Where did you grow up? How did you come to the Northwest?
I was born in Alameda, California. I’m the son of a career Navy Dad so we moved around quite a bit. I was born at the end of Dad’s career, so I’ve lived in three places: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Guam (where my family is from), and California. After my dad retired, we settled in Bremerton.
I have two older siblings who live here in the area and my parents as well. We have a very large extended family here and back home on Guam. My Chamorro (this is the name of someone who is a native of Guam) is very important to me. There is quite a large population of Chamorros on the peninsula and in the Tacoma area. We gather together to celebrate many of the same traditions that we do back home, most especially our fiestas in honor of our village patron saints. Our Catholic faith is intertwined so intimately with our Chamorro culture.
I’ve been an educator for 18 years, 17 years as a classroom teacher before becoming Principal of St. Nicholas in 2018. All of my years in education have been in the Catholic schools, primarily in secondary education. First, I taught at Notre Dame High School on Guam, a co-educational high school owned and operated by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Interestingly, after returning to Washington from Guam, I taught Spanish here at St. Nicholas for one year! I transitioned to teaching Spanish and Religion at O’Dea High School, where I taught for another ten years.
What do you love about Catholic Education?
Catholic Education is so special to me in that it not only teaches academics, but it instills the Faith into those academic subjects. It helps us to see how God can be revealed through Math, Science, Art, Literature, and Music. He is the source and summit of all knowledge and wisdom.
Of course, catholic education is in no way a substitute for the invaluable teaching that a parent gives to their child. Parents are the first teachers of their children when it comes to the Faith. Catholic education only helps to reinforce the teaching that parents do at home. We become partners with parents in ensuring that the children that they have placed in our care are learning the fundamentals of the Faith, so as to strengthen their relationship with God and each other.
“We become partners with parents in ensuring that children are learning the fundamentals of the Faith.”
What do you love most about the School?
St. Nicholas is such a special place, and it holds a special place in my heart. It is hard to capture into words what I love so much about this school. First, I would have to speak about our Faculty and Staff. Each and every day they work tirelessly to ensure that our students are not only learning the skills that they need to grow academically, but also the they are laying the foundation that is needed for them to fall in love with learning and the Faith.
Secondly, I love working with the school parents. They have chosen to send their children to our school and their support of the school is evident! They believe in the mission of our school and offer their help in whatever ways we may need to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Finally, I am so thankful for the students. Each of our students brings such a light and joy to the campus that it is palpable. They are respectful, helpful, and work hard to reach the challenges that are placed before them every day.
What is your vision for the School?
As we look to the future of St. Nicholas, we must begin with an understanding that this is not my school nor Father’s school, but our parish school. Each one of us has an obligation as the Faithful of the Church to ensure that Catholic Education continues for many more years to come!
As for my vision, I see the great potential of St. Nicholas. Going forward, we will be looking at ways to let more people know about our wonderful community. What other schools may have in facilities, we have much more: a caring community, small class sizes, students who emulate the love of Christ each and every day, teachers who work tirelessly to ensure that the students in their care are learning and being challenged, and parents who value what a Catholic education can instill in their children.
How do you see the relationship between the parish and the school?
The relationship between the parish and the school continues to grow. We have begun to work more closely with each other these past few months, no longer seeing the church and school as two separate institutions, but rather as one faith-filled campus known as St. Nicholas. I have been meeting regularly with Fr. Mark and the parish staff to more closely bind the activities and mission of the church and school. My hope is that parishioners will get to know the good things that we are doing to raise the next generation of faithful Catholics.
During the St. Nicholas festival, we set up the booths on the school grounds. This led people to come up to the school, many for the first time! I would love to welcome more parish visitors and volunteers to campus. We are always grateful for extra help.
Recently, Mrs. Kilmer, our third grade teacher, reached out to Deacon Dale to come and speak about Adoration. In the church, Deacon explained what Adoration was and why it is important for us to spend time in Adoration. The following day, I was honored to lead our students in the Holy Rosary before Our Lord in Adoration. The parishioners that were there joined us and were thrilled to see the students praying together. I look forward to more parish-wide events like this, which will continue to strengthen the bond between parishioners and our school.
“Our teachers are laying the foundation needed for our students to fall in love with learning and the Faith.”
Do you have any favorite saints or devotions?
There are so many wonderful saints, it’s hard to choose! I love St. Dominic, because I love praying the Rosary. I love Padre Pio for his famous motto “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” I love and admire St. Dismas, The Good Thief. He literally stole Heaven in the last moments of his life – he was the good thief, after all! I can just picture that intimate moment in the cross, when Dismas said to our Lord, “Forgive me. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I can picture Jesus turning to him with an incredible tender look of mercy. It is such a beautiful moment of love and forgiveness, in the midst of all the agony and pain. That is how I know Jesus looks at each of us.
I am also a devoted son of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I love that it is truly the only image of Mary that God created for us. Also, the love and care she had for Juan Diego was like a mother to a son. We so often only think of her in all her glory as Queen of Heaven, but it is good for us to remember that she was also a mom.
And of course, I love Pope John Paul II, the saint for my generation! For most of my life, he was the only pope I knew, and he inspired me to live out my vocation. He called us to go out into the world and to not be afraid. This is what I try to teach our kids in the school. My favorite devotions are Adoration, The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows, The Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary, and various Novenas.
Do you have a favorite bible verse?
“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
How do you like to spend your time?
Most of my time is spent with my family and friends. I spend as much time as I can with my 41 Godchildren!
What would you like to share with our parish community?
The only request I have of everyone is to pray. Pray for our community at St. Nicholas. We are truly a hidden gem in Gig Harbor. I also humbly ask everyone to pray for me as well. The strength of your prayers will help to sustain me as we work together to build up our school and parish.