Mr. Eric Frenette, LPC, NCC
Principal of St. Joseph School
Mr. Frenette's Bio:
- Graduate of St. Joseph School (Class of 1998)
- Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (UConn, 2006)
- Master's Degree in School Counseling (UConn, 2009)
- Master's Certificate in Catholic School Leadership (Creighton, 2017)
- Six years as a Secondary School Counselor
- Began tenure as Principal of SJS in Fall of 2015
- Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of CT
- Nationally Certified Counselor
- Long-time Bristol resident and parishioner of St. Joseph Parish
- Father of two boys (one currently enrolled at SJS)
A year before I came to St. Joseph School as principal while I was still a school counselor at a public high school, I served as a chaperone for a school April vacation trip to Greece. It was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity as the trip consisted of a cruise through the many islands of the Aegean Sea. While this was my second time to Greece, it was a very different experience as we arrived on the Eastern Orthodox Palm Sunday. So, as we traveled through the many different parts of the country, from urban Athens to rural Rhodes, I observed an entire country preparing for Easter.
Now Easter in Greece is a big deal. Holy Week is a time of preparation, both spiritually and physically. Everywhere we went I saw families preparing large bonfires for the eventual cooking of the Easter lamb. One day in Crete I actually saw a father and son leading the lamb through a field, I’d imagine to a not-so-peaceful ending. Even on the street corners of Athens I saw family members constructing “spits” to eventually roast their Sunday dinners.
At St. John’s Monastery in Patmos (where John wrote the Book of Revelation), the pilgrims and monks were in constant prayer, preparing for the holiest days of the Catholic calendar. Even in Athens, churches were constructing outdoor podiums for their midnight service Sunday morning (I was fortunate to sneak out of my hotel and attend this service even though we had a 6am flight home). In Greece, the air force flies to Jerusalem to get a torch from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (where Christ was crucified) to fly back home to distribute to all churches in the country to then be shared among parishioners attending Easter Mass. After Mass, fireworks explode throughout the streets (at 3am mind you) to celebrate Easter has arrived. The parties carry on through Sunday evening.
It was truly a spiritual experience to see an entire country in such preparation and celebration of Easter. It was even more powerful for me as we had left to fly to Greece on “our” Easter Sunday (a week early that year according to the Roman Catholic calendar) so I was still able to celebrate Easter in a sense. Every year since, I think of this trip as we enter days leading toward Holy Week. As we read in the Gospel that Jesus is led toward the top of Golgotha, I think of that lamb being led by the father and son to his own demise. As I think of the families preparing to feast, I think of what can I do to better prepare for what is coming. And as Easter steps ever closer, I ponder if I’m prepared to show the joy and excitement that I witnessed so very early in the morning in the streets of Athens.
Easter is coming. Are we ready? Are we excited? Well, we should be. It’s all Greek to me.
In Religion class, the 6th graders have just concluded the unit on the Ten Commandments. They now venture into the forty years of wandering the desert that the Hebrew people had to endure before finally entering the Promised Land. This year the timing is perfect as we also venture into the forty days of Lent. We will be “wandering around” our relationship with God and sin as we edge closer to the “Promised Land” of Easter Sunday. This coincidence has given me a different view into one of, in my opinion, most bothersome aspects of the Exodus story.
Every time I read the stories from this part of Hebrew history, I get annoyed at the seeming ignorance of the characters. They constantly doubt God’s influence on their story and continually rise up against Moses. Not even mentioning the plagues and parting of the Red Sea they had recently witnessed in Egypt, God sends them bread from Heaven, water from a rock, a healing snake on a pole and, still, they doubt. I would sit reading those passages like someone watching a suspenseful, horror movie, “Don’t go up the stairs!” “How can you be so stupid!” And yet, I feel this time around, God has humbled me a bit in my apparent sense of superiority.
Through the lens of Lent, I can see that I often act the same way. I am fortunate enough to be able to look by on my life and find many examples of God’s presence peppered throughout. If we can quiet our minds and sit for a few moments in silence, we may be surprised just how often God enters our lives in such clear and profound ways. There may be no whirlwind of fire or burning bushes, but there doesn’t always have to be. God can speak just as loudly through the kind words of stranger, the perfect workings of a well-laid plan, or even the complete and utter defeat of a failed hope. We just need to be centered and humble enough to look for it.
So maybe that is what God is asking me to do this Lent. Maybe I need to thin out the clutter and craziness of my days to find some time to sit and be still. By doing so, maybe I’ll see myself in the doubting Hebrews of the Exodus story. And at the same time, maybe I’ll find how God’s willingness to be a part of my life is just as Biblical as it was during those years in the desert.
St. Joseph School