Cultivating thoughtful minds and faithful hearts at St. John the Apostle School

by Sandra Engelland

North Texas Catholic

January 24, 2020

 St. John the Apostle Catholic School Teacher Mary Moody and seventh-grader Joanna McLean pose in Mrs. Moody's classroom Jan. 21. (NTC/Rodger Mallison) St. John the Apostle Catholic School Teacher Mary Moody and seventh-grader Joanna McLean pose in Mrs. Moody's classroom Jan. 21. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)
St. John the Apostle Catholic School Teacher Mary Moody and seventh-grader Joanna McLean pose in Mrs. Moody's classroom Jan. 21. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)


NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Students and staff at St. John the Apostle Catholic School in North Richland Hills have a motto: Preparing minds for a lifetime and souls for eternal life.

Just a few days before the start of Catholic Schools Week, Principal Amy Felton said the school’s student of the year, seventh-grader Joanna McLean, and long-time teacher Mary Moody exemplify that campus vision.

Joanna is known for her strong faith, quiet leadership, and kindness.

“She brings respect to whatever she does, and all the kids follow that,” Felton said, “She doesn’t say much, but her personality brings out the best in everyone.”

Joanna, who has attended St. John since kindergarten, treasures the opportunities to grow in her faith.

“I really like that we can talk about God and keep Him in every subject,” Joanna said. “We get to pray and go to Mass, and the teachers talk about God all the time.”

The 12-year-old from Arlington’s favorite subjects are religion and math. She also enjoys playing sports (especially basketball) and the piano.

Joanna McLean (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Father Jack McKone of St. John the Apostle Parish called Joanna “one of our best altar servers” and said the seventh-grader serves at least once a week, often volunteering for funerals.

“I don’t worry about the altar servers when she is serving,” he said. “I know that she will take care of things.”

Joanna’s deep faith also stands out to her former teachers.

Anna Marie Rice, her fourth-grade teacher, said, “She continually looks for ways to grow closer to Christ.”

Rice also praised the student for her kindness, desire to learn, and quiet confidence that makes her a role model for others.

Moody said that while Joanna was in her fifth-grade class, the girl expressed a desire to become a saint and encouraged others to devote themselves to God.

“Joanna is just one of a kind. She shows people how we should live our lives,” Moody said.

Joanna said she’s been interested in learning about saints and miracles in her religion class. A few years ago, she dressed up as Mother Teresa for Halloween.

As she considers her future, she thinks she may want to become a teacher and possibly become a sister and teach because she likes working with kids.

Joanna and the educators at St. John point to her faithful Catholic family as big influences on her life.

Her older siblings, Carolyn, 17, and Mark, 20, also attended St. John School. Her parents Pat and Beth McLean are “really good about including faith in everyday life,” Joanna said.

They take her to Mass each week, and her mom prays with her every night and often says the Rosary with her on the way to school.

Felton said, “She’s got great support at home.”

Mary Moody (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Joanna said she also has learned a lot about faith from her teachers at St. John, and Moody was one of her favorites.

“She was really energetic and never boring,” she said. “She really got us super into learning and helped us catch up, if we needed it. She would always encourage us and was always happy.”

Known among faculty as the campus “Energizer bunny,” Moody plans to retire from full-time teaching at the end of this school year. After 29 years at St. John, she’s seeking more time to care for her 91-year-old mother, visit with her grandchildren, and travel with her husband, Greg.

But she said she couldn’t totally step away from education and plans to do some substitute teaching when her schedule allows.

A teacher at heart, Moody almost missed her calling. She wanted to become a flight attendant, but her dad insisted that she go to college. It was there that she linked her love of kids to working in education.

After attending Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, Moody never thought of teaching in any other environment.

“Just being able to share my faith is such a privilege,” Moody said. “I want kids to know that everything that happens in our lives is because God puts us in that exact place.”

She treasures celebrating Mass with her class each week, listening to children’s prayers, and praying with them in good times and bad.

Felton said that Moody is well respected by parents and peers and brings a valuable sense of history to the faculty that helps in decision making.

“She’s enthusiastic, loves the children, loves teaching, and has a big personality,” Felton said. “Mrs. Moody will be missed.

“She takes that ‘minds for a lifetime and souls for eternity’ personally.”

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Students and staff at St. John the Apostle Catholic School in North Richland Hills have a motto: Preparing minds for a lifetime and souls for eternal life.

Published (until 12/5/2041)
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