Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sarah Smith on Race: Chapel Sermon

Good Morning,

On a summer day on June 21, 1964, at a civil rights rally at Soldier Field in Chicago, beloved Holy Cross priest and University of Notre Dame President Father Hesburgh stood together with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., singing "We Shall Overcome,” the famous African spiritual.

Fr. Hesburgh was member of the US Commission of Civil Rights.  And on that day where this famous picture was taken, he addressed a crowd over 57,000 people, saying “Be proud to be a Negro, we want to strive for dignity with you.” 

As a white person, I cannot speak to the experiences of the lived reality of a black person.  I cannot know what a black person’s daily struggles are living in a white world.  All I can do today is speak from my experience as a woman and as a theologian to give MLK Day some context – some theological language, if you will, to honor one of my most beloved theologians of all time and an American Civil Rights hero.

My message today is simply this – RACE IS A GIFT FROM GOD. 

I am saying what Fr. Hesburgh said that day in 1964 but in a more theological way.  And I will keep affirming this truth throughout my sermon this morning.

Thinking about RACE AS A GIFT FROM GOD changes our perspective on our differences as humans.  We were made by God with various shades of melanin as diverse as the colors of flowers in a meadow on a mountain.  Fr. Youmans reminded me that even the entire biosphere reflects God’s creativity in diversity, God made not just one type or one color or one species of things but rather God made 100s, 1000s, millions – we see this in Genesis 1 where God “made every kind…and saw it was good.”  So we too, as humans, reflect God’s abundance and wholly diversity. 

The cool thing about being human, however, is that we were made in the likeness and image of God, the imago dei. Genesis 1:26 states, “Let us make humankind[c] in our image, according to our likeness,” and then after God had made everything God said it was very good.  Therefore, our bodies reflect something about God.  The very fact that we are so many colors says something about God.  And God said we are “good” because everything God made was “good.”  Therefore, RACE IS A GIFT FROM GOD. 

What is wonderful about being a Christian is that we can look to our sources of authority like the Biblical text and the life of Jesus (whom by the way, was a BROWN man) and the traditions of the Church to search for meaning in life.  Our theological resources give us truths and hints towards how to think about our worlds which should in turn help us discern how we ought to live in the world.

I am a strong believer that if we do not put our theologies into our ethics then our theologies are dead.  In other words, if we don’t live out what we believe to be true about God then there is no point to having faith to begin with.  Therefore, if we believe as Chrisitans that RACE IS A GIFT FROM GOD then how ought we act towards each other?

I am heartened and encouraged that several dozen Casady students volunteered at the Food Bank yesterday to honor MLK in a day of service and giving to others in need.  King’s vision was for a Beloved Community based on the philosophy and principles of non-violence.  In this community, King saw justice in relationships between fellow humans and striving for equal opportunity and mutual dignity and respect. Where people were judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. 

Where all work had dignity no matter if one was a sanitation worker or a physician.  In my favorite quote from him he explains, "all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny...whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be - this is the interrelated structure of reality."  And also, “our ultimate goal is integration, which is genuine inter-group and inter-personal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the Beloved Community.”

So how do we realize King’s vision for the Beloved Community as a Christians, Muslims, Jews or people of good will that want to live in harmony and peace with one another?  I think a great deal of realizing King’s vision starts with our attitude and posture towards one another.  When I see a friend or person of a different race or ethnicity I shift my thinking from “oh wow this person is different than me so I fear them” to rather, “this person has a different experience than me from living in the world with a different color of skin, that is A GIFT FROM GOD therefore I am sure I can learn something from their lived experiences.” 

This is a very technical and fancy way to say


In a weekly podcast I run, interviewing women in theology – every time I get to interview one of my friends of color I am always so thrilled to learn from them.  They see the world and understand theology in a completely new and wonderful way that I have never dreamt of.  They make my faith better because they add their unique perspective.  They give my theology breadth and depth that I could not learn on my own.

We need each other.  In all of our diversities.  I cannot be who I ought to be until you are who you ought to be.  My salvation is wrapped up in yours and yours in mine, even.  This week’s lectionary text, John 1, Nathanael said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  If Christians profess faith in a Brown savior named Jesus from a gross town called Nazareth then I would hope we could see that image of god in our brothers and sisters of color in towns and places where we would least expect it. 

