St. Matthew students say ‘I can’ in virtues program

By Beth Donze, Kids’ Clarion 

Based on the posters five St. Matthew the Apostle students were holding in the sanctuary of their church Sept. 21, you would have thought they had thrown in the towel.

Written on the posters were the words “Impossible.” “There’s Just No Way.” “I Can’t.” “I Surrender.” “I Give Up.”

But a quick flip of the posters reminded all gathered in church that hard work and positive thinking very quickly can turn a “can’t” into an accomplishment. The other side of the posters said, “Possible!” “Good Cheer!” “I Will!” “I Can!”

St. Matthew the Apostle students reversed their “I can’t” statements (above) by practicing the virtue of perseverance.

The River Ridge school was celebrating the culmination of students’ September-long examination of the virtue of “Perseverance” – the quality that allows one to keep trying to do something, even when it is difficult.

As school was dismissed, students second-lined out of church after “burying” their “I can’t” statements in a basket on the altar – their personal hopes or goals that they had abandoned in frustration.

Examples included: “I can’t do math.” “I can’t kick a ball very far.” “I can’t get anyone to play with me.” “I can’t speak in public.” “I can’t forgive my sister.”

As the students left church, they waved their more positive “I can” statements, written on napkins.

“Perseverance is like the gasoline in the tank of the engine of our soul,” Tony Bonura, St. Matthew’s principal, told his students. “‘Can’t’ is about the mind and the body. ‘Perseverance’ is about the soul,” he said. “Perseverance changes the world! Are you guys ready to change the world?”

St. Matthew the Apostle students wrote their “I can” statements on napkins used in their second-line out of church.

Bonura said Jesus showed perseverance in defying those who told him he “shouldn’t” speak to certain groups of people. Christ stayed strong even when his friends, including St. Peter, abandoned him.

“Jesus had so much perseverance, he even came back after he died,” Bonura said, reeling off the names of others who had persevered through hardships to make the world better:

• George Washington once said that “99 percent of all failures” had to do with people who had the habit of saying “I can’t.”

• Dr. Martin Luther King worked tirelessly for racial harmony and famously said, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep going until you get there.”

• Abraham Lincoln, who kept the country together after the Civil War, ran for office 11 times before he was elected president. His record: nine defeats and two wins.

• Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times at making a light bulb, yet remained undaunted. “I just found 1,000 different ways not to make a light bulb,” Edison quipped.

“Thank God he didn’t say ‘I can’t make a light bulb,’” Bonura said. “Now people are able to work at night and play at night.”

Father Sidney Speaks, St. Matthew’s parochial vicar (pictured above and at right), leads a second line celebrating the “burial” of students’ “I can’t” statements.

Students “caught” by their teachers practicing the monthly virtue get their name entered in prize drawings. A saint is also connected to each virtue. This school year’s highlighted virtues and their companion saints are:

Cooperation (Sts. Benedict and Scholastica); Perseverance (St. Bernadette); Empathy (St. John Vianney); Gratitude (St. Francis of Assisi); Charity/Generosity (St. Gertrude); Faith (St. Martha); Kindness (St. Martin de Porres); Responsibility (St. Peter); Honesty (Sts. Jacinta and Francesco Marto); and Self-Control (St. Monica).

Beth Donze can be reached at





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