The DAY finally arrived, long awaited and wholly prepared for. All the buildings freshly painted. Yellow tents spotted the center court, aerial photos taken from the nearby cell phone tower. On the wall where students walk was the electric notice board flashing in 5 colors Welcome to the Blessing, Dedication, and Opening of St. Francis Secondary School.
Next to the flashing sign is a Monument with the Prayer of St. Francis etched in bronze at eye level. Below the Prayer is a Tau Cross (one foot tall) carved out of granite and mounted on the varnished bricks. Students and teachers will daily be passing right next to the prayer and can continue walking to the classrooms with the words in their hearts: “Make me a channel of Your Peace…”
Just as striking as the ‘Peace Prayer Monument’ is the bigger Monument. I began this memorial with no plan on paper; only an image of curves built with rustic bricks. Even the foundation for the brick structure is a 180-degree curve. In the center is mounted a large heavy granite stone with the words sand blasted in silver letters. The words begin: ST. FRANCIS SECONDARY SCHOOL, Committed to Building Christian Hope.
Not long after sunrise, the roads to the school became speckled with the blue and black uniforms of our 1,000 students. Two police ladies, with their colorful hats, arrived and began to escort our marching students, singing and waving their banners, down the road and around the ‘Hellmann circle.’ The guests arrived in time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist with 12 priests concelebrating. The students sang with gladness, particularly after Communion when their joy broke out in lively dancing for the Lord, an expression of such elation and song which our international visitors had never before witnessed.
The speeches followed; the Vicar from Bishops Office, the Provincial of the Conventual Zambian Province, a delegate from Ministry of Education, our Head Teacher, Dr. Bob Barnet from Georgetown University. Even I had an opportunity to tell the students that they are the real guests of honor and challenged them to learn and make of this great school a foundation stone for the rest of their lives.
The Day was monumental for our school, which grew up “like mushrooms” and is still growing. Building carries on: educational ‘building’ in the classrooms, construction of new teachers’ quarters, but mostly the Building of Hope in the lives of the students.
Look at what we started 11 years ago and see how it is producing fruit. The growth, the progress, the beauty of our Franciscan High School which serves over 1,000 disadvantaged youth could not have sprung up ‘like mushrooms’ without your generous support. The entire complex stands as the real monument – to Catholic value in education and the Building of Hope.