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Their Lucky Day

It was a miracle day at the races for St. Michael's Elementary School.

Desperate to raise money for their school, nuns at the 245-student campus in the south-central section of Los Angeles recently decided to try their luck at the nearby Santa Anita track.

They collected $25 each from 100 supporters of the Roman Catholic school, then bet the money March 23 on a game called Pick Six, with long-shot odds. To cash in, they had to choose the winners of six straight races.

All their horses won.

Sister Mary Catherine Antczak, the school's principal, isn't allowed to discuss the gambling venture anymore.

It seems that officials with her religious order, the Dominican Sisters, were none too pleased with coverage in the Los Angeles Times and a mention in USA Today, showing how the nuns had turned to games of chance for fund-raising purposes.

Sister Antczak's secretary confirmed that the school had won about $200,000.

After paying its taxes and splitting part of the proceeds with donors, St. Michael's will reap about $80,000—enough to buy every student a new desk and repair wiring and water damage in a classroom.

"It will all go to the children," secretary Theresa Bayonne said.

The school, which serves a primarily Latino student population, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

The winning sum gives St. Michael's a shot in the arm financially. Normally, the school relies on Friday neighborhood fish fries to bolster its budget.

So was it just luck? The nuns reportedly prayed in their convent chapel on the Sunday morning before the races.

"Some would call it luck," Sister Antczak told the Los Angeles Times. "But I call it a blessing."

She added: "I thought we might win a little something. ... But this was just extraordinary. Everybody pulled out their calculators and just started adding it up."

St. Michael the Archangel himself might even have been hard at work to help the sisters beat the odds.

As Pope St. Gregory the Great was quoted as saying of the saint for whom the winning school was named: "Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power."

—Alan Richard

Vol. 22, Issue 30, Page 3

Published in Print: April 9, 2003, as Take Note

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