Maybe that’s where God is after all anyways. With those on the margins.  Why wouldn’t we want to learn from them and be in community with them for they are blessed.  And so are we as we work to realize the Beloved Community here on earth and not just as it is in heaven.  Amen.

Amos 5:24 “but let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” 

Monday, January 15, 2018

UD, MD Cyclones served at the Food Bank on MLK Day

Casady's MLK Day Afternoon of service at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma  The service-learning opportunity took place in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and his contribution to the world. 

Pictures by YAC Photographer, Yasmin J. and Mrs. Cherylynn Omelia.


Casady's Upper Division hosted a civil rights assembly on Friday, January 13,2017 featuring speaker facilitator Mrs. Jo Ivester. Sharun P., Service Learning Office, and YAC Intern stated, "The speaker was good. Her personal story was very interesting about being the only white family in an all black community."  The Respect Diversity CEO, Joan Korenblit shared the following remarks about Mrs. Ivester's speeches at Heritage Hall High School and Casady, "Jo Ivester gave powerful talks at both schools."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Focus on Service Learning: Mrs. Cherylynn Omelia and Jo Ivester

Focus on Faculty Spotlight: Cherylynn O'Melia

Watch Cherylynn O'Melia in this week's Focus on Faculty video on the CasadySchoolLife YouTube channel: Focus on Faculty - Cherylynn O'Melia.
Cherylynn O'Melia has been teaching for 31 years and is in her sixth year at Casady School teaching seventh grade English, and she is Middle Division English Department Chair. Ms. O'Melia earned her degree in elementary education from Anderson University, then her Master's in Administration from William Woods University. On top of her degrees, Ms. O'Melia holds multiple Oklahoma teaching credentials and certifications.
Ms. O'Melia is also Middle Division's Coordinator for Service Learning and organizes service learning opportunities and experiences for Middle Division students throughout the school year. 
Each year, Ms. O'Melia attends the National Service Learning Conference where she meets with similarly service-minded educators to develop cross-curricular projects to incorporate service into her students' literature and writing studies.
"I am passionate about cross-curricular teaching and integrating the service-learning component," Ms. O'Melia said. "Cross-curricular teaching makes learning relevant for the students and empowers them to set lifelong learning and service goals."
Ms. O'Melia is a warm and inviting presence for every student who enters her classroom. Her greatest hope is that students leave Middle Division with an appreciation and desire for a service-filled life.

Service Learning Opportunities for Cyclones and their Families

Cyclones will join hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country on this national day of service sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and the Corporation of National and Community Service. On MLK Day, Cyclones answer Dr. King’s call to serve and face differences.
Volunteer service is a powerful tool that unites us around a common purpose and builds strong communities. The MLK Day of Service shines a spotlight on service as a powerful force to bridge economic and social divides – on MLK Day and throughout the year.
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
Cyclone volunteers are invited to join classmates and families at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in the Volunteer Center on Monday, Jan. 15 from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. The Casady Afternoon of Service is sponsored by our Middle Division Community Service Learning Program and led by Ms. O'Melia. Sign up through this link:, or you may contact Ms. O'Melia directly at or Sarah E. Smith M.S., M.T.S., who is subbing for Carmen Clay, in Upper Division at or 405.850.7703.
Additional Community Service Opportunities
On Friday, Jan. 12 after school, Upper Division students are invited to volunteer with YAC Vice President Sahanya Bhaktaram at Boys and Girls Club. On Saturday, Jan. 13 from 3:15 to 8:30 p.m. the Myriad Gardens Winter Olympic Expo needs volunteers. Sign up link at Casady Places to Serve Blog or contact Megan Brown, or 405.445.7087.
Learn more about Casady's Service Learning Program on the Casady Community Service Learning Blog

MLK Day 2018

Cyclones Put Citizenship and Service in Action 

Cyclones will join in volunteer service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. 

