Por Vida Academy Baccaleaurate Class of 2014

Address by Ramon Sanchez,  PVA Teacher

Good Evening Friends and Family

Buenas Noches y Bien venidos

I am so proud of you, we are very proud of you. For some of you it has been a long road. It is such an honor to be in the presence of some of the sharpest young minds in San Antonio.

Por Vida students --now graduates--at new cafeteria groundbreaking in 2012

Por Vida students –now graduates–at new cafeteria groundbreaking in 2012

I feel a special kinship with all of you. As a graduate of a charter school here in the south side, playing ball in the same gym some of you played ball in I know a thing or two about small charter schools. We have mix values of hard work, grit and determination with a burning curiosity, a progressive disposition to build in you, a genuine thirst for knowledge.

When I was asked to close tonight I got really nervous. Well to be honest I got scared.

It wasn’t a physical fear of any kind. Rather, I was simply scared of screwing this up. I kept thinking. What am I going to talk about?

But then it occurred to me, this is exactly what I HAVE to share with you. My firsthand knowledge of one of the most valuable and life forming things you can experience , fear.

That’s right.  I’m here to tell you today that “Fear is good.”

Maybe you feel fear right now — fear that you won’t land a job, fear that you won’t find love, or fear that you don’t know what is going to happen after this day. These are all very valid fears.

Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.

To understand why fear is good, one has to stop viewing fear as a feeling, and start looking at it simply as information. Fear is good because it is our brain’s way of identifying the things we are ignorant about. Knowing this, we should look at our fear not as a reason to avoid the things that frighten us, but as a reason to engage them.

Needless to say, that fear of known physical danger is obviously and it shouldn’t be questioned or over-thought. But that other kind of fear. Fear of the unknown.  Fear that shuts down action without any real explanation. When you feel that fear, let it be a trigger for curiosity.

Simply asking ourselves what we want is easy. A far more powerful question that can be much harder to explore, but has the potential to bring you breathtaking clarity, is simply: What do I fear? Remember I am not talking about spiders or the dark, I’m talking about what it is that is stopping you from being great.

So don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.

Indeed, the truth about fear, as with the rest of life, is that you’ll only really figure it out by living through it. So, get out there and live. Take your shots and engage your fears. And trust you’ll figure it out. Trust your instincts, trust your passions, trust your empathy, and trust your love. And trust that even fear itself will want to stop, drop and roll when confronted with the unstoppable passion and power of a Por Vida Graduate.

Remember to laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.

Thank you and congratulations!


Contingency Fund at Blessed Sacrament Academy

Inspired by
BSA Alumna Carol Whitlock
Mariam, Kansas

Everyone who owns a home, car, or appliance recognizes that word.  It’s official meaning is an unforeseen happening that is going to cost me money I didn’t have in my budget.  Things like appliance failure, roof failure, car repairs, even lost eyeglasses or the need for something as small as a new pair of shoes can trigger the word – Oops – how am I going to pay for this?

Well, BSA has some of those same problems.  Run with a tightly controlled budget and a finite income, any unexpected problem causes heartburn and possibly sleepless nights.

Things like air conditioning or heating unit failure, broken windows, etc. are not usually in the budget. One strange item I remember from long ago was the failure of the curtains on the stage just a month before the senior play was to be presented.  The curtains were so old, that when taken down for cleaning, they fell apart rather than just coming clean.  Hundreds of yards of begged fabric and hours of student sewing later the stage again was ready for use.

A few years ago one alumnus decided to help out with these situations by asking BSA to create an OOPS fund seeded with her donation.  Formally called the Contingency fund it has saved the day a number of times.

For example, the 88 year old water and sewer lines remind us often of their age – those mostly they valiantly soldier on.  Two areas on the campus have puzzled us (Sr. Odilia) no end.  After several hydro-blasts,  we finally came to an understanding that the “bellies created” in the sewer lines by age and shifting soil were not going away and indeed would continue to plague us. Repairing those two problems reminded me of what one plumber told me,  “Other people’s ______ is my gold”. Fill in the blank according to your own experience!!

Compressors going out are another least favorite oops.  Recently we replaced one on the 3 door fridge and another on a rooftop air-conditioner in the Child Development Center.  Neither item in the budget!

As you can see, the fund has saved the day more than once.  Just now, on May 16, 2014 our beloved sewer drained the $975 Oops fund down to $587.50.  Not bad, considering. The fund stays open for donations at any time.

