As you walk into the office of Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser, it is hard not to notice the quote tacked to the wall, typed out in bright “Titan red” on a plain white sheet of paper – The future starts today, not tomorrow –
a quote by Blessed John Paul II. It’s not written in decorative font or professionally matted in a beautiful frame, but the simplicity of the quote resembles the simplicity of a man who guides a school in the midst of a tragedy – a tragedy that has left an indelible mark on the entire community.
The tragedy is not the whole story though, nor is the tragedy the mark that has been left behind. The whole story is in what has come out of the tragedy.
“The tragedy of this fire has really presented the Dickinson Catholic Schools with an opportunity to get better and become stronger and more unified,” said Glasser. He is quick to point out that the first part of March was surreal in many ways for him—and he is not alone.
The school system’s Director of Advancement John Odermann, echoed the same sentiments.
“Right after we knew there had been a fire—and without knowing the full magnitude of what the fire all entailed—we went from wondering, ‘When are we going to resume classes today?’ to ‘When can we get into the building?’”
The initial senses of loss and hopelessness quickly turned when, in just a few hours after realizing the fire was nothing small, the Dickinson Public Schools, upon consultation with Glasser, had a preliminary plan in place for getting the students of Trinity High School back into the classroom.
“The support from the entire community of Dickinson–the public school system, the university, businesses, people–has been beyond what words can even express. The support has been nothing short of miraculous,” said Glasser.
Trinity High School was established in 1961 – a vision of the Catholic faithful of the city of Dickinson. Now a unified system, the Dickinson Catholic Schools have, under their umbrella, two grade schools (one adjacent to the Church of St. Patrick and one adjacent to the Church of St. Wenceslaus) and the junior high and high school located on the Trinity campus.
“Trinity isn’t just a school to me,” said Odermann, a second-generation graduate of Trinity High. Fr. Kregg Hochhalter, also a second-generation graduate of Trinity, chaplain and newly named dean of students at the school, offered a similar connection.
“The school formed me closely. In those days following the fire, the passion that moved our students to cry at the tragedy is the same passion that moved me to cry at the tragedy. I felt it from the soul of a teacher, a chaplain, and an alumnus.”
Gregg Grinsteinner, also a Triniy alumnus, a parent of children who have gone through the system and a man who has been teaching in the school for 27 years said, “I don’t know how one without faith would make it through something like this. I know–and I tell my own children and my students often–God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.”
How is the Trinity community handling the situation? Through the lens of faith.
“I’ve seen the hand of God in the generosity of our community,” said Trinity junior Katie Dockter. Senior Rachel Jahner spoke of the “sea of red” at the girls’ regional basketball tournament that helped her realize the students of Trinity are not walking this road alone.
Katelyn Grinsteinner, also a senior offered, “Seeing the pictures of the image of Pope Francis and the crucifix that hangs in our main hallway clean and unharmed among the destruction of the fire…that was the hand of God.”
There have been great challenges for everyone; students, parents, faculty, staff and administration. The new locations of classes have perhaps posed one of the greatest challenges for the students. Colton Steiner and Willy Jahner, both sophomores said, “Not seeing our friends in the other grades has been hard. We are all so used to being together. The public schools we are in now, though, have done so much to welcome us.”
In the weeks following the fire, Trinity teachers have moved to new surroundings, adapted to new schedules and assumed new duties—all this with a smile on their face, a positive attitude and resolve in their heart. It’s about the students, about being a Titan and a follower of Christ, even amidst the trials of life.
“Catholic education is about going farther and that is really what we’ve had to do in these last weeks,” said Gregg Grinsteinner.
What is keeping this “Big Red Train” moving forward, one might ask? It is, without a doubt, God’s grace. It is God’s grace that puts the Titan spirit into the hearts of the students; it is God’s grace that has propelled the teachers and administration to work into the night hours ensuring that the students keep learning and maintaining a positive attitude; it is God’s grace that inspires an entire community and other communities to support Trinity High School in whatever way they can; it is God’s grace that gives strength to the parents, the priests, the school board, and the friends. It can only be God’s grace!
“We can’t take a time out. The show must go on and we have work to do. God has expectations of us; people have expectations of us. We will fulfill those expectations,” said Glasser.
It is certain, in the days, weeks, and months to come, this “Titan Strong” community surely will live by that quote by Blessed John Paul II: The future starts today, not tomorrow.
>> Click here for photos of the Trinity Fire
>> See the April 2014 Dakota Catholic Action
for more Trinity news