Crossing a threshold…

Graduation(135)-X3

The graduation ceremonies this year were very special. Our Senior Class and their parents filled the front courtyard of the Rosary campus with a special feeling of love and solemnity that only matched the beauty of the evening. As the sun slowly set, the commencement exercises began: a magical, heart-felt spirit-filled evening for all. I will not forget it…

Welcome to the Board of Trustees, parents, friends and family and, especially to the Senior class of 2017.

This afternoon, you walked through the arched gates of the Sacre Coeur as a member of the Class of 2017, and as a senior member of the student body at the Rosary. Later this evening, after a very traditional and formal ceremony, you will leave through these same gates as a graduate of the Rosary.Graduation(127)-X2

These gates are a powerful metaphor, and as you walk through them, you cross over a threshold—the one that lies between the entrance to this school and your exit from it this evening. “Crossing a threshold” is a sacred and a powerful moment in the journey of life, and each of you are crossing an important one this evening.

When you entered these gates as a student, you crossed a threshold, and within these gates, your journey has been carefully accompanied by your parents, teachers, and friends. Like the black iron fence these people have formed a circle around you as you have learned and grown to become the women you are today. Your parents have given you the gift of a Sacred Heart education, and they, with all of us here, have supported you in your pursuits of arts, academics and athletics.

But, later tonight, as you leave through the gates with your back to the school, you are at a point of departure, and you cross a boundary. You are on the verge of something new and your step is the first one of a new beginning. I hope that you make this step mindfully—and make it, as St. Madeleine Sophie said with “courage and confidence” for what lies ahead.Graduation(213)-X3

As I prepared for these commencement exercises, I thought about the themes that so many celebrities talk about at graduation ceremonies. These people tend to about the value of striving towards goals, TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS, USING MISTAKES TO BUILD A BRIGHT FUTURE, NEVER GIVING UP ON A DREAM, AND SETTING HIGH EXPECTATIONS.

Themes like these are all good thoughts which no doubt help to inspire new beginnings. But, as a Religious of the Sacred Heart, I believe that I would be remiss if I did not remind you to look upward—to literally look upward this evening to the statue of Jesus which stands as a reminder of your true destiny.

Keeping Jesus as the center of your life is your choice now and it will be entirely your initiative. Keeping Jesus at the center of your life will protect you, will give your strength when times get rough, and knowing of the love of His open heart will nourish you at times when you really need it.
As St. Paul said, “….let nothing separate you from the love of God through Jesus Christ.” (Romans 8: 38)Graduation(270)-X3

As I look at you this evening, I see a senior class of young women who are kind, smart, generous, service oriented and true leaders. You are confident women and strong women who have made all of us so proud. Looking at you this evening, I believe that you are specially prepared for lives of courage and for lives of leadership.

Thank you, seniors, for being such a wonderful group of human beings!
I hope that you leave Sacred Heart filled with a sense of grace for all that has been given, grace for having received it, grace for sharing it with others, and grace to make a beautiful difference in the world. May God bless you on this next stage of your journey in life.Graduation(16)-X3

“Honor and Glory to God Alone”

Last week, our school community gathered for a final day of ceremony called “Prize Day.” This is a special day on the last day of school to formally close the school year. At the end of the ceremonials, I share a few comments. Several people asked that I share my comments…

Thank you to members of our Board of Trustees, our parents and family members in attendance, to our Seniors, and to all of you, for a beautiful Prize Day!

I’ve bPrizeDay(124)-X3een thinking about Prize Day for a few weeks in anticipation of this day, so I decided to conduct my own little qualitative research study to gather some information about the subject of prizes. I asked a small sample of people the following question, “What does a prize mean to you?”

Well, the answers to that questions were both interesting and revealing. Most of the people I surveyed said that, “Well, a prize is something that is unexpected. It was an honor for a job well done, and a recognition of one’s efforts.” Most of the people said that receiving a prize really meant a lot to them, and that they felt proud, as though they had accomplished something very challenging, and succeeded.

These responses didn’t surprise me, as I am sure they do not surprise any of us. After all, the outstanding achievements of the girls we recognized today must impart to them a wonderful feeling.

To all of you that received an award today, all of us here say to you, “We are so proud of you for what you have accomplished, and for all of the hard work that you must have put into achieving this recognition today! You truly inspire us, and encourage us to reach for our goals!PrizeDay(140)-X3

But, let me return to the more surprising results of my survey. Several people surveyed in my study answered my question about prizes by saying that were not sure about what a prize meant to them because, they admitted, they had never received one!

One person said that she feels “getting a prize is, even, a bit, overrated, because it is not what others think about you, but, for her, it is about how you evaluate your own self that really matters, not how others evaluate you.”

Another person said she didn’t like getting awards because, to her, it seems that the prize comes from inside, not outside. And, another person said, how, for them, the real prize—the real reward was in the striving to get one.PrizeDay(189)-X3

I suspect that a lot of us will get prizes in our lives, and many of us will not receive any prizes—just like the people in this small study.

For myself, I see prizes as St. Paul does when he says, “…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (Philippians 3:14). In other words, I feel that God is calling me to His honor and his glory, closer to Him each day, and to a life aligned with the thing He has called me to do.

