Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Coach Who Balances Multiple Roles

It’s not unheard of for coaches to coach at least one of their children. Marist School’s Mike Trapani coached his daughter in softball and his son in baseball. Our Lady of Mercy’s Tony Caruso also coached his son in basketball.

However, for the last three seasons, Bill Schmitz, athletic director and head volleyball coach at Our Lady of Mercy School, Fayetteville, has coached his two eldest children, Olivia, 18, and Mary Katherine, 16, in the same sport at the same time. Olivia is the team’s senior outside hitter and Mary Katherine is a junior setter.

                          Coach Bill Schmitz sits between his daughters Olivia, left, and Mary Katherine

“It’s been both challenging and extremely rewarding. My daughters and I are very close, but it is very tough on them since they are virtually with their dad all of the time. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I will cherish our time together for years to come,” said Schmitz. He said the best thing about coaching his daughters is he can be a part of their lives, but the toughest part is the feeling that the three of them are under a magnifying glass.

For Olivia and Mary Katherine the hardest part about being coached by dad is the occasional frustration and tension with each other that can arise during games, but in the end they always get through it and they stick together. “The best thing is my dad comes to every game, so his support is always there,” said Olivia.

As a coach and a dad Schmitz is proud of his daughters’ accomplishments. Olivia is ranked number one in the state in kills for all classifications and she is ranked 13 in the nation for the same category. Mary Katherine is ranked number one in the state in aces and holds a number five ranking in the nation.

This year Our Lady of Mercy’s volleyball team made it to the Sweet 16 of the state tournament. Unfortunately for Schmitz and his squad, they were eliminated by Greater Atlanta Christian School, a very good team competing in this Saturday’s state championship game.

This is Olivia’s last season on the court with her team, her sister and her coach as she prepares to head off for college. Olivia said she’ll miss her biggest supporter. “Although he is my coach, he has never made me feel like I've let him down or disappointed him, even if I miss a serve or need coaching. I can tell that he is always proud of me, even if I'm playing horribly,” said Olivia.

Both siblings said they have learned valuable life lessons from their coach and dad during these years of volleyball together. Olivia said he's taught her not to take life too seriously. “I'm a very focused and determined person and sometimes I miss out on things, because I let my passion for the sport get in the way of being a good teammate or a good leader. He is always reminding me to just breathe and let things be.”

Mary Katherine, who returns for one more season under her dad, said the greatest lesion she has learned is perseverance. “He has shown me that even when things get hard I have to push through it and he’s always got my back. This lesson has carried over into my faith as well as academics.”

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

See the volleyball report in the Oct. 27 issue of The Georgia Bulletin. 

Update: Eagles Landing Christian Academy defeated Blessed Trinity 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 29-27). St. Pius X defeated Woodward Academy 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-16, 25-21) to advance to the state finals against Sandy Creek High School, Tyrone. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teaching With A Touch Of Grace

Earlier this month I covered the dedication of Pinecrest Academy’s new John Paul II Lower School Activities Building. During the ribbon cutting ceremony, sandwiched between the Lower School principal and the construction company’s project manager was a woman named My Thi Huynh. To my surprise she was listed in the press release as “the teacher who has taught in the Lower School the longest.”

I met My Thi and her husband, Deacon Hung Viet, for the first time back in 1998. I was covering the annual Eucharistic celebration of Our Lady of LaVang at Riverdale’s Our Lady of Vietnam Church. Even though it was not her official role, My Thi was like the parish ambassador, and she made me feel very welcome during that initial visit to the parish. 

In August of 1998 Pinecrest Academy broke ground on what began as its 53-acre Cumming location. I was there as Archbishop emeritus John F. Donoghue presided over the ceremony to turn over the dirt, mixed with Georgia red clay, marking the beginning of its Forsyth County existence. Today it has grown into a sprawling campus with 15 buildings, two gymnasiums and three athletic fields.

