Parishioner Post: Visit to Saint Mary Joplin

Procrastination…… …  It’s a Process
By Celeste Cole

I have procrastinated on writing this.  I knew I should do it, I wanted to do it. But I procrastinated.  Was it because I am easily distracted or because I work better under pressure?  No, I realize now it is because I had to process all that I had experienced.

On October 19th, I had the wonderful privilege of going to Joplin.  I’m not being sarcastic, it was a privilege.  A privilege to ride up with my fellow MaryFair co-chair Margaret Ellison along with Ashley Daly and Aimee Mehl.  A privilege to be part of something that would forever change us.  We delivered a check, this year’s MaryFair Auction Final Appeal, to St. Mary School in Joplin.

On May 22, as you may remember, their school and parish along with so many other homes and businesses in Joplin, were completely destroyed by a massive tornado.  As our journey began, we all discussed the tornado, the damage, the school and the people we were about to meet.  And now we were there.

As we pulled up to the building, and old warehouse, the mood was somber, and apprehensive, almost odd.  Were these children really going to school in a warehouse?  How could this be? But as we entered the building, the transformation process began.

This old brick building that once held hardware was now filled with precious cargo.  Walls had gone up to create classrooms and desks and chairs replaced boxes of merchandise.  Children’s voices filled the air, drowning out any ghosts of forklifts past.  In the entry stood a statue of St. Mary, which once stood at the old school but was miraculously spared from the storm.  Her arms outstretched as if to welcome us to this place and introduce us to Renee Motazedi (director of development for Joplin Catholic Schools) and Stephen Jones (principal of St. Mary/Joplin). 

As we toured the school, I began to feel extremely out of place, uncomfortable if you will.  I felt as though I was “one of those”, a “gawker” come to see the damage.  But then I realized, what I saw wasn’t damage.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of destruction. Vacant lots abound and buildings stand with sides ripped off exposing what must resemble a war zone from and old WWII movie. But I saw something different, something strangely wonderful.  I saw Angels on earth, children and teachers, going through an everyday routine and loving it.  Smiles and laughter rang through the hallways as if to say “WE ARE HERE!  THANK YOU GOD!”  And I felt hugs, hugs from teachers and staff who greeted us as if we were long lost family. 

Family, that’s it! WE are family, joined and called by the voice and grace of God to do his work.  Called to reach out and open our hearts, to be listeners, to be whatever is needed at the moment.  So many of us walk through life without ever knowing what our purpose is or even hearing the voice of God. I heard it that day in the laughter of children and the voices of their teachers.

We left Tulsa that morning to take a check to those in need.  I came away realizing that they, our Family at St. Mary’s in Joplin, had given me so much more.                                          

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