VIRIDITAS: SOUL GREENING
Interviewed by Sister Malia Dominica Wong, OP
Hawaii Catholic Herald
On the first day of school, the children were introduced to the church as we are a Catholic school. The lead teacher pointed to the area of the sanctuary and said, “Children, look up. What do you see?” Instead of saying the cross, they chimed, “We see a chicken.” Oh my! Yes, there was a chicken up there. Then she said, “Okay, children, look a little bit down. Do you see the statue of Our Lady of Victory, Maria Lanakila?” They said, “Oh, we see the window.” As adults, we have to surrender. We have to be with the children where they are.
Children see things differently and sometimes do things unaware of what they are doing. Once, I remember turning my back, and by the time I turned around again their hands were in some food that they saw as delicious. Taken by surprise I said, “Oh! That is the food of the teacher.” I then explained, “The next time when you are hungry, please wait for a moment. It is not nice to just take what is not yours.” We cannot use too many words with them, especially if they are hungry. But, we try to train them to be disciplined even if sometimes we ourselves lack discipline.
On another occasion as we were eating lunch, a child asked me, “Sister, why did you not finish your food? I finished mine already.” Sometimes, I do not have the appetite to eat. But, because I already told the children to eat their vegetables and finish their food, they follow me. If I don’t finish with them, they just look at me not able to comprehend why I told them to do something which I myself am not doing.
In forming the children, we teach discipline by emphasizing calming down versus punishment. Sometimes children might be rude, so we have them sit down to calm down. We then take time to remind them to be nice. If they don’t listen a third time, we let them exercise. Running helps to clear the mind. Often they laugh thinking it is play. But, after they are told to run another round, realization that they must have done something wrong sets in.
In mission we need to be prepared for any encounter, positive or negative. By keeping the positive in focus we can see things more clearly, distinguish and master things for the better. When you understand the children and know that they are a gift, they too will know that they are specially loved. The practice of patience helps lead them to their greater growth.
One day, I wasn’t in a very good mood. The children called to me, “Sister Mary!” I turned and said, “What?” They said, “I love you.” What could I do then? My heart just melted.
Sister Mary Nguyen Trang belongs to the Missionary Sisters of Faith. She was born in Vietnam and had her religious formation in the Philippines. She is a teachers’ aide at Sacred Hearts Preschool at Maria Lanakila Parish in Lahaina. She is one year professed and lives with her community at Maria Lanakila.