Together 3.3.23

March 3, 2023 | Nancy Van Epps

by Head of School, Abby Hall Choi

For his homily exhibition, eighth grade student, Ronan, told a story about a family day at the lake to illustrate a lesson from Daniel and the Lions: No matter how dark things look, the storm is passing. The sun will eventually emerge from the clouds.

After heaping praise, in a side note, on the water skiing abilities of a girl cousin who was accompanying them on the boat, Ronan proceeded to relate the main adventure of that day. When their boat was positioned as far as it could possibly be from their cabin, they ran out of gas. Their father had forgotten to replace the gas cap when filling the tank that morning, and to make matters worse, the weather was threatening. Although some of his family could theoretically swim back to the cabin across the lake in time to beat the impending storm, the boat would be marooned.

“In this instance, my Mom was the sun. She paddled out to us on a kayak with gas for the boat. She saved the day!”

Anyone who has witnessed Ronan in action on the basketball court or in collaboration on a science project would not be surprised by his generous (and unnecessary to the story) praise of his cousin in his homily. He shifts seamlessly from leader to team player—an exceptionally valued quality in the 21st century workplace.

Ronan’s skills and abilities highlight the contributions of one of the major assets of our Mustard Seed community: Our Volunteers. The REBELS are having quite the year this year! (At the time of this writing we are still awaiting news about our participation in the finals!)  


Part role models and instructors, and part regulation experts, MSS parents Cara and Tim Hilton have volunteered their time as Mustard Seed basketball coaches for many years. They tirelessly navigate the ever-shifting Hoboken landscape working with the local recreation department regarding scheduling, team management, and coordinating gym space. Their efforts allow MSS parents to merely complete forms and pay the fee for their child to participate in the League.


For the players, the Hiltons coach technical drills and game strategy as well as soft skills like interpersonal communication, problem solving, and leadership. They intentionally put forth a strong focus on community-building.

“We have coached some of the students on our present Middle School team since they were in third grade,” says Cara. “Those relationships have grown over the years. Their excitement and hard work show up because they want to be there. My own boys have built confidence as they developed as athletes. Most importantly, this outlet gives players the opportunity to serve as positive role models in our school community.”


The Hiltons have also offered successful mentorship opportunities. One of their assistant coaches, Jett Franqui, graduated from Mustard Seed in 2019. He approached the Hiltons about working with the team to fulfill community service requirements at St. Peter’s Prep, and enjoyed it so much he stayed even after those requirements were met! He also helps coach the Hilton’s fifth grade basketball team which combines players from MSS, Hoboken Catholic, and St. Francis.

“Two skills that I gained at Mustard Seed were my presentation skills and essay writing,” says Jett. “When you stand up and speak on one topic in front of your family and peers for 15 minutes, like I did at exhibitions in seventh and eighth grade at MSS, giving a speech in class or to the basketball team as a coach feels very comfortable. I am really excited about how far this year’s team can go! We did not make it to the championship in my two years on the REBELS, so I would love for this year’s team to have that experience!”

“I feel a call to service,” says Cara. “With a game and a minimum of two practices a week along with all of the paperwork, it’s true—it is a big time commitment. But it doesn’t feel like work. I enjoy bringing people together and basketball is a platform for my husband and me to create community. I love sports and building the program for the school is so rewarding.”

Nancy Van Epps

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