Sunday, April 16, 2023

2023 Band & Choir Competition

Just arrived from our 2023 Music in the Parks competition in St. Louis, MO. Two bus loads of students, chaperones, and parents left St. Ann this past Friday morning for the trip with many, many families following along.

The band competed in honor of their band director, John Baum, who is in Worthington, PA recovering from a major stroke. Through the work of Mr. Baum with help from Mr. Dakota Dooley (band director at SBA who is substituting for Mr. Baum), and Mr. Ryan Cooper, the band earned 1st place in the competition with their rendition of "The Thunderer" and "Scorpion."

The choir earned 3rd place in the competition with their rendition of "Sanctus" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Congratulations to the band and choir for the super performance. We are proud of you for your hard work and dedication to succeed together.

Sending out an extra special thank you to Mr. Cooper for directing both the band and choir in the competition.

All together, the St. Ann entourage consisted of about 150 good people who made the trek to St. Louis. Competition, pizza, swimming, games, Six Flags, food court, lots of bus travel, super crazy weather, and tons of drama made the trip an excellent adventure. Cannot be a middle school event without drama, even though most of the drama came from a parent or two who didn't even make the trip. Very bizarre how that happens. 

Want to thank all the chaperones for a fantastic St. Ann music trip to STL. The planning and organizing, travel, competition, torrential rains and tornado warnings, schedule changes, improvised plans, hotel guest complaints, and drama; but most importantly the shared support and friendships made this trip an extremely memorable one in a very good way for everyone involved. Love the great laughs we had. There’s no substitute for laughter. I appreciate all you did for the children and St. Ann. Looking forward to the next trip, but only after some much needed rest!

God bless you and love to all!

Didier Aur, Principal

St. Ann Website

Previous Blog: Receiving the Sacraments

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Receiving the Sacraments

One of the most rewarding events for Catholic school administrators is when our students receive the sacraments. For this school year, our 8th graders were Confirmed back in January.  In two weeks, our 2nd graders will receive First Communion. In the past couple of weeks, our 2nd through 8th graders participated in Reconciliation. In between, several of our students, some non-Catholic and some Catholic but new to St. Ann, have decided that they would like to become Catholic or receive the Sacraments they have missed. These students have now been Baptized, received First Communion, and/or Confirmed in the Catholic faith.

With some of our non-Catholic students becoming Catholic, they also bring their families into the Church through RCIA. I have to believe that a big reason this is happening is because we are setting a great example of our faith through our daily actions. I'm not talking just about the actions and faith of the faculty and staff, I'm talking about all who enter our building on a daily basis consisting of students, parents/grandparents, volunteers, and church staff including all who attend the Friday school Mass with the students. We all set a great example of faith through prayer and deeds to our work for the Catholic Church.

I would like to give a special shout-out to everyone on the church and school staff who make certain all students are prepared to receive the Sacraments. Thank you to Fr. Ernie, Kathy Schober, Melodee Pohl, Katie Dyer, Brittany Martinez, and Kelly Pettit at the church office for all the preparation in making the Sacramental events happen. Thank you to our teachers who work with our students in sacramental preparation; this includes all the teachers from PK3-8th grade who teach religion with a special shout-out to Carol Caesar for making sure all the middle schoolers preparing to receive the Sacraments are ready.

A final thank you goes out to all the parents who entrust us to teach our Catholic beliefs to the children in preparation of receiving the Sacraments.

God bless you and Happy Easter,

Didier Aur, Principal

Monday, March 13, 2023

Vocation with Love

Pope Francis once wrote, "There is a kind of beauty, one that is unrelated to appearances or fashion, in men and women who pursue their personal vocation with love, who act selflessly for their community, for their nation, who work hard at building a happy family, who advance social harmony with selfless and unrecognized efforts."

When I read this, I thought of the educators I work with every day. St. Ann is fortunate to have many outstanding educators who give their heart and soul to educate our youth. They live out their vocation with love daily.

