About this Blog: Musings... is a blog written by Sr. Suzanne Cooke, Headmistress of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. In this blog, Sr. Cooke plans to share her reflections on the spirit of Sacred Heart education. Comments or Questions? Email Sr. Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday the Alumnae Council welcomed members of the Class of 2013 into both the Carrollton Alumnae Association and the Association of Alumnae and Alumni of the Sacred Heart, our national organization. This Pin Ceremony marks a coming of age. It is a very sacred moment to watch our graduating seniors walk up with their Pin Sisters while both persons’ names are announced and we learn where each senior will attend university.
What do we learn during this calling of names? I think two things stand out. The first is that the Family of the Sacred Heart is truly an international one. Alumnae Pin Sisters come from all over the world; our seniors plan to attend universities and colleges both here in the USA and in Europe.
The second lesson is that the vision of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat is eternal. Whether one graduated in 1941 or in 2013, each woman of the Sacred Heart has developed certain capacities, attitudes and abilities that enable her to be a woman of courage and confidence.
Each has developed a fundamental orientation towards God and is open to mystery. Each has a personal relationship with God. Each has come to know that faith must be informed. The development of heart and mind has and will continue to be a priority for each alumna. The ability to think critically, to synthesize and to analyze is united with the ability to integrate the spiritual values St. Madeleine Sophie thought to be so essential.
One learned that each alumna continues to integrate one’s faith into her actions. Sacred Heart women strive to make known God’s love not only in their families and communities but in their world. They do this by the type of decisions they make. Each is committed to building community. Their Sacred Heart education challenges the alumnae to realize that one must move beyond self-interest and self-centeredness if one is to manifest the attitudes of Christ’s Heart. Each knows to reach out and act on behalf of others.
Finally, the experience of the ceremony and watching the alumnae and seniors reminds us that Sacred Heart education calls for personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. St. Madeleine Sophie envisioned Sacred Heart Women to be open to growth, emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially and spiritually, so that one can intentionally be engaged in taking responsibility for one’s decisions.
Yes, we are proud of the Class of 2013 and their university/college choices because we see in those choices that each senior is embarking on her life’s journey. Like the alumnae who pinned them, the seniors have demonstrated they are ready to embrace hope and give back to their communities.
In these coming days of Holy Week we will all have the opportunity to look inward as we commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will join millions of people throughout the world whose reverence for the sanctity of these events opens their hearts to the ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed on us by the love between God and His Son.
Carrollton’s high school women’s choir, Les Choristes, will be joining other faithful in a most concrete way as they celebrate Easter singing along with the Sistine Chapel Choir for the newly elected Pope Francis I. This honor has generated great excitement as evidenced in the extensive news coverage they have received. In addition to the Easter mass in Rome the students will be singing in Florence and Assisi, during the Pascal Triduum and Easter Week.
One can see from the following stories that the students are both honored and awed at the prospect of this extraordinary concert tour.
We also received coverage from Telemundo and MundoFox
Beyond their excitement, what meaning does this concert tour have for them and for us their school community? Of course, the trip’s ultimate impact will be known by each of the students in time. The immediate impact surely will be to experience the enormous influence of Francis I on people – to watch, listen and witness a historic moment in the life of the Church.
Specifically, the choir will sing at the Church of All Saints in Florence on Good Friday for The Lord’s Passion Service. On Easter Sunday, the choir will join the Sistine Chapel Choir at St. Peter’s for Easter Sunday Mass. Later that evening, the students will give a concert for the City of Rome at St. Ignatius Church. Easter Monday will find the choir singing for a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Tuesday, the choir returns to Rome to sing at St. Peter’s Basilica for the 5:00 pm mass at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter. On Wednesday, the choir will sing for Pope Francis I at the Morning Papal Audience. That evening the concert tours ends at the 6:00 pm Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome where Les Choristes will be the principal choir.
I invite you to join privately our students in thought, prayer and song throughout these holiest of days and in experiencing that joy, find the Holy Spirit in your midst.
Today we had our annual Alumnae/Senior Class Breakfast. During the course of the breakfast, the alumnae introduce themselves; explained where they went to university/college and graduate school and what they are currently doing. This morning, I noticed that many of the alumnae added a word or two about the profound appreciation they have for Carrollton, for the education and foundation the school had provided them.
As I listened to the alumnae speaking to the seniors, I was reminded of something I spoke about in early September. Entitled Essential Capacities for the 21st Century, the document outlines seven essential capacities that successful people will need to navigate their futures.
It is clear from this morning that the alumnae would add the capacity to act from one’s informed faith in God. So many spoke with genuine insight and appreciation for the spiritual and religious foundation they had developed as Sacred Heart students at Carrollton. It was both gratifying and hopeful to watch the alumnae interact with our seniors.
I wonder how Lent is going for you. This week we have welcomed back Fr. Joseph Kane, our visitor from the northeast. Fr. Kane is saying class masses and hearing confessions. Another thing that is happening this week is that I am doing the mission at St. Hugh. Last night we discussed prayer as relationship. Drawing upon the example of St. Hugh of Lincoln, we spoke of the essential need each of us has for silence if we are to develop our capacity for listening. Together, silence and listening help us engage in dialogue with one another and with God. Tonight we will discuss St. Madeleine Sophie Barat and tomorrow night we will speak of centering prayer. I plan to share some insights from Mother Stuart. Her definition of prayer is so beautiful: Prayer is the aspiration, the breathing of the soul. It is our unexpressed desire for union. It is any turning of the mind and heart to God.
Lent is the time to decide how best to create the space we need to turn our hearts and mind to the Spirit dwelling within our very