Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse
Indians! Every year of school introduces a new theme. The students have been greeted by Indians, Israelites, Old Testament characters, soldiers and angels…the adults who didn’t grow up here, love to “go to school” again during each opening of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse.
A poster hanging on the door of a pizzeria displayed several youth looking down at their iphone, laptop, or tablet screens. A single word titled the poster: “Screenagers.” The word “screenagers” evolved from the word “teenagers.” Teenagers did not exist until the 1950s. Before that, through the early 1980s, there were only three categories: children, youth and adults. Youth were considered young adults evolving into adulthood; accepting more responsibilities; learning work skills; becoming responsible citizens; maturing into their roles as future husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. Monumental changes were happening in the culture after World War II, which led into a time of prosperity and a more materialistic outlook on life. Instead of evolving into adulthood, those from 13 years to 19 years of age moved into a new developmental stage that became known as the teenager. Rather than taking on more responsibilities, their lives centered around fun and entertainment; rather than learning work skills, learning sports became their afternoon activity; rather than developing love and patriotism for their nation as a good citizen, they became more and more dependent and less and less free; rather than looking towards marriage and building a strong family, many became the product of divorce and continued the destructive patterns in their own lives and the lives of the future generations. By the time Our Lady began appearing in Medjugorje, She would say the “youth” of this generation
In Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse, Our Lady places Her Son at the center of everything, from the curriculum taught, to the inspired decor on every wall. Since God controls all of history, history is just the telling of His-story, and who better to learn that from, but through Our Lady Herself. Being that Our Lady is the primary teacher in the community school, Her statue is always placed in a prominent location in the schoolhouse.
The students of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse pray at the feet of Our Lady at the beginning and end of each school day. Just as the adults open to a message of Our Lady to begin their day, so too do the youth of the community in school. Our Lady said on August 25, 1995:
The students not only end their school day in thanksgiving, but also with an Act of Contrition.
Shortly after the founding of the Community of Caritas, a Friend of Medjugorje broke from the world’s system and founded Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse in 1993. In this school of Our Lady, the desire of a Friend of Medjugorje and the community adults is that Our Lady teach and shape the children, just as She taught Jesus and His little friends. Students begin each day with the school prayer written by a Friend of Medjugorje, which is addressed to Our Lady so that She would: “
Community adults have the assurance that the training of their children rests on their shoulders and is not handed over to strangers. Medjugorje visionary, Ivan, has said that Our Lady’s school is, “the school of peace, the school of love, the school of prayer.” At Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse these three elements of prayer, peace, and love are central in every lesson.
The Holy Spirit and Our Lady guide the choice of a different school theme every year, which has ranged from Kings and Queens, to Indians, to the Holy Land, to Pioneers, to God’s Creation. A few weeks before school starts, the adults in the community cover the windows of the school so that no student can peek into the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is slowly transformed into the new theme with everyone in the community using their talents; be it carpentry, painting, researching, decorating, sewing, computer graphics, garage sale hunting, writing, acting or cooking. For two weeks, the schoolhouse is surrounded by a whirlwind of activity, until the first day of school arrives, and the theme is revealed to the students with a dramatic, rehearsed production put on by community members, including the graduates of Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse that brings the theme to life. It may very well be more fun for the adults than it is for the students! The school opening is a much-anticipated event and is also attended by others outside of the community. The theme has revealed itself over and over again to truly be an action of the Holy Spirit in that it speaks about something more than just what happens in the classroom. In fact, often it is even prophetic in regards to events that take place in the world, or with Medjugorje, during the school year. A Friend of Medjugorje is always asked to write something for the first day of school, only given a very basic idea of the school theme. Some of his most profound writings have been for the school opening in which he writes, from his heart, directly to the youth of the community. These writings have often been shared in Caritas of Birmingham newsletters, and one has even been engraved in a bronze plaque and rests beside the Cross on Penitentiary Mountain (our Cross Mountain), but they are first written to the children of the community to pass on to them the lessons of Our Lady learned by a Friend of Medjugorje—and will continue to be passed down to the future generations of children raised in the “Way of Life” of the community.
School is about learning and educating, but what, in particular should a child be learning in school? A Friend of Medjugorje raised his children to give them the life skills to, “get to Heaven and be able to put a roof over their heads.” The 3 “R’s”, reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, are taught in the school just as in any other school, minus the social indoctrination, however, in addition, a large part of the teaching is done through apprenticeship. The students in Our Lady of Victory’s Little Schoolhouse participate in meaningful work as part of their everyday life, side by side with the adults, in the agrarian work and the mission work. A Friend of Medjugorje has always said that if you teach a child to “think” and to “read” then there will be nothing he cannot teach himself his whole life. The youth are exposed to and develop skills in a host of real life work that gives them the experience and skills, far beyond the books, needed to live, work, and be productive and successful at anything they set their minds to as they grow older. Below is just a partial list of what our youth learn to do in school, in their homes, and in the mission of Our Lady:
If a community child has a desire to learn something, it becomes part of the school curriculum. But, in everything they learn, they see in very practical ways how faith is a part of everything the community does. Faith is not something lived only on Sunday, but is interwoven in the very fabric of the life of the community. These are the lessons they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, that they will plant into the future generations of their family and the community, that will sustain them as they grow into adulthood and beyond, and that will prepare them for their eternal life in Heaven.