This is why we say “Honor and Glory to God Alone” at the beginning of this award ceremony. Our success gives glory to God—it honors His purpose. It is not for our own.

Our race towards the goal never ends in life, so we press on to what God is calling us towards. That’s what life is all about—running towards what God is calling you to be.

So, students of the Sacred Heart, continue to press on toward your goals and celebrate the gifts God has given each of you! Whether you won a prize today or not, be happy, be proud in what you have done this year.

Have a wonderful, fun, and restful summer!

With these rings….

Last week, members of the Junior Class at Sacred Heart received their ASH school ring from members of the Senior class. This special ceremony takes place in the context of a Eucharistic celebration, followed by a traditional ritual that includes hugs, flowers, and lots of smiling friends and families. Did I mention refreshments?

What follows in this post are my comments following this endearing ceremony:

Some people might wonder why we have a Sacred Heart ring, or why is it so important to have a “ring ceremony” like this one. They might think “…after all, it is just a ring!” Or, “Oh, it’s not a big deal, it’s just another piece of jewelry” or “Oh, (smiling) this is just another tradition at my school.”

But, that view is probably not shared by most of us who will wear rings throughout our lives for many reasons. But, why do we do that?

I know that many people from J.R. Tolkien to the writers of the Bible have reflected on the meaning of rings, but, for me, rings are reminders—reminders to what I commit in my life and of what really matters.

Looking at my vow ring on my left-hand finger this evening, I am reminded of who I am as a Sacred Heart Sister, an RSCJ. Not only a reminder to me, my ring speaks–without words–to others of my state in life, even to strangers who notice it.

For you, Seniors, your Sacred Heart rings will do that for you as you leave your school in a couple of months. Others will notice your ring and, perhaps even recognize you as a Sacred Heart graduate because our rings across the Network of Sacred Heart Schools are similar. I hope that your ring will remind you about the things that have been important during your years at this school.

When I wear my Sacred Heart ring, I am reminded of my parents who sacrificed to send me and my sisters to this school—sacrificed by getting up each morning and bringing 6 girls here for 14 years each—a total of 84 years at this school. I reminded of my Mother who would stop by this very chapel on so many of those mornings to kneel and pray in front of this statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  I am reminded of my best friend who now has cancer, and of how we have journeyed through so many things together all these years. I am reminded of my teachers, and of the religious sisters who planted a seed in my heart which became later a call to religious life.

Family. Friends. Sisters. The Community of the Sacred Heart: My ring is, yes, for me, far more than jewelry!

To the class of 2016-2017, I hope that these Sacred Heart rings come to mean these things for you, too! Wear your rings with joy, with pride, with memories, and as reminders of who you are as a “child of the Sacred Heart.” May God bless you on your journey!

Lent and the Blooming Azaleas

The courts of Rex and Comus have met. The Fathers’ Club has sold its last hot dog from the ASH trailer. The flags of royalty have been lowered. Yes, the cacophony of marching, music, and Mardi Gras mayhem has ended for another year. With its ending, many of us have segued into the season of Lent signed with ashes across our foreheads.

Beginning late this year, this solemn season coincided with the blossoming of beautiful pink azaleas stretching across the front of the Rosary Campus, a full block along St. Charles Avenue. The appearance of iconic azaleas for New Orleaneans signals the end of winters-that-never-were and the beginning of spring, a time for Easter beach breaks, but usually not Lent.

Not long ago, I discovered that these beautiful azalea plants were a gift to the Sacred Heart community from a Sacred Heart family, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Boh. Still blooming after over 50 years, these amazing durable azalea plants remind me of the constant fidelity of God and of the true gift that each person is to our school community. Could they have possibly imagined that their gift would be so lasting? So productive? So bountiful?

In a letter this Lent, Pope Francis encourages us to regard each person as a precious gift from God and through this practice, to renew our encounter with Him. Reflecting on this teaching, I realize how many portals there are each day for drawing closer to the mystery of God’s immanent presence: the portal of “beauty and blossoms,” the portal of “silence and sitting,” the portal of emptying out “cups and closets,” the portal of “giving oneself in service,” and the portal of “listening and learning.” These are some of my portals for Lent – pathways into Jesus’ heart for conversion. How would you name your portals for encountering the Lord this Lent?

On Saturday, April 15th, the season of Lent will end. In our school community, we will welcome another break for Easter. Bracketed by a period of only six weeks, it is most important to welcome into our hearts the opportunity presented by this short time – regardless of our position and role in the school – for the deepening of our “…faith in God” (Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Education, Goal 1) and for “the building of community as a Christian value.” (Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Education, Goal 4). I hope that you can visit our ASH website for some resources on your Lenten journey.http://www.ashrosary.org/

On so many mornings while walking through the front gates of our school, I find a prayer of thanksgiving emerging within me – one that gives a silent “shout out” to God for this mission of education, for the students at Sacred Heart and their families, for the faculty and staff, and for the gift of being called to its continuation. Thinking of all of  our Sacred Heart community, I easily stride forward in faith, grateful to each one for being part of this phenomenal mystery and for your personal gift to this community of the Sacred Heart.

With prayer, I hope that your Lent be truly blessed with gift and grace.

Note to the reader of this blog:  This is a slightly edited version of a letter written to the ASH community at the beginning of Lent. Thank you for all of your kind words of support, readers!