A Day in the Life Series: The happiest Chappy, Anne Heemskerk
Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District School Board is excited to announce the newest instalment of our A Day in the Life feature. This feature shares a window into the lives of our employees, by offering a behind-the-scenes look at various staff roles throughout the school year.
Meet Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Chaplain Anne Heemskerk
Anne Heemskerk, better known as “Chappy” by the Holy Cross community, arrives at school around 8 a.m. and greets anyone she sees with a cheery catch up chat. Arriving to her little office in the school chapel, Chappy checks in with the local church to coordinate one of many community efforts students get involved with.
At 8:30 a.m., she heads down the the main office to assist with morning prayers and announcements, facilitated by student council members. This day’s chosen prayer was titled “Student Appreciation”.
In addition to her chaplaincy duties, Anne coordinates the school’s breakfast club, a program that provides food for students who may not have the chance to eat the most important meal of the day.
After checking in on the food stock, she heads back up to her office to check in on emails and prepare for the day’s activities. On this day, Anne had a visit from students who completed the chapel cross, as well as a trip to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food bank to drop off donations from the Holy Cross food drive.
Being a central link to the community is an important aspect of chaplaincy for Anne. The role of being a chaplain involves building relationships with those who want or are in need and connecting the community with social justice activities and initiatives, she said.
“One of the things that’s a gift to this role, is you get to do things outside the box. Take a look at the need and always ask if you can be a help, and then act on it. Making meals for families in need, speaking with parents of struggling students, you can reflect your own empathy and want to help in decisions you make to assist the school community. It’s a ministry of presence, meeting each person where they are on their journey.”
Board Chaplain Fr. Paul Massel said that Anne embodies the spirit of the chaplain role, with her positivity and her penchant for spreading joy through baked goods.
“There isn’t an activity in the cathedral where Anne hasn’t baked something for whatever program is taking place that day,” Massel said.
“She expresses so much compassion and caring and love through those gestures.”
During lunch, Anne joins the bi-weekly International Club’s meeting, in collaboration with the New Canadians Centre, which welcomed two new students to the school community.
Between meeting with students in need and her own mealtime, Anne finishes coordinating the card delivery for the “Hearts and Flowers” committee, a volunteer group that supports staff during bereavement, birth, illness, retirement, and weddings.
After a quick bite to eat, she jumps right back into spiritual leadership and leads a Grade 10 religion class in a weekly meditation.
Focusing on personal mantras, Anne encourages students to recognize where they can improve in their own lives, as well as offered insight to scriptures that relate to common struggles they face.
To end the day, the technological design teacher dropped off student-made ankhs to hand out to principals and managers for their leadership retreat the following day.
A remarkable example of excellence in Catholic leadership, Anne is planning to retire at the end of this month to embark on a journey that brings her peace with her husband. She plans on starting a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, volunteering more within the Peterborough community, and spending important time with grandchildren.