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Roots and Branches

Hello! My name is Lauren Mifsud, I am from Baltimore, Maryland and I am currently serving at St. Peter’s School in the Mission District.  I recently completed a 5-year Master’s program in Mathematics Education at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I first entered the Mercy world when I began my student teaching experience, one of the requirements for this program, at Mercy Vocational High School this past winter.  It was at MVHS that I was introduced to the Sisters of Mercy and their remarkable foundress, Catherine McAuley.  Ever since my very first day in the school, I knew that it was different from any type of learning environment that I had experienced in the past.  My cooperating teacher, Elizabeth Dowling, not only taught me how to be a math teacher, but also showed me what it really meant to be a Mercy educator.  She is the perfect example of what a Mercy teacher should be: strong, intelligent, caring and perfectly imperfect.  I am blessed to have her as my mentor.  It was because of her and the wonderful Mercy Vocational High School family that I was inspired to pursue a year of service with the Mercy Volunteer Corps.  I had been looking into other year-of-service programs, but after just four short months at MVHS, I caught the Mercy bug.  Not long after submitting my application, and interviewing with vice principle, Karen Hammen, I received word from Marie that I would be heading to San Francisco in the fall to serve at St. Peter’s School.  I jumped up and down like a kid on Christmas morning and couldn’t wait for my next Mercy adventure to begin.  I will never forget the strange mix of excitement and anxiety that I felt right before I left.  My family and friends kept asking, “Where are you going to live?  Who are you going to live with?” to most of which I responded with, “I have no idea.”  It sounds weird, but I didn’t mind not having a clue.  I jumped on the plane to orientation, said a Hail Mary, and hoped for the best.

Only two months have passed, but I can already pinpoint two parts of my experience that I love.  One of these has been the work I have been doing at my service site.  If there is one thing that I have learned since being in the Mercy world, it is that walking into a Mercy school is like walking into a home – a place of learning, unfailing support, and love.  I felt all of these things and more when I walked through the threshold of St. Peter’s School.  From meeting the faculty and staff, to learning my schedule, to working on all sorts of tasks with Sr. Marian Rose, I knew that I had been welcomed into a family.  When she hugged me for the first time it was almost like she was saying, “You are here, so you are one of us.  You are a part of us now.”  And what greater feeling is there than that?  On a typical day, I hop on the 33 bus and ride it all the way to 24th and Potrero.  If I am lucky, Arnold is driving, because he will high-five me on my way out.  I walk through the St. Peter’s School doors and I am greeted by Karen who often says, “You’re early again!!”  I laugh because I know she’s right, but I can’t help it…I just can’t stay away.  I head off to teach 5th grade math, help out with the middle school math classes, and stand guard during recess duty.  I catch a glimpse of God in the laughter on the Kindergartener’s faces as they play on the schoolyard and listen to all of the adorable stories that they have to share.  In the afternoon, you can find me working on campus ministry prep, organizing sports uniforms and teams, or working alongside Sr. Marian Rose.  I am doing a little bit of everything that I love.

The second thing that I have come to value is community living.  I am not sure what lucky penny I picked up to have been blessed with my unstoppable community member, Bianca, but I thank God every day for placing her in my life.  I have come to find that living in community is so much different from having a roommate.  Not only do we share our daily highs and lows at the dinner table, but we love to dish out our moments throughout the day where we saw God – we call them “God moments” or “God winks.”  These are ever-so-tiny, often overlooked moments where God is probably screaming, “Hey, I’m here!! Can’t you see me!?”  I love my college roommates to death, but we never sat around talking about God.  One of my favorite God moments, happened just this past week.  This year at St. Peter’s School, our school theme is “Roots and Branches.”  As a school, we are focusing on our core values (our roots) and how we can better exemplify them (our branches).  Since the first day of school, trees have sprung up outside of classroom doors, on bulletin boards, and on classroom walls.  They are everywhere!  This past week, I received an unexpected package from a friend back home, Michelle.  I snuck it back to my desk and ripped it open to find a fresh, new copy of “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein.  For those of you that haven’t read it, “The Giving Tree,” is a short children’s book based on the ideals of generosity and unconditional love.  “A tree!” I thought to myself. “How did she know??”  I opened the front binding to find a note that she had written explaining how she had thought about sending me the classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss, but there was something about, “The Giving Tree,” that just felt right.  I went home that night, ripped out the book to show Bianca and she responded just the way I knew she would, by saying, “Our lives are not our own.”  And she is right.  They’re God’s.  They have been God’s the whole time.  God is with us every step of the way.  We may not always notice, but he is always there pushing us right where we are supposed to be. 

My MVC journey has only just begun and I already feel that I have been changed for good.  It is because of your love and support that I am able to have this amazing experience.  I want to thank you all for that, and I want to especially thank Karen and Sr. Marian Rose for welcoming me, whole-heartedly into the St. Peter’s School family.  Thank you!

Lauren Mifsud: St. Peter’s School, San Francisco, CA


Miss M. (back middle) with her class at St. Peter’s School

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