My favorite responsibility as principal is to perform classroom observations because I get to see the educators and learners in action. This is probably the least favorite part of my teachers' day. It is a contrast of opposites.

Not sure who I'm amazed by more, the educators or the learners. They all do incredible work, both appear to live their vocation. They also take pride in doing great work; outcome is important to both groups. Doing well is an expectation.

Here is a quick review of the great classroom activities I witnessed this past week while performing classroom observation.

Ms. Seller's PK3 class, the students were learning how to write the letter Q.

Ms. Farm's PK4 class, the students were learning about insects using the Scholastic Big World magazine.

Coach Angotti's PE class, the PK3 students were doing yoga.

Mrs. Morgan's PK4 class, the students were working on shapes and sorting using coins, legos, Play-doh, blocks, drawings, and IXL.

Ms. Green's art class, the PK4 students were working on shamrock pictures getting ready for St. Patrick's Day.

Mrs. Jolly's kindergarten class, the students were writing a story on what they can do on a rainy day. Kindergarten students writing a story is pretty awesome.

Ms. Scarlett's art class, the 2nd graders were working on creating water color paintings about Spring time.

Mrs. Thomas' LIFE class, the 3rd graders were working on math, adding 3 double-digit numbers from word problems.

Mrs. Miller's 4th grade class, the students were working on book reports, Amira, IXL, writing, and math problems all at the same time with all students super-focused and getting the job done!

Mrs. Wendenon's SPARKS class, the 4th graders were working with robots.

Mrs. Langford's 6th grade math class, the students were working on converting fractions to decimals and decimals to fractions.

Ms. Caesar's 7th grade social studies class, the students were learning about U.S. geography and competing on naming the states.

There is no substitute for our vocation with love, which includes hard work, passion, dedication, and faith. That's what all these teachers have in common. What a great common denominator to have in those who are helping to shape the future.

I began with a Pope Francis quote, so I'll end with a Pope Francis quote. "Nothing exists by chance. Our relationship with God is what makes us great, it is our enthronement. By nature, we are practically nothing, by vocation, by calling, we are the children of the great King!"

God bless you and love to all,
Didier Aur

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Linkin Galdonez: Caught in the Crossfire

On February 5th, Linkin Galdonez, St. Ann Class of '17, was driving home from work at FedEx when two car loads of criminals decided it was time to start shooting at each other on I-240 near Perkins. Linkin was caught in the crossfire. has a news release about this incident including an interview with Linkin.

A bullet struck Linkin between the eyes and penetrated between two lobes of his brain. The operative word here is "between" and not through two lobes, which is a miracle in itself. Somehow, he survived, is making progress, and is able to tell the story of what took place. Sounds as if he is going to be okay but is not out of danger. Doctors have removed part of his skull and don't plan on replacing it until late spring. As of now, the bullet will remain in his head because removing it might cause more damage. Lots of rehab in Linkin's future.

Linkin Being
Transported Home
Sorry that Linkin and the Galdonez family are having to go through this. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people.

His parents have started a GoFundMe page to help with expenses. Fortunately, the family is "planning on his future and not his funeral."

You can follow his father's Instagram page for updates on Linkin's progress. Lots of prayers and support are needed for Linkin.

Linkin's little sister, Izzy, is a current St. Ann student.

God bless you and love to all, Didier Aur

Recent Blog: Catholicity of St. Ann

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Catholicity of St. Ann

Library Council
Seeing St. Ann in action this week made me thing about our school's Catholicity in action, virtue, and demeanor. Without trying to be all holier-than-thou and high and mighty, which I'm definitely not, thought I'd use this week's blog to highlight some of the Catholic things that take place at the school, which probably most people aren't aware of. Parents know about these and that's one of the many reasons they send their children to our school. What we do isn't exclusive to St. Ann, these are things done in just about every Catholic school. All Catholic schools do these but with their own little twist.