Through it all My Thi has been a part of the Pinecrest Academy growth and expansion. Initially she served as a parent volunteer when her youngest son John attended the school. In 1997 she became a teacher’s assistant at the Lower School. My Thi said it’s a wonderful opportunity to work with the young children at Pinecrest Academy. “It’s like a family at Pinecrest and there’s a love expressed by all at the school,” said My Thi. Before the students arrive, the teachers come together in the hallway each morning to pray that the Lord will show them the way to help and guide each child through the day.

My Thi came to the United States from Vietnam in 1975. She is the seventh of 10 children. My Thi and her husband were married at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, Morristown, N.J., in 1978. In addition to John, they are parents to Peter, 30, and Jason, 29. Both young men are seminarians with the Legionaries of Christ in Rome. In her spare time My Thi said she likes to cook, garden and take walks so she can meditate and reflect.

I’ve always known My Thi as a kind person who exudes a jovial and peaceful disposition. I also know her to be a devout and faith-filled Catholic woman. She told me she attends 7 a.m. Mass in the school’s main chapel every morning. Even though she resides in Norcross, occasionally I see her at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta; yet, until recently I never knew that since 1994, she spends one hour a week praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the adoration chapel.

My Thi said the innocence and pure souls of Pinecrest’s youngest students provides an example to her. “The parents give their children to me so I can look after and care for them, so that’s a big responsibility for me and all the teachers. But what a blessing and a gift,” concluded My Thi.  

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

See the story and photos surrounding dedication of Pinecrest Academy’s new John Paul II Lower School Activities Building in the Oct. 27 issue of The Georgia Bulletin.

Monday, October 10, 2011

50 Years later, here they are, Earl and Barbara Beck

50 Years of Marriage Begins with Mutual Dislike by GeorgiaBulletin

Please listen to Barbara Beck tell how her marriage of 50 years to her husband, Earl, began with mutual dislike. It's a great story.

You can read my article in the Georgia Bulletin about the annual Mass honoring couples in 2011 who celebrate their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries. The story appears in the Oct. 13 issue.

On a side note, my own parents - who marked in September the 45th anniversary of their wedding - were set up by their parents. My dad's mother worked at Syracuse University as did my mom. My grandmother suggested my dad take out her co-worker and the rest is history (Although, as my father tells it, at the proposal, my mom tried to talk him out of it. My mom is mum on the subject.)  Anyhoo. I wonder if it was common for parents to play the matchmaker back in the day. How'd your parents meet?


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Voices of the Nigerian Catholic Community Choir

I set out for the inaugural Mass of the Pan African Catholic Organization of the Atlanta last weekend.
Wandering around before the service began, I found a choir of women, wearing colorful clothes, practicing for the upcoming Mass. You can hear the choir below.

Here's my lede for the story:
Worshippers recited prayers in five languages as they praised God African-style.

Crowds filled the pews at Stone Mountain’s Corpus Christi Church, with many wearing vibrant African clothes and women in elaborate headdresses.

At the start of Mass, five women danced down the center aisle of Corpus Christi Church to the drum beat of African rhythms, as one carried the book with the day’s Bible readings on her back.

Choirs from the communities of Cameroon, Gambian, Nigeria raised their voices to lead the faithful in song.

The Pan African Catholic Organization of Atlanta in the archdiocese held its inaugural Mass on Saturday, Oct. 1, bringing together nine different immigrant nationalities and ethnic groups.
Some details about the African Catholic community came from a survey done four years ago:
A 2007 survey for the Office of Black Catholic Ministry estimated in the archdiocese there are more than 22,000 black Catholics.

And in the survey, about one in three respondents identified themselves as African. The largest number of people born in Africa came from Nigeria, followed by Eritrea and Ivory Coast. (Cote d’Ivoire).

Finally, the choir.  (To enlarge the photo, please hover the cursor over the photo.).

listen to ‘Church choir practice ’ on Audioboo