A reflection from the St. Anne's Middle School Chapel by Theatre Arts Teacher, Stephen Bertles:

Mom, Dad, Carol, Judy, Janet, Mary, Cathy, John, Jeanne, Joe, Ann,  Pat, and me. Growing up, my family was the 1st community I  belonged to. Yes, being the youngest of 11, it was indeed a small community. What we may have lacked in extravagance, we had in an abundance of love. As John wrote in 4:7, ” Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 

My mom and dad made sure that each and every one of us knew we were loved—and not just by them, but by God. And the reason was they knew God’s love. They were truly able to demonstrate, not just with their words but through their actions, what it meant to be loved and to belong to a community. 

Merriam-Webster says a community is a unified body of individuals, such as a group linked by a common policy. However, the synonym that popped out immediately to me was “family.”  

Family is rooted in connections and love; unconditional love that extends beyond our comprehension. You see, my parents encouraged me to explore and be curious about my path in life, but always to know that no matter the outcome, I was loved.  

Because of this, I found several communities in which I felt loved.  Throughout most of my adult life, I found sanctuary in the theatre where I worked at Opryland in Nashville, TN. I toured the United  States and Canada on the national tour of Cats and performed internationally while working onboard the fleet of Crystal Cruise ships. In each community, I found love. Some of those connections have shaped and led me to one of the best communities anyone could ask for: teaching. You see, in 1st grade, I knew I wanted to be two things when I grew up: a performer and a teacher.  

As Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, “You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it’s because it wasn’t true love…” Believe me,  I LOVED performing and traveling. But, when I first stepped into the classroom, my heart knew I was where I was meant to be. I found my new community. However, it wasn’t until I stepped onto the grounds of St. Anne’s that I knew this community was more like family.  

I love this community. I love seeing each and every one of you grow and become a part of something bigger than yourself.  

I leave you with one word: Ubuntu. 

“An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe.  He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever got there first won the fruits. When he signaled, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat in a circle enjoying their treats. He asked them why they chose to run as a  group when they could have had more fruit individually. One child  said, “Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?” 

Ubuntu in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are.” 

May all of us at St. Anne’s make this community greater, knowing that it is not just about ourselves; no, we are stronger and better because we strive to enrich our world together.