Here are a few of the things we do because we are a Catholic school.

We frequently receive prayer requests from St. Ann families. So, we pray for families in need of prayer.

Library Council
We have an unofficial faculty prayer warrior team. Whenever prayers are needed, a prayer warrior will text the rest of the group to ask for prayers.

St. Faustina Youth Society (SFYS) meets once a month after school to pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. They also participate in service projects throughout the year. My personal favorite is the teacher prayer gift. They are also great supporters of Room in the Inn (RITI).

Last week, the 8th graders went to Ave Maria to play BINGO with the residents.

For the past couple of years, we have teamed up with Catholic Charities (CC) to assemble hygiene kits for distribution to those needing basic hygiene supplies. Every class is assigned a different hygiene product (tooth brush, tooth paste, soap, shampoo....) to bring in for the kits. There is usually a surplus of hygiene supplies that we will send to RITI.

Our students in the Library Council collect books and set up a library space for the children at RITI.

BINGO at Ave Maria
We host an annual Thanksgiving food drive for Dorothy Day House (DDH). Every class is assigned a certain food item to bring in so that we can assemble and deliver food baskets to the DDH families.

For our faculty religious retreat day this year, we spent that day split into three groups serving at DDH, CC, and RITI.

Throughout the year, we will have clothing drives for CC.

CC contacted us in the fall to say they were running short on peanut butter for the hundreds of families who come to them weekly for food. So, our 8th graders led a school-wide peanut butter drive as one of their Confirmation projects to benefit CC.

Every year, we host a candy cane sale to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Just like most every business, organization, church, and school in Memphis, St. Ann has a deep and personal connection with St. Jude.

Once a month, we pray an all-school Rosary together in the church. Every month, a different grade leads the Rosary. The February Rosary will be led by the 7th graders. This is for all students K-8.

Every morning and afternoon, we have student led school-wide prayer over the intercom system. The prayers include the WIT prayer (from Fr. David Knight), Act of Contrition, and Hail Holy Queen. The students of SFYS take turns leading the afternoon prayer.

On Fridays, we have our weekly all-school Mass attended by all students. Our January and February Masses have been led by our 5th graders. They serve as the readers, altar servers, gift bearers, and greeters.

Fr. Ernie has been leading our altar server training. So far, every 5th-8th graders has participated in the training. The 4th graders are next on the alter server training list.

Mass Buddies
This next event is one of my favorite things we do. For our weekly all-school Mass, the PK3 and 8th grade students partner up and are Mass buddies. The 8th graders go to the PK3 classroom to get their Mass buddies and they head off to Mass. They sit together at Mass and the 8th graders teach their PK3 buddies about the Holy Water, Sign of the Cross, genuflecting, kneeling, praying, and generally how to behave during Mass. It also helps the 8th graders behave properly at Mass because they have to set an example for their Mass buddies.

At our weekly all-school Mass, our school choir is in action leading our student body in singing the hymns. Well, they are leading the younger students in singing the hymns. The older students have somehow forgotten how to sing during Mass. It is some type of middle school disease.

At the beginning of the school year, the Knights of Columbus lead the annual Prayer Walk. We join together in prayer as we walk through the school asking for God's help and intervention for a wonderful and safe school year.

BINGO at Ave Maria
We have added two awards this year to recognize our students for being excellent examples of Christ-like behavior. The first is the St. Veronica Kindness Award. St. Veronica is the patron saint of kindness. This award is presented monthly to one student from each class for showing outstanding kindness towards his or her classmates. The other award is the St. James Good Deed Award. St. James the Lesser is the patron saint of good deeds. This is given at anytime for a student going above and beyond in performing a good deed. Students can be nominated by any faculty/staff member.

For many years now, we have presented the Fr. Oglesby Character Award. This award is presented to students who exhibit Christ-like characteristics such as kindness, thoughtfulness, and a caring attitude towards their teachers and fellow students.

