Our guest speaker this morning was Sheryl Schoenthaler, Coordinator of Sacred Service Ministry, and faithful St. Davidian. Her message this morning revealed how God has been holding her in God's hand during the Time of COVID-19. Sheryl participated in the last pre-covid activity that was held by the ACTS committee on March 15, 2020. It was our annual Lenten retreat at Mt. St. Francis and for those of us who were with Sheryl that afternoon, the picture she created for us was vivid in our memories -- the sun was shining, the day was brisk and the hint of spring was in the air. How could we begin to know that almost a year later, we would be meeting together on ZOOM and listening to our dear friend speak of the way God has held us during 11 months of self-isolation and online communications.
As Sheryl walked through the gardens that afternoon, she watched two birds chattering away and then as one of the birds flew over her head, she heard the sound of the bird's wings passing. In the sound, it was like God speaking to her. She remembered Psalm 46:10 --"Be still and know that I am God."
That message stayed with her as she approached the remaining days of the school year. Sheryl's students were ESL children who relied on her for their connection to the new community to which they and their parents had recently joined. For four hours that afternoon in mid-March she spent her time on the phone, giving the sad news of school closure to children who desperately needed in-class leaering. As the term progressed, she and her students continued to stay connected. She would take her children virtually out into her garden and share the onset of springtime and then summer. In return, one of her students introduced she and her classmates to her new baby sister. Friday's 15 minute solo sessions with students were a favourite with the shy students.
Following the summer holiday, students returned to classes and with online support and cell phone, Sheryl was able to stay in close contact with parents. A win-win situation, all around.
Sheryl shared wisdom garnered through four books she has studied recently: The Book of Joy, Universal Christ, The Little Book of Letting Go and Embers.
She remembered to "Reframe the situation -- positively" as Bishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama would have done. She followed the suggestion that it is a choice to be kind and generous. As she found that she now had extra time during COVID-19, she enjoyed her walk to school and home each day, often joined by her husband. She focused in on the joys of recognizing and experiencing gratitude in a more deliberate fashion. She was reminded to "Relax and be amused." Her desk reminder that "Nothing will go right today," gives her that inside track to relax, be amused and enjoy God's sense of humour. Finally, she has come to see the wisdom in silence. Richard Wagamese in his book Embers revealed that he cultivated silence every morning to hear and feel himself, concluding that everyone around him including himself benefited from getting the real Richard. Sheryl concluded, "Silence is the stuff of Life."