Crossing a threshold…

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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

Our Circle of Donors

This evening, we gather together for a special Liturgy of Thanksgiving for our Circle of Donors to the 2016 Annual Giving Campaign.

At Sacred Heart, we traditionally begin this evening in this chapel with Mass because each of us here has been given a special gift by God—an impulse to generosity which has poured out from God to you as an expression of love for the students in this school.Choir

Jesus loved little children and He called them to himself. He said, “…let the little children come to me.” Each of you have received that instinct of Jesus’– to love, to care for and to call little children to know Him personally and deeply as a child of the Sacred Heart.

You are here this evening because of this special call. And, whether you realize it or not, you are
to impart to each one of them a sense of being enfolded in a family of faith that reaches to the farthest ends of the earth. These gifts of yours to these 736 children of our school are truly immeasurable, timeless and priceless.

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You may not know this, but St. Madeleine Sophie Barat considered generosity as an essential aspect of the Society of the Sacred Hearts’ charism in the Church. Madeleine Sophie constantly empathized generosity with her nuns as being essential to the character of the sisters and to their religious formation.

To her, generosity was an attribute of God’s heart and of God’s way of loving. She observed that generosity was inseparable from the other virtues of kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty and empathy. In other words, if one was generous one was likely to also be a person who puts the interest of others over self, gives of their time, resources, skills and knowledge, holds nothing back, and lives life with courage and confidence.

I look out into this chapel as we begin this liturgy: I see Evelyn and Vince Liberto, our Annual Giving Chairs, our Board leadership, and person after person in this chapel that are just as St. Madeleine Sophie described–people who are all part of this marvelous mission of Sacred Heart education in New Orleans. Among you, I see kind people, sensitive, compassionate, honest and passionate people—all possessing qualities of Jesus’ heart.

With all of you, it is a joy to be in mission here at Sacred Heart.

With the faculty, staff, students, and the Religious of the Sacred Heart, we pray in gratitude for you, our circle of donors, for your gifts to this school in so many ways—your gifts of time, resources, knowledge and assistance in so many ways. You are very special gifts of God and a very special help to me and this school.

Now, let us stand, greet our celebrant, Fr. Frank Reale, S.J. and join Mrs. Jodi McWilliams and our Primary School Choir as we sing together our opening song, “Gather Us In.”

Back to School: Welcome to our ASH Parents!

It is with a real sense of joy that I welcome you all back to school for the 2015-2016 school year! I hope that you have all found some time in the months of summer to enjoy some special time together with your daughters and to nurture your spirit through leisure and relaxation.

While we have only been back for a total of 6 days, it seems to me that the girls have returned with a little extra kick in their step, glad to be back, and looking forward to a great new year at Sacred Heart. After several days of in service for our faculty, I think the same can be said for all of the educators here this evening: we are beginning the year prepared, ready and enthusiastic about our new start.

Each morning when I walk through the front gates of the school, I look up at the statue of the Sacred Heart and I quietly receive again the call to service here at this school. With quite a bit of humility, I realize what a sacred trust we share with all of you as parents for the education of your girls. I thank God for the trust given to us, for you as parents and for your daughters who are on their journey life and growth.

St. Madeline Sophie Barat, our Foundress, said that for the sake of ONE child she would have founded the Society. ONE CHILD—That conviction and that intention shapes everything we do here at Sacred Heart and it shapes our aspirations for how we do it
For all of our faculty and staff here, I want to assure you that that one child is your daughter at this school.

This past summer at Sacred Heart has been a whirlwind of construction. Just as the environment of St. Charles and Napoleon Ave that surround us, there have been trucks and hard hats everywhere this past summer. On the first day of school, we opened our gates and doors to our girls with some new improvements on the Rosary campus—a thoroughly renovated dining hall to enhance our students dining experience while at school, a brighter and more welcoming gathering space in the parlor and a new Cornerstore where the popup PJ’s is back and where there is a new space for meetings, studying and relaxing for our girls and you, our parents, and our alums. Please stop by these spaces while you are here this evening!

Hopefully, many of you have already visited our new virtual space—our website! It is online now and it is going to be a great way to keep you informed and all of us connected in our Sacred Heart community.

Besides bricks and mortar changes, we also hired a new Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Veblena Finkenberg. Veblena hit the ground running and she is working with all of our teachers to strengthen and align our curriculum and instruction across divisions, align our curriculum maps and support professional development. We are on a very good path this year in this regard, and, later on the agenda, Ms. Finkenberg will share say a few words to you about her hopes for the coming year.

This year, we have also added to our program an ACT/SAT testing specialist who will assist the students in mastering testing skills. We have many plans in place for the coming year to support academic excellence, as well as the social, emotional and the spiritual growth of your daughter.

All of this activity represents our desire and commitment to you and your daughters to provide them with an experience of God’s abundant and loving heart as shown through the care and presence of others here at Sacred Heart. At Sacred Heart, You can be sure that your daughter is learning to love God, experiencing the sensitive care of her teachers, and that we are laying down a strong foundation for her educational future in wonderful, challenging, and appropriate ways.

So, together, we begin a new adventure on the path of the 2015-2016 school year. To celebrate this journey, I chose a quote from one of our former Superior Generals, Sr. Janet Erskine Stuart as the theme of the year. In closing, I will share it with you.

Life faces you with courageous challenges at every step of the way. You are on the path, exactly where you are meant to be right now—and from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, of love.”

May your life story be richly blessed in the coming year! Please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you or your family. You are certainly in my prayer and the prayer of the Religious of the Sacred Heart.

True Brilliance

…..This morning, while watching the students arrive at school, I remembered the days that my own Dad dropped me and my 5 other sisters off for school in the morning on his way downtown for work. Each morning, Dad would kiss each one of us goodbye and give each one of us a little message. I am not sure what he whispered to my other sisters, but what he said to me every day was “Melanie, have fun in school.” Can you imagine sending your child off to school every day with the exhortation to have fun? Of course, as a result, I took him quite seriously and had the time of my life at the Rosary—let’s just say, probably way too much fun!  That said, I have been blessed with lifelong friends and a love for learning that has led to a lifetime of advanced academic study.

When I reflect on that memory, I realize that my Dad was giving me a real treasure. He was gifting me with not only the assurance of his love, but also with the encouragement and permission as a young person to ENJOY everything that I do–to love it and to have a wonderful time doing it.

As an educator, I reflect that he did not tell me to “get good grades” or to win the next competition” but he told me to LOVE what I was doing and he believed that I would do my very best. I think that the insight of this memory goes directly to the spirituality of our Sacred Heart tradition and, that is, that one’s true brilliance in life emanates from your joy.

This idea that the pursuit of education be a joy-filled one was central to St. Madeleine Sophie’s spirituality, the foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and to her educational philosophy. Academically gifted herself, Madeleine Sophie was rigorously trained by her brother Louis, a Jesuit, so she learned the value of discipline in study, but she also understood that love had to be at the center of it. ….

-These remarks were prepared for one of the Parent’s Orientations that occurred during the past week.