Sr. Odilia and Sr. Stephanie Marie have proven very persuasive in finding donors for the large projects such as the new cafeteria.  But there just isn’t enough time in the day to seek out and solicit small donors to help pay for these smaller projects.  As any home owner knows, it is the small problems that will nickel and dime you into the poor house.  Plus the vast majority of us alums cannot afford to give large sums.  We are doing ok, thank you, but not in the league with the large donors.  But we can afford a few bucks here and there to help with the Oops factor.  So here is the idea:  Give some thought to sending a few bucks to BSA marked for the Contingency fund once or twice a year.  You will be helping with the continuation of the fine education you received and making life (and sleep) just a little bit easier for the Sisters and staff at BSA.

It was extremely helpful and very comforting to have the Oops (contingency) Fund in place,  thanks to the originator of the fund, Alumna Carol Whitlock.

Stained glass angel

Stained glass angel

Carol does stained glass work like the one to the right.
We’ve named this angel Angelique honoring the French heritage of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament Sisters.

Our real life Angel of the Oops Fund is Carol who once went to school here and is now giving back and inviting you to join her in this caring endeavor.

Come walk with us and her in this effort to keep our buildings/equipment in good repair for the ministries they still house and the children they still protect after so many years of service.

Thank you. God bless you
Sister Odilia Korenek
Sister Stephanie Marie Martinez
& BSA Sisters

Thanks to our Big Give SA Donors

Congratulations and appreciation to The Big Give SA leadership and staff on the great venture into fundraising your brought to San Antonio culminating in outstanding success on May 6, 2104.

Blessed Sacrament Academy thanks the many donors who joined ranks with us in making this “responsible compassion” event possible. We are grateful to our families and staff who gave of the little they have and helped make a giant San Antonio giving possible. We thank staff, family and friends who continue to respond to us as we offer them the opportunity to give to our ministries. We thank Los Angeles, Connecticut and far-flung towns in Texas for joining hands and hearts with us in this endeavor. It’s a missionary effort which touches my heart and soul. You/we are beautiful spirits walking together to build a caring and compassionate world. I borrow from our Jewish brothers and sisters as I say Yasher Koach! Translated “let us walk from strength to strength” or let us go forth in strength. And, so may it be.

Sister Odilia

Blessed Sacrament Academy–a diverse ministry

Mystery in the Convent

Sister Odilia Korenek
If we pay attention we find that we walk in the midst of mystery each day. A particular one has been intriguing us lately.  It is connected to the empty nail on the wall displayed in the picture. empty nail

It happened during Easter Week.    Pope Francis just got up and walked out – frame, picture and all.  No amount of investigation yielded information.  Until —  Tonio walked in one day:  Tonio who comes for a donation, Tonio who plays the organ in the chapel,  Tonio who did some painting on a set of Stations of the Cross, an uncompleted gift left by an artist.  Tonio, by his own definition, an enigma.

This Easter week,  Tonio came needing  $23.00 for a doctor’s visit. He showed me his spider bite and waded into a conversation of need.  I send him into the chapel to pray for a bit while I thought of how to respond in responsible compassion.  My question has become, “What do you really need?  A little whisper advised me that this would not be of any use with Tonio.   So?  I decided to join him in the chapel,  pray with him and go from there.  “From there” lead to another kind of question.  “Tonio,  did you take Pope Francis for a walk?  ( I pointed to a nail on the wall.) We know he likes to be out there among the poor.”  He insisted,  “No, I don’t know anything about that.”

I continued, “Well,  I was hoping  you might have seen or heard something when you were here a few days ago.”  He gave it some thought and then waded into another conversation about how he should not be stealing because I’m his friend and now I won’t be his friend any more.  He quoted Scripture and verse shoring up his case.  I was fascinated and wondered, out loud,  where he learned all this Scripture.  Then he told me about his struggle with mental health and how St Paul says that we do the things we don’t want to do.  (Romans 7:15, etc.)  And he doesn’t know how to get this out of himself. (Made a gesture of pulling something out of his heart.)  It was clear to me that Scripture helps him to live with himself.  I am glad for that.

In the end I gave him some bus money to get to a doctor’s appointment and asked him to be on the lookout for Pope Francis,  who would most likely be out among the poor, like Tonio himself!  With this promise and a bag of loose change, I bade him farewell.

Now I’m wondering if Pope Francis might not be out there looking for those who are willing to give to San Antonio area non-profits so they can continue their diverse ministries to those in need of support.  Psst,  Pope Francis, please direct to us those who can give assistance to the children and youth who are nurtured in programs at the Blessed Sacrament Academy campus;  i.e. BSA Child Development Center,  BSA Parents’ Academy,  Por Vida Academy,  Jewish Family Service.  Thank you for your direction and care.  Oh…,  the website for donations is  www.TheBigGiveSA.org   from midnight to midnight on May 6, 2014.

Reminder:  Your spot on our chapel wall is being saved.