Thought I'd share these with you so that you can learn a little more about the Catholicity of St. Ann and our students. Just like everyone else, we stumble and fall, but we do our best to stand up, dust off, learn from our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and move forward.

Wishing you a fantastic week!

God bless you and love, Didier Aur

Previous Blogs:

Finally, An 8th Grade Volleyball Victory

Confirmation! Check!

Patience and Compassion

8th Grade Confirmation

Begin Again

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Finally, An 8th Grade Volleyball Victory

8th Grade Winners, plus a Photo Bomber
A string of countless victories in a row by the St. Ann faculty over the students in the Student-Faculty Volleyball game has come to an end. So as not to be a biased reporter of the circumstances that led to this monumental faculty defeat, I have asked the PK3 students to be this week's guest blogger, and give their version of what took place on the court. Please keep in mind that the PK3 and the 8th graders are Mass buddies and reading partners, so they know each other pretty well. Here is the volleyball wrap up from their perspective. The PK3 students reported as one unified voice.

Best Volleyball Fans Ever!
As PK3 students, what we saw today was a fun and spirited match, even though the faculty performance was lacking. But
, let's begin with the positives. The 8th graders won because they were more skillful, fitter, and mentally tougher. They were better organized in positioning and tactics. They utilized their 3-2-3 formation to their advantage by wearing down the faculty in the first game and a half. Coach Jennifer Podesta, the Bill Belichick of volleyball, had the 8th graders primed and ready for this victory.

Next Year's Opponents
Volleyball rookie sensation Kyle Lim was by far the best player on the court. He made the faculty look foolish and scared them with his powerful serves and pinpoint accuracy. The faculty was no match for what he had to offer. At one point, the other 8th graders watched in amazement as faculty members were falling all over themselves trying to get out of the way of his serves. Even though he never smiled, Kyle Lim was our hands-down MVP.

Rylee Hubbard, while playing with a broken knee and wearing a brace, was the heart and soul leader of the 8th grade team. She never once complained about the pain as she controlled the game from the middle. She was the PK3's MVP runner-up.

Coach Podesta Leading the Team
The combination of Huong Nguyen, Alison Winkelmann, and Abby Sones at the net was pure genius. They intimidated the faculty with their size, speed, and strength. With the faculty already on their heals, Coach Podesta expertly subbed in Andrea Romero, Brissa Suarez, and Victoria Paramo (aka Las Tres Amigas) to replace the front line and help put an end to the faculty members they faced. By communicating in both Spanish and Pig Latin, they totally confused their opponents. Custer had a better chance of surviving the Battle of Little Bighorn than the faculty did the 8th graders today.

Every 8th grader received five stars out of five rating from the PK3 students for their incredible performance. There was not one weakness on the team. Now, we see how and why our volleyball team went undefeated winning both the regular season and tournament championship.

Our favorite play of the match was Drew Battle's kick save and winner. Who needs hands in volleyball?! Our favorite player was Jacob Perez with his chest pounding and faculty taunting antics. Even though he couldn't see the ball because of his hair, he still managed to produce several points for his team.

For the faculty, Mrs. Jolly was their best player. We cannot wait to have her as our teacher. We are considering petitioning Principal Aur to let us skip PK4 and be promoted straight to kindergarten next year so she can be our teacher. She showed spunk, determination, grit, and poise out on the court with her incredible serving prowess and artful return of serve. She was the Carli Lloyd of volleyball. We need and want her as our teacher and leader.

