By Mary Catherine Machalec
Special to The Texas Catholic
It is something special when a Catholic school has an alum return to teach in the same halls they were educated in. It is even more unique when there are two alumni on staff. However, it is something rare and astounding when there are not one, not two, but seven alumni who have found their way back to the school they attended. That is exactly what is happening at St. Mark Catholic School in Plano— the school boasts seven alumni who have returned to teach, coach, or work.
Abbie Vela, who serves as the business manager for the school, is one of these alumni who calls St. Mark not just a place of employment, but a second home.
“It’s a rare and pretty special thing, the community we have here,” said Vela, who attended St. Mark from preschool to eighth grade. “It’s a place where everyone is proud of what they do and enjoys where they work.”
Vela credits the strong community and positive atmosphere for why so many alumni have returned. She says the community and Catholic identity is a major factor of what drew her back to take a full-time role at the school.
“Our faith builds up the community. This is a place where everyone feels like they can be friends, people are comfortable and excited,” recounted Vela. “It’s more than just math and science, we bring faith into the classroom and it truly unites everyone.”
The Catholic aspect of St. Mark is not just a nice sentiment, it is tangibly lived in action through service and community. In the classroom, students participate in a service project each month that ranges from making blankets for the needy to writing cards to those who are lonely. The community is one where staff, students and families of the school can reach out for prayer and support, and know they will receive spiritual support and encouragement.
Another fascinating aspect of St. Mark is the presence of several family members who work together. Two pairs of siblings and two mother and daughter pairs call St. Mark home, including Abbie Vela’s mother, Annette Vela.
“When my husband and I first visited the school 24 years ago, it was clear St Mark was a very special place,” says Vela, who has also worked in the business office for the last 15 years. “We came to realize it’s because of the people. Everyone you meet on campus is welcoming, the teachers go out of their way to help your child be successful, and we’ve made lifelong friendships with other school families.”
St. Mark is an excellent example of the beauty and rich tradition of Catholic schools. It is a place where the bonds of community are created and where the ties of loyalty, service, family and faith are strengthened for a lifetime.