Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Little Saint that I Know

Fritz's brother, Philippe

It was the start of a new school year at Little Flower, my second year teaching second grade.  The year was 1986, and I had the second grade once again.  Philippe Francois was in my class; last year I had his younger brother, Fritz.  Early in September the previous year, little Fritz had collapsed during a fire drill and tragically passed away. 

Philippe reminded me of Fritz, and I couldn't imagine how  it must have been for Philippe to have lost his little brother.  I remember one day putting on the blackboard the five new spelling and vocabulary words from the day's story in our readers.  One of the words was "alive", and I asked if anyone could use the word in a sentence.  Philippe raised his hand and said, "My brother is alive."  My heart went out to him, and  I said something like, "Yes, your brother is alive in heaven." 

When Fritz was in my class, he handed me a sheet of loose leaf paper.  He had written,  "I love God.  Why?  Because He loves me."  I remember showing his paper to other teachers, boasting of the little theologian I had in my class.

The morning of the school-wide Mass at the beginning of the school year, as I was leading the children into the pews, Fritz asked if he could sit next to me.  Fritz  was an adorable child, about seven years old, and of Haitian heritage.  He had a smile that could light up the room and chubby cherub-like cheeks.  It was hard for me to say "no" to his request and to tell him to take his place on line.  So I said, "OK, Fritz" and let him sit next to me.  I believe it was immediately following the Liturgy that the priest led the congregation in praying the Hail Mary. I had to chuckle when rather than saying, "The Lord is with Thee,"  Fritz said enthusiastically, and with emphasis, "The Lord is with ME!"  

Philippe was right, his brother Fritz is alive and very much with the Lord as he said that day long ago in his own version of the Hail Mary.  

I am sure that all teachers hope to make a difference in the life of a child and, they may sometimes wonder if any of their former students remember them.  In the case of Fritz,  he may have made more of a difference in my life than I in his. I won't forget him, and I am sure he remembers me.

Joan Virzera

I would call this a continuing coincidence:  When I wrote this account, I didn't think I would ever have contact again with Philippe Francois, but coincidentally, I did.  There are literally hundreds  by the name of Philippe Francois on Facebook, so I lost hope of finding him by searching his name.  I happened to see "Philippe Francois"  on a friend list of a former student I had taught in a different school. I didn't have much hope that this was the Philippe that I knew, but  I sent him a message anyway, and he was the one!  Philippe gave me permission to post his baby picture (which he has as his profile photo).  Anyone reading this, please say a prayer for Philippe. He has been through terrible trials.  I'm sure he would appreciate it.


  1. philippe francoisMarch 29, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    this made me cry........ I want to thank you cause my life recently been real hard for me I the last few years. I lost my dad and had to have surgery on my heart cause I suffer from the same condition my brother died from and with all this. I lost my love for God and myself. It vanish and in its place has been pain and wondering "WHY" My brother in my eyes was the greatest and my dad was the strongest and now they both gone....But with my faith in my lord I know now he wouldn't put me though anything I cant handle cause my brother was also smart knowing God is in him cause I know God is in me and so is my father and brother..........{Sorry for the grammar I know as a teacher its hard to read with out correcting everything lol}....PHILIPPE FRANCOIS

  2. Dear Philippe,

    I just sent you a private message through Facebook. I spelled your name wrong, so I need to be corrected, too! ;)

    Miss Virzera
    2A teacher
    Little Flower School