Casady Upper Division is hosting a civil rights assembly at 1:05 pm, today, January 12, 2018. The assembly speaker facilitator is Mrs. Jo Ivester.   Jo Ivester spent two years of her childhood living in a trailer in Mound Bayou, where she was the only white student at her junior high. She finished high school in Florida before attending Reed, MIT, and Stanford in preparation for a career in transportation and manufacturing. Following the birth of her fourth child, she became a teacher. She and her husband teach each January at MIT and travel extensively, splitting their time between Texas, Colorado, and Singapore.BooksThe Outskirts of Hope.  Jo Ivester addresses a wide range of audiences, from small book clubs to entire schools, using her personal stories as a means to make people more comfortable with those who are different from them with regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identification.

After School, today, YAC Vice President, Sahanya B. is facilitating her monthly after school mentoring experience at Boys and Girls Club.  

Cyclone volunteers will pack food at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma on January 15th from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm at the Volunteer Center of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  The Casady Afternoon of Service is sponsored by the Casady Middle Division Community Service-Learning Program.  The project is facilitated by Mrs. Cherylynn Omelia, Casady Middle Division Service Coordinator, MD English Department Head, and 7th grade English teacher. 

Cyclones will join hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country on this national day of service sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and the Coorporation of National and Community Service. On MLK Day, Cyclones answer Dr. King’s call to serve and face differences.  

Volunteer service is a powerful tool that unites us around a common purpose and builds strong communities.  The MLK Day of Service shines a spotlight on service as a powerful force to bridge economic and social divides – on MLK Day and throughout the year. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Friday, January 12th Casady YAC MLK Day 2018 Speaker at 1:05 pm

About Jo Ivester

In 1967 when Jo was 10 years old, her father moved their family to an all-black town in the Mississippi Delta, where they were one of only two white families and the only Jewish one. There, her father started a medical clinic, her mother taught at the local high school, and Jo was the only white student at her junior high. Living in a trailer in the poorest county in the nation during the turbulent 1960s, they were drawn into the heart of the civil rights movement.
Because of this experience, Jo is committed to advocating for equal rights for all. Her award-winning memoir about her family’s time in Mississippi, The Outskirts of Hope (She Writes Press, April 2015), has led to numerous speaking engagements about racial relations. In the last few years, Jo has broadened her focus to raise awareness about the transgender community. Inspired by her transgender son, she is now working on her second book, Once a Girl, Always a Boy. Through this and her speaking engagements, Jo shares the story of what is was like for her son to grow up in a world not quite ready for people like him.
Ivester addresses a wide range of audiences, from small book clubs to entire schools, using her personal stories as a means to make people more comfortable with those who are different from them with regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identification.
Before becoming a writer, Jo received a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from MIT and an MBA from Stanford University. She worked for many years in transportation and operations management before teaching as an adjunct professor in the business school of St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. Now living in Fort Worth, Texas, she has been married to Jon Ivester for 37 years, has four children, two grandchildren, and another grandchild on the way.

A Letter from Jo

My name is Jo Ivester.  I’m 60 years old and live in Texas.  My early years were spent in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, where my father, Leon Kruger, ran his pediatrics practice from an office on the first floor of our home.  It was common to do that in the 1950s and 60s.  Our whole block was made up of physicians of one sort or another working from their homes – a dentist, an ophthalmologist, a foot doctor.  There were almost thirty children in the neighborhood and we all played blissfully together, unaware that our parents had created a highly unusual paradise.
That all changed in 1967 when my father quit his practice to become the medical director of a clinic in a small, all-black town deep in the cotton fields of Mississippi, about a hundred miles south of Memphis.  My mother, Aura, was stunned by his decision, although I didn’t know it at the time.  As a 10-year-old child, it never occurred to me to question her brave words that this would be a great adventure, that we were lucky to have a father who cared about service to humanity.  Bold words and I bought into them, totally and completely.
To the outside world, my parents had the perfect life, a strong marriage, four talented, handsome children, a large house in the suburbs, a partnership in managing both their home and his work.  But my dad was no longer satisfied, wanting to do something more with his professional life, something more demanding and fulfilling.  He wanted to serve on the S.S. Hope and sail around the world providing modern medical care where none existed.  Or move to Ethiopia where there were fewer doctors per capita than almost anyplace else in the world.  We didn’t know the term yet, but he sought tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning “to repair the world.”  My mother supported his dreams, but she never really believed they would take her away from her home.
So why am I writing all of this?  I’m telling you about my parents so you’ll understand what led me to write my book, “The Outskirts of Hope.”  You may recognize the title.  It’s a quote from Lyndon Johnson.  He said, “Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope – some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both.”  That’s how he introduced his War on Poverty back in 1964.  My father enlisted in that war and my mother followed him, bringing my two older brothers and me along for the ride.
Forty years later, my mother, then in her eighties, started a journal.  Every day she wrote for twenty minutes, sometimes writing about our time in Mississippi, but mostly recording all the family anecdotes, going back to the 1800s when her grandparents first emigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe.  After several years, she’d amassed a pile of handwritten notebooks a foot high.  My mother felt as if her task was complete at this point.  But that was just the beginning for me.