Focused Determination
Now, for the weak spots. Where to begin? In the opinion of the PK3 students, we aren't sure what Coach Angotti was thinking when she put Mr. Gage and Principal Aur on the court at the same time. They both should have been benched before the game even started. We also feel that two-time MVP Mrs. Harty did not have her usual stellar game, and don't believe she has completely recovered from her recent tug-of-war injury. The dynamic duo of volleyball phenoms Farm and Ostrowski were not able to back their claim of a "guaranteed victory." We love Mr. Cooper but think that he should stick to singing and piano playing. Poor coaching and player execution, lack of leadership, and total unenthusiastic attitudes helped to bring about defeat. Beside Mrs. Jolly receiving a 4 out of 5 rating, the rest of the faculty team scored a 3 or lower. We would have given some of the faculty team members negative scores but having a pulse and breathing on your own gives a player at least a 1 star rating.

In all fairness, the battle was nip and tuck till the end. The faculty did win the first game rather handily behind the service game of Mrs. Jolly. They were leading the second game 15-10 when their overconfidence, lack of fitness, and the 8th graders' killer instincts kicked in. With the faculty thinking they had the game and match all wrapped up, that's when the 8th graders reeled off eight straight points and never looked back. In the tie-break game to 10, the faculty took a quick 4-1 lead. This is when MVP Kyle Lim stepped up and won the game with nine serves in a row. And, history was made.

Is This Really Happening?
As PK3 students, we observed that the faculty keeps getting older but the 8th graders are the same age every year. We look forward to dishing out the same type of punishment on the faculty nine years from now. So, Principal Aur might want to considering hiring some young guns to give us a challenge. 

Congratulations to the 8th graders for being the better team, fantastic Mass buddies, and wonderful reading partners. You earned the victory, and we love you!

Thank you for inviting us to be guest bloggers this week.

God bless you and love, the PK3 Students (aka Sellers' Stellar Scholars!)

Previous blogs:

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Confirmation! Check!

Our 8th graders are a step closer to graduating. With less than four months to go, another rite of passage has been checked off the list for these young folks. This past Friday evening in a beautiful Mass celebrated by Bishop David Talley, these students received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

They have been Baptized, participated in Reconciliation, received First Communion, and sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit better known as Confirmation. They are the recipients of four of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It will be awhile before they receive anymore sacraments (let's hope).

To me, Confirmation becomes a crucial time in the lives of our Catholic youth. Will they be strengthened for service to the Body of Christ or will they fall away from their faith? With all my years in Catholic education, I have seen both. Some of the students go through Confirmation because that's what they are supposed to do as Catholics, and afterwards no longer have a faith life. For some, it is a sacrament that brings the confirmandi a renewed sense of purpose in their faith and a dedication to the Church.

Here are a few tips for anyone reading this blog as well as our newly confirmed youth about living a life of faith. Keep in mind that our actions will have the biggest impact on promoting faith in ourselves first and then to those around us. Set the example and be intentional in your actions. Develop your faith for you.

Develop your faith by studying and reading about your faith. If you don't know where to start, check out what Dynamic Catholic has to offer. Their books are fantastic, simple to understand, inexpensive, and easy to get your hands on.

Read or listen to the daily Mass readings. You can receive the daily readings via email from the USCCB every morning. They also have podcast readings and reflections if you prefer. The reflections will help you better understand the readings.

Develop a prayer life. Prayers don't have to be complicated, memorized, nor long winded. Most of my prayers consist of "Thank you," "I'm sorry," "Help me do Your will," and "Lord, keep me from screwing up." I pray that last one often. 

Participate in Church activities and organizations. Click here to find out all that St. Ann offers. Don't stand on the sidelines. Get in the game!

Go to Mass wherever you are. I use MassTimes website and app to find a Mass near me whenever traveling. I have a goal of attending Mass in every state I visit.  I'm doing pretty well but not batting a thousand.

Set the example by making Mass an event to look forward to. Take the family. Go to lunch or dinner afterwards. Be happy and make it joyful. Going to Church should be a "want to" and not a "have to." As Thomas Aquinas once said, "The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross."

I will end by saying: Don't just go to Church, be the Church. Live the Church in your heart, mind, and actions.

God bless and love you, Didier Aur