The Evolution of Time

Dr. Anna Downey
Time is a construct made from God. When we think of it from this perspective, suddenly it makes sense how it can be both arbitrary and important at the same time.  
How is it that the days can go by slow, but months go by fast? How is it that before the pandemic it seemed like time was lightening fast and then suddenly it can feel at a standstill? How is it that we have accomplished so many remarkable milestones as a society yet still deal with issues and crises that feel cyclical?   
Historically, we can see the timeless quest for gratitude, success and ability to create the conditions of a just society in which everyone is equally represented and treated with respect and dignity, regardless of anything. Are we getting there? Yes, but we are not there yet. 
One of the most beautiful aspects of Incarnate Word High School is the ability to see the impact of time as an all-girl’s school of faith founded by trailblazing women 140 years ago. I like to ponder from time to time what their lives must have been like. How did they deal with crisis? After all, our inception was largely a result of the Spanish Influenza of 1911. 
The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word did not let the many societal restrictions stop them from serving the Lord and their neighbors by building a legacy focused on service and calling, which includes not just education but health ministries as well. The CCVI Sisters were global from the start, and they started over 150 years ago. I am confident that Mother Pierre and the many principals of Incarnate Word High School are smiling and forever dancing with our Lord in celebration of all which is good, of all which has been accomplished. But we are not there yet. There is still more work to do. As much as I believe they are celebrating us and how far we have come, I also believe they are adamantly cheering us on, yelling, “Keep going! There is so much more to do!” 
Some things are time-less.  For example, our core values have truly stood the test of time and remain just as relevant today as they were when they were first established. Let us be thankful for the core values of Incarnate Word High School which have served generations in the past and will continue to serve generations in the future. I encourage all of us to take thirty seconds to think about what the Shamrock values mean to you and to be thankful for what we have. 
  • FAITH: Why are you thankful for your faith? How do you show it? 
  • ACADEMICS: Why are your thankful for access to a rigorous and relevant education? What does it actually do for me and what does it mean? 
  • SERVICE and SOCIAL JUSITCE: What do we know about service and social justice? How are we called to live our faith? Who needs a voice? 
  • LEADERSHIP: What does leadership look like? How have you reached out to the leaders and mentors in your life sharing your successes and/or setbacks? Thanking him or her?   
There is nothing more fulfilling to me than watching the youth form and practice the values of IWHS. I am especially thankful for the value of female leadership. I am thankful our country continues to show women shattering the glass ceiling. I am thankful for Kamala Harris becoming the first Black and Indian female to serve as the Vice President of the United States. I am thankful for the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all she did for gender equality. I am thankful for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on her confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I am thankful for Kim Ng, recently named the new General Manager of the Florida Marlins. In this way, time has not been in our favor. It took years of marching, protesting, and voting for women to have the access and voice that we do now. May we never forget the time and sacrifice the women that have come before us invested so that we may enjoy our freedom and rights today.  
And now, it is about time students have a voice at the table. I’m thankful for the students and staff who have so vulnerably approached the inflection point we reached last year, before COVID-19 and especially after - the collaboration of students, teachers, and really all employees coming together to re-imagine and re-create a system of education in which the students see themselves reflected, their voice heard and their ideas implemented. I’m thankful for the student council leaders and peer ministers who have presented to the faculty/staff ideas on how they learn and how the school can grow -  ideas which are innovative and creative, ideas many of the adults on campus did not get the chance to experience. 
As Shamrocks, we are called to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I am forever thankful of the past but also optimistic of the opportunities that come from forward-thinking. Our ability to look forward enables us to see the expansiveness of future developments at Incarnate Word High School. For example, because we have been planning for 2030, our 150th year, (and even 2033, the year our current Shamrock kindergartners will graduate), we are using forecasting and predictions based on research.  
You’ve heard me say it time and time again. We are preparing students for jobs which do not exist, using technology which has not yet been invented to solve problems that are not known. I am thankful for the community’s willingness to adapt this mindset and approach. It is already proven useful, manageable and actually necessary. For example, this mindset allowed IWHS to purchase interactive display boards and a new learning management system in February of 2020, before the pandemic. This allowed us to not only survive but thrive in the remote learning classroom given the uncertainty of the moment. It is this kind of boldness that will set us apart and propel us forward into the future as the premier all-girls Catholic school not just in San Antonio, but across the country. Yes, one day, we WILL be a model that others from all over the country will look to when it comes to innovation, social justice, rigorous academics and a forward-thinking, faith-based education 
We have to practice the 21st century skills needed to not just survive in the world but thrive. Change is considered by many as the new norm. Flexibility and adaptability will be the new currency in the world after COVID-19.  IWHS is creating programs and revising our curriculum to prepare students for this. I am thankful for the collaboration that allows us to have a clear enough picture of the future to solidly prepare out students in faith, academics, leadership, service and social justice. These values will forever be applicable to post-secondary success – in both career and life.  
On this Thanksgiving holiday, let us always and forever be thankful for God, for all that we have or do not have in life. It takes very little effort to show brothers and sisters in Christ the love we have for them and the common bond we share as humanity. I challenge you (I am constantly challenging myself) to not only thank God but to also live our calling as Christ’s children by sharing a smile with a stranger, writing a card to a lonely neighbor or simply being present and grateful for those you are around this month of November and the Advent season. After all, time is not promised. We only have today. So how are we showing Christ’s love for others today, the only day we know we have for sure?  
Lastly, it’s about time we change our mindset, even during these extremely difficult times. Always remember that “normal” is consistently what is the status quo and being “different” is a very good thing; it’s so much healthier in body, mind and spirit. Celebrate this. Embrace it. Trust the process. Honor the past. Look towards the future. This is our mantra; this is our driving force.  
We must stay the course – not just with COVID, but beyond. We must build the world we see even when others can’t see it. As women, we have a long way to go to better represent the many industries and service and athletics and careers. Keep dreaming, for these dreams will become reality with sheer grit and determination. Celebrate your dreams and the women who have worked so hard to make it possible to do what you want to do. Act BIG and dream BIG. Be KIND. And be forever GRATEFUL! This is what makes you a Shamrock – staying consistent and open to living your life of faith by being leaders in and out of the classroom.  
Thankful for today, thriving for tomorrow.  
Praised Be the Incarnate Word! 
Dr. Anna Downey