Hope for the Holidays Reflection

I was so grateful for the amazing generosity that was displayed throughout the Hope for the Holidays Donation Drive this year! Thank you for much for helping me with it!

In the Primary Division, the volunteers each morning reported extremely eager, enthusiastic children bringing in many donations. When I received the opportunity to fill the ICS truck with donations with them, I was thrilled to see such spirit and excitement. I had seven helpers, and they each proudly introduced themselves to the ICS representative. Some of the donations were too heavy, so we ended up all working together to fill the truck. It was completely full by the end, and the kids were so happy!

In the Lower Division, my main interaction with the children was through the chapel speech. Luckily, public speaking has gotten (a bit!) easier over the years. I love the LD's chapel service, and the fourth graders walked me through every step of it. I was nervous that some of them might be nervous to speak in front of the Upper Division, but they were surprisingly enthusiastic! I'm so glad that I received the opportunity to incorporate them into the speech because upon leaving, one told me that he couldn't wait to sit on the stage like StuCo and wanted to pursue that in high school, while another told me that she was excited to visit Infant Crisis Services!

Finally, in Upper Division, we typically don't expect as much contribution in donations as the other divisions because the students are so busy. This year taught me to stop underestimating the Upper Division, as their donations were truly heartfelt. Many students participated and shared a bit of their holiday with Infant Crisis Services. We received many more donations than I expected, but more importantly, many more students participated! 

Thank you so much to Mrs. Clay. Hope for the Holidays wouldn't be here without you, and also thank you to Mrs. Smith! She helped me load the donations into the car and put up the Christmas tree.
Can't wait for next year!!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

From the desk of Sarah Smith

Miss Sarah Smith spent the last two weeks of December 2017 facilitating the Service-Learning Office and sponsoring YAC outreach service experiences as Mrs. Carmen Clay, Rainbolt Family Service Learning Chair had to leave Casady for an extended family leave of absence. Casady Service Learning welcomes the gifts Sarah brings to the program and looks forward to her leadership of the service program during the Spring term.

When asked to reflect on her two weeks at Casady Service-Learning, Sarah provided A Theologian’s Perspective on Casady School.

