Love all in God and for God, all will be well. -St. (Mother) Theodore Guerin
Day 99 of 365: Mary Ann Grove
When I was about the same age as the handsome young man standing with her, above, I was also a student at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Lafayette and Mary Ann Grove was my third grade teacher. Well, actually, she was “Miss Mecklenberg” back then. I realize now she must have been just a baby, because it’s been a while since I’ve been in the third grade! I recognize that sanctuary behind her in the photo from my grade school years. It’s gotten some updates over time, but the words in the background that are cut off by the photo read, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
As teachers go, “Miss Mecklenberg” was really just remarkable. She smiled and she laughed a lot. She had a great sense of humor and that infectious laughter filled the classroom with her sunshine. I had a large class all through grade school, and in most years, our numbers hovered north of 35 students. There was only one classroom per grade, and the vast majority of my classmates were boys. In other words, there was a lot of noise and chaos. I don’t know how they do things now, but back then, the classes took turns preparing the school masses. When it was our turn, teachers would choose students to read, bring up the gifts, etc. At this age, there were quite a few readers always chosen, as in addition to the mass readings and responsorial psalm, she would have a different student read each petition. It really was amazing how many children she managed to involve as I look back on it.
However, I remember so vividly being truly disappointed that I was NOT chosen to help that fall of 3rd grade year. I’m pretty sure I had a minor meltdown over it. Nothing has changed with me over time when things don’t go my way…ha? The poor woman! That last thing she needed in her jammed full classroom was another high maintenance kid. She really could have rolled her eyes and told me to get over myself. Who would have blamed her? That’s not what she did, though. Instead, she pulled me aside later and told me she had something very special in mind for me for our Christmas mass in a few weeks if I could be patient. I received her kindness as a great gift. I do not recall her words exactly but I remember very clearly how she made me feel loved and valued.
Thank goodness God sees our hearts and His love isn’t dependent on how we act. He’s a lot like Mary Ann Grove that way. Some teachers are so filled with compassion for their students that they truly are the face of Christ everyday. I recall her as a woman who was always lifting up, holding, and serving others. The work of her hands was something to behold, and her witness of what it looks like to love others first has always stuck with me as something I wanted to emulate. The world sometimes overlooks gems like Mary Ann Grove. To the students, friends, family members and community that she has touched over the years, there are few gifts more precious than those shared by this amazing woman.
This weekend as she celebrates her birthday, I wanted to take a moment to reach out and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the finest teachers I’ve ever encountered! I’ve been gone from Lafayette for a while, but I’ve kept an eye on you. What you have spent your life doing is one of the most beautiful things imaginable! I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a student in one of your classes! I hope all your people love you up like crazy this birthday weekend! THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU!