Catholics connect with community through coffee and conversation

During this past Advent season, our office asked our team members – and several hundreds of Catholic school students – to give the gift of connection for Christmas.

We packaged a gift card to a local coffee shop inside a coffee cup, which each participant decorated as desired. Some wrote bible verses, some drew holiday symbols. Then we asked participants to give that gift to a neighbor, family members or friend to spend some quality time catching up with someone they wished they talked to more, or thanking someone for making an impact in their life.

We could never have predicted the stories we’d receive — and how much those who gave the gifts would be impacted and inspired in return.

Take, for example, the experience of assistant superintendent Vickie Kauffold:

 

“My phone rang back in the Spring of 2019 and on the other end of the phone was a voice I recognized immediately.  The voice identified herself somewhat tentatively as Margaret M., but I remember her as Maggie.  We taught together at Boys Town in Wegner Middle School in the early 1990’s.  I taught music at the time, and she was a veteran 8th grade classroom teacher.  She knew the ropes and I was eager to learn from her wisdom and experience.  She always had a kind word and a willingness to listen and encourage this young teacher who was trying to figure out the “art of teaching” at-risk students like those who find their way to Boys Town.   I had not talked to Maggie in more than 25 years.  She had heard from another colleague that I had returned to Omaha. She called me a few times over the course of the year in attempts to find a time to reconnect. Whenever she called, I was usually busy with work or other obligations.

But when I was approached with the challenge to reconnect with someone this past Christmas season, I knew I needed to reach out to Maggie.  Just before Christmas, we had a date set, only to be canceled again due to the cold and flu bug.   Persistence paid off and on February 1st we were set to meet.  As I thought about our relationship, it occurred to me how long ago it was that we last saw each other.  Would I recognize her? Would she recognize me?  I have to admit, I was little nervous.  I arrived early to pick a spot where I could see cars coming into the parking lot and people coming into the café.  I studied every car that drove into the lot carefully to see if there was something I recognized about the driver.  A red vehicle came whizzing by and a spry older woman was behind the wheel.  As she walked up to the café, I knew it was her.  She took one step through the door and stopped when our eyes met.  She knew me as well.  We ordered from the counter and chatted for a good hour catching up, sharing stories and talking about our faith journeys.  On the cup that I gave to Maggie, I wrote a quote from Karl Menninger:  “What a teacher is, is more important than what (s)he teaches.”  Maggie is one of those teachers who leaves a lasting impression because of who she is as a person.  I’m fortunate that we had this opportunity to reconnect.” 

Students from schools across the northeast Nebraska participated, including:

  • Dual Language Academy
  • St. Philip Neri
  • St. Joan of Arc
  • St. Mary’s – Wayne
  • St. Pius X/St. Leo
  • Gross Catholic High School

Additional Archdiocese of Omaha Curia members were enlisted to #BeKind as well.

A story was featured in The Catholic Voice, too.

And St. Philip Neri principal Anne Jensen was featured discussing the campaign on Spirit Catholic Radio.

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Just as we encouraged the celebration of joy during Advent, we encourage families to consider the upcoming Lenten season as well.  Have you talked as a family to decide upon some meaningful commitments during Lent?