Blessed Sacrament Academy is in for The Big Give SA

Save the Date Circle ImageOn May 6th, 2014, San Antonio will come together for 24 hours of nonprofit giving during The Big Give SA

Blessed Sacrament Academy is joining more than 350 San Antonio nonprofits for “one big day of giving” and one incredible chance to support the vital programs at Blessed Sacrament Academy and shape San Antonio’s future.

It’s San Antonio’s first ever giving day, and it’s your chance to make a real impact, as part of our BSA family and your community.

All you have to do is commit to donating to Blessed Sacrament Academy on May 6th through the Big Give SA website: http://www.thebiggivesa.org/ and you help us become eligible for prize money and matching dollar opportunities.

big give logo

Blessed Sacrament Academy has been helping build community on San Antonio’s Southside since 1926.  We have survived times which tested us.  Our IWBS Sister Group has been the bedrock of  this success.

Today our Mission states:  We offer meaningful and child-centered education in a safe and respectful environment to  children,  youth and parents who are on the verge of falling through established safety nets in our society.  We teach fragile families a better normal for their children.  Our pervading message is that they too are worthy and capable of becoming the persons who, in turn, offer a compassionate and challenging hand to others in need.

Corporations, Foundations, Friends and Family joined us in the mid-1980s to restructure and have added the solidity we need.  Today we offer you the opportunity to join this sturdy and steadfast group of people who are able and willing to walk with us as we care for and educate our children and youth and build strong families in which they can thrive.

When you donate online on May 6th, you support the current programs at Blessed Sacrament Academy.
Child Development Center
Parents’ Academy
Por Vida High School

Your generosity will reward your own life as you move along the path you have taken.
Thank you.  God bless you.

Sister Odilia Korenek, Executive Director


Child Development Center begins enrollment initiative


Child Development Center Enrollment Initiative's Easter Bunny

Child Development Center Enrollment Initiative’s Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny (EB) arrived well in time for our National Child Abuse Prevention Month Easter Egg Day with BSA which will be held on April 12, 2014. EB holds our Enrollment Initiative flyer and is already spreading the word about our Child Development Center (CDC) Enrollment Initiative as he travels the internet airwaves. The EB suit arrived in a tightly packed box today — courtesy of Rosemary Kowalski. We’ve invited her as the EB Madrina to attend our Easter Egg Day along with our District 3 Councilwoman, a CPS representative and volunteers from Voices for Children.

EB does have, out of view, cute fuzzy feet. And, he will be appropriately named by the children, we have no doubt. The BSA Child Development Center and Parents’ Academy are busily working on the Enrollment Initiative which includes a Child Abuse Prevention and Easter Egg Hunt component.


Blanca, CDC teacher of a group of Pre-School 1 children, has been selected to be filmed conducting short lessons in key areas of instruction to include:

  • Whole group read aloud
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Math instruction

Texas School Ready plans to use the videos to train teachers in the state and beyond. The filming will be done by a BSA staff member which lessens the stress a bit! And, Blanca gets to keep the video camera and accessories. What an opportunity! Thanks, Blanca.

A petting zoo will make a guest appearance at our campus giving the little ones exciting opportunities to meet select animals face to face. In addition each class will invite another class to visit them for song, dance or other activities during Rodeo Week.

VALENTINES DAY …. Is called Friendship Day at BSA. It provides an opportunity for teachers to strengthen their focus on teaching children to be kind, to use gentle touches with each other and to treat each other in a caring way. We are grateful for this example of caring conduct from our children and their teachers.

Parent’s Academy continues to help families

From Katherine Lozano, Director of the Parent’s Academy at Blessed Sacrament Academy

2013 Parent’s Academy classes were recently completed with a total of 190 graduates from Precious Minds New Connections and 120 graduates of Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. We served over 350 parents and about 500 children this year in our evening parent education programs. Just a short break for the holidays and the 2014 classes will reach even more families…..

Parents at a recent class.

Parents at a recent class.

This last cycle of classes uncovered a number of families in crisis. Three families we served were living in shelters. Three other parents were incarcerated after the course began – all three of them were moms. The dads have been coming to class and participating as Parents’ Academy becomes an even more important part of their service plan and one time a week they can make a positive connection with others. Two other moms had to drop out when they were assigned to enter rehab for substance abuse. Hearing the stories of the families we serve often brings sadness, a sigh and prayers, prayers, prayers for their strength and healing. We pray that their time with us will be a bright spot in their journey to strengthen, and at times, re-build their families.

Helping parents become better families.

Helping parents become better families.

There is much joy in this work as we help families connect with each other and learn together. Knowing that the relationships we are building with them lifts their spirits and gives them hope is of great encouragement. Yes, it is important work and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve in this corner of God’s kingdom.

Katherine Lozano, Director