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Two Wings: President’s Posts

Two Wings No. 75

By December 8, 2023No Comments

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

–St. John Paul II Preface to Fides et Ratio


Fides et Ratio Reflections


On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we do well to recall St. John Paul II’s invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s prayers to conclude Fides et Ratio, his encyclical on the “Two Wings” of Faith and Reason:

“May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, be a sure haven for all who devote their lives to the search for wisdom. May their journey into wisdom, sure and final goal of all true knowing, be freed of every hindrance by the intercession of the one who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all the world” (No. 108).


It’s About Time


The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception with St. Joachim & St. Anne

Today in our schools, December 8, we are observing the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the settled Catholic teaching that Our Lady “was, from the first moment of her conception [by her parents, Sts. Anne and Joachim], by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Pope Pius IX, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 491).

Our board of directors determined several years ago to have school on Holy Days of Obligation, namely All Saints Day (November 1) and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8).

But the school day was to be strikingly different at all levels (elementary, middle school, and high school). Worship was to be at the heart of the day—Mass offered with dignity, reverence, and joy. Expanded prayer time. Lessons altered, incorporating aspects of the holy days, if possible. Homework eliminated or cut back. Service opportunities. Appropriate festive dress. Special treats or meals served, etc.

Today, for example, some of our schools asked students and staff members wear “Marian Blue” to honor Our Lady.

I’m delighted that our schools have taken the board’s challenge to heart and that there has been a decidedly festive spirit on these days in recent years. Thanks to all staff members for living the liturgical life of Grace in our schools.

Staff Listening Sessions

The momentum of our new strategic plan continues with year one implementation action steps for our goals and objectives.

Our second Academics and Technology strategic goal is that we “will attract, nurture, support, and retain highly skilled and mission-driven teachers and staff.”

Objective three of that goal is to “Develop a system-wide feedback structure for teachers and staff.”

To that end our action steps include “Staff Voice,” an on-line means for asking questions and making suggestions, a mid-year staff satisfaction survey, and “listening sessions” with the President and Vice President of JPII Catholic schools.

Vice President Traynor and I have held four listening sessions thus far—with school staff of Nativity, Sacred Heart, Trinity, and Holy Spirit. Shanley’s session will be held before Christmas break.

We have had a chance to listen to staff questions, concerns, and suggestions in a collaborative spirit of dialogue. We have enjoyed and appreciated these opportunities for conversation and clarity. And we also envision some changes for the good in light of some of the dialogue.

Thank you, staff members, for your dedication and commitment!

You can see our full strategic plan here: 255395_St John Paul_Section 1_PROOF (


Advent-Christmas Programs 2023

Nativity First Graders at Yesterday’s Advent Program

‘Tis the season for our perennially popular Advent-Christmas programs at a JPII Catholic School near you. With the message of joyful anticipation of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, each school has a program or concert.

Thanks to all music teachers and others who lead and assist with these events!


President’s Proverb


“I think a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time.”

–Charlie Munger (d. November 28, 2023)


Hagstrom’s Attempt At Humor (HAAH!)




Sunday Psalm Sampler


Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)


“Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

–Luke 24:44b

Lectionary Readings: Second Sunday of Advent | USCCB

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 85:9-14

Responsorial Refrain: “Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.”Ps 85:8

Chris Brunelle’s YouTube recording: R&A Psalm Second Sunday of Advent 2023, Psalm 85 – YouTube

Composed as a post-exile Psalm (after 538 BC) celebrating God’s kindness made visible in the return of the exiles and rebuilding of the Temple, Psalm 85’s prophetic voice also fits today’s lectionary readings well. For today we hear the prophetic “voice” crying “in the wilderness” to “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Verses 11-12 beautifully describes the union of heaven and earth in God’s merciful act of liberation and restoration: “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.”

This vision, of course, is fulfilled in the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus, true God and true Man. He liberates us from sin and death and then restores us to abundant life. It is His advent that we need and desire.

This week may we prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts as we sing, “Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.”



Mike Hagstrom

Mike Hagstrom was named President of St. John Paul II Catholic Schools and Director of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fargo on March 15, 2016 and assumed office on July 1, 2016. When he applied for the position, he wrote that his “approach would be that of stewardship of the great gift of Catholic Schools. With the help of God’s Grace and all our stakeholders we can be good stewards together, seeing that our schools not only merely survive, but also thrive. For they are designed for human flourishing, forming as we do the whole person, each and every student, made in God’s image and likeness, endowed with a transcendent dignity and destiny.” Prior to this role, he taught Religion and served in a number of other leadership capacities at Shanley High School for 31 years. There, he embraced St. Bede’s notion that “I have always found delight in learning, teaching, and writing.” Mike earned his B.A. in English and M.A. in Systematic Theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. He and his wife, Shawn, have two children (Therese ’08 and Joseph ’16) and two grandchildren (James and Oliver).