposed to and develop skills in a host of real life work that gives them the experience and skills, far beyond the books, needed to live, work, and be productive and successful at anything they set their minds to as they grow older. Below is just a partial list of what our youth learn to do in school, in their homes, and in the mission of Our Lady:

 


A Friend of Medjugorje's school writing

A Friend of Medjugorje gives the first lesson of every school year through a writing to the students of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse. Not knowing what the school theme is in fullness, he prays that the Holy Spirit will inspire his thoughts. What he ends up with is always the perfect fit and is the last thing that weaves into the frrst day of school production. Sometimes that means having everyone in full costumes, ready to walk out for the presentation, while a Friend of Medjugorje is just finishing the last few lines of his first day “lesson.”



Raise a Multitude of Different Animals

Manage Pastures

Machine Work

Woodworking

Welding

Computer Graphic Design

Printing

Binding Books

Mail Processing

Shipping

Photography

Italian language

Quilting

Sewing

Knitting and Crocheting

Planning and  Cooking “Good” Meals for Families and Community

Sausage Making

Homemaking

Canning

Pottery

Leather Cafting

Wood Burning

Art of Hospitality

Speech and Presentation  Giving

Evangelizing Our Lady’s Messages

How to Put Our Lady’s Messages into life

Writing

Child Care

Problem Solving

Life Lessons

How to Never, Never Give Up

 


If a community child has a desire to learn something, it becomes part of the school curriculum. But, in everything they learn, they see in very practical ways how faith is a part of everything the community does. Faith is not something lived only on Sunday, but is interwoven in the very fabric of the life of the community. These are the lessons they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, that they will plant into the future generations of their family and the community, that will sustain them as they grow into adulthood and beyond, and that will prepare them for their eternal life in Heaven.

 

Our Lady of Victory School play King and Queen

In 2007, when the school theme was “Knights, Kings and Queens,” the mission building, the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages, became a castle, most fitting for a structure dedicated to serving the Queen of Heaven, where the community works daily to spread Her messages to the ends of the earth. As so often happens, during the school opening production, there was a grace from the production that can only be described as “mystical.” It is as though all those present are transported back through time and are living amongst kings and queens, or pioneers and Indians, or back in the days of Noah. We have rubbed shoulders with saints, and walked beside giants of history. It is why the first day of school in the Caritas Community is among our most favorite days of the year.

 


Our Lady of Victory School play Pioneer

In 2014, the school theme of “Pioneers” came to life for the students of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse at this first day of school production, as the community set up a pioneer village complete with little wooden cabins, a fire to cook over, and a washing tub to do laundry…and don’t forget the horse and wagon. For weeks following this production, the younger students were seen only in their “pioneer outfits” and the little wooden cabins became their homes where they even cooked their own meals over the fire, experiencing firsthand a little of what it was like to be a real pioneer.

 


making apple butter

Making homemade apple butter is fun for both the teacher and the students. The lesson is planned in advance, as the students not only must dress the part, but have mason jars and gingham fabric to make a beautiful presentation of their apple butter as gifts to all the community households. The children are learning not just about cooking, or pioneer days, but also about how to “market” Our Lady—how to choose a message and place it on a label or gift tag in order to spread Our Lady to the world.

 

school kids milking the cows

The students of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse are always in school, whether they are milking the cows that bless the community with fresh milk every day, or doing some other “apprenticeship” at Our Lady’s mission of Caritas of Birmingham.

 

the girls Indian play for history class

In the Caritas Community, valuable life lessons are learned from each one of the themes selected by the Holy Spirit at Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse. In history class,  in 2017, some of the students act out a play in front of the whole community and guests. For this Indian play, they dried their own apples, helped make their own costumes and even built their own miniature Indian villages. 

 

Our Lady of Victory School children

 

 Building their own lifesize Indian Long House, the students of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse, would definitely be able to build a roof over their heads if they needed to!

 

 

Links

"School Prayer" 

From the Desk- September 24, 2008




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