"I am a firm believer that we cannot separate our souls from our bodies and our bodies from our souls.  Thus, we cannot care for just one because the other will suffer and perhaps die.  Human beings must nurture each, and vigorously, in order to thrive!  What is most encouraging to me in my brief time at Casady School is that the school seeks to do just that – develop the body and the soul.  
Or perhaps we should just call the body and the soul combination simply - the human being.  
The Episcopal spirit of the School is fully alive and the center and start to everyday at Casady.  As an aspiring priest, I appreciate very much that each day begins in community in the chapel, in stillness and in prayer.  And no matter one’s faith tradition or lack thereof, I think it’s important to have moments of quiet reflection and a gathering of one’s thoughts before the day begins.  And in almost all faith traditions, the communal ritual of coming together in one sacred place reminds us that we are not alone, we need each other, and we are for each other.
Students have insanely busy schedules like most high school students, between sports, choir, drama, debate and a myriad of other extra-curricular activities.  But what makes these students even more equip to go out into the real world is the community service requirements.  The service learning requirement is not just a bodily volunteer activity where students fill needs in the community, although that is an important aspect of “boots on the ground” type work.  What service learning tries to garner in each young human being is the capacity to empathize and to care for one’s fellow human being.  It’s a spirit thing, a soul thing, or more precisely a matter of the heart.
This is a difficult value to instill in young people but it is, I believe, especially as a Christian, of extreme importance.  Caring for one’s community and one’s fellow human is central to the gospel message and is easily a basic value to our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters.  At Casady School, as I am learning, we practice this basic value in all of our practices.  Even at lunch, we sit “family style” together at tables and share “family portions” of food as they are passed around.  
Students probably don’t have the time to stop and think how significant it is that they are serving one another and helping nourish each other’s bodies so that they can go out in the world and help nourish others, too.  In the same way, when Fr. Blizzard or Fr. Youmans shares the communion bread and cup.  God’s body and God’s spirit through God’s blood enter into God’s people so we can be fed spiritually and bodily – holistically.  
This is a special place, Casady School.  Kids get to be immersed in a different model of communal life and learning that shapes their whole beings.  Whether they know it or not, I hope one day they will look back on their time, like I have, and realize how purposeful, meaningful and formative these years really were to their whole life and their whole person.
I am thankful and honored to get to experience this community and this place and to watch human beings flourish and grow!"

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Food for Thought as we begin 2018

Five Habits of the Heart

--by Parker Palmer, syndicated from, Jan 02, 2018
“Habits of the heart” (a phrase coined by Alexis de Tocqueville) are deeply ingrained ways of seeing, being, and responding to life that involve our minds, our emotions, our self-images, our concepts of meaning and purpose. I believe that these five interlocked habits are critical to sustaining a society.

1. An understanding that we are all in this together. Biologists, ecologists, economists, ethicists and leaders of the great wisdom traditions have all given voice to this theme. Despite our illusions of individualism and national superiority, we humans are a profoundly interconnected species—entwined with one another and with all forms of life, as the global economic and ecological crises reveal in vivid and frightening detail. We must embrace the simple fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another, and that includes the stranger, the “alien other.” At the same time, we must save the notion of interdependence from the idealistic excesses that make it an impossible dream. Exhorting people to hold a continual awareness of global, national, or even local interconnectedness is a counsel of perfection that is achievable (if at all) only by the rare saint, one that can only result in self-delusion or defeat. Which leads to a second key habit of the heart…

2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness.” It is true that we are all in this together. It is equally true that we spend most of our lives in “tribes” or lifestyle enclaves—and that thinking of the world in terms of “us” and “them” is one of the many limitations of the human mind. The good news is that “us and them” does not have to mean “us versus them.” Instead, it can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger and give us a chance to translate it into twenty-first century terms. Hospitality rightly understood is premised on the notion that the stranger has much to teach us. It actively invites “otherness” into our lives to make them more expansive, including forms of otherness that seem utterly alien to us. Of course, we will not practice deep hospitality if we do not embrace the creative possibilities inherent in our differences. Which leads to a third key habit of the heart…

3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.  Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life. Making the most of those gifts requires a fourth key habit of the heart…

4. A sense of personal voice and agency. Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak out and act out our own version of truth, while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. But many of us lack confidence in our own voices and in our power to make a difference. We grow up in educational and religious institutions that treat us as members of an audience instead of actors in a drama, and as a result we become adults who treat politics as a spectator sport. And yet it remains possible for us, young and old alike, to find our voices, learn how to speak them, and know the satisfaction that comes from contributing to positive change—if we have the support of a community. Which leads to a fifth and final habit of the heart…

5. A capacity to create community. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to achieve voice: it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to exercise the “power of one” in a way that allows power to multiply: it took a village to translate Parks’s act of personal integrity into social change. In a mass society like ours, community rarely comes ready-made. But creating community in the places where we live and work does not mean abandoning other parts of our lives to become full-time organizers. The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can help us find the courage we need to speak and act as citizens. There are many ways to plant and cultivate the seeds of community in our personal and local lives. We must all become gardeners of community if we want society to flourish. 

Syndicated from Parker Palmer's Five Habits of the HeartParker J. Palmer, Founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, is a world-renowned writer, speaker and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He has reached millions worldwide through his nine books, including Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, and Healing the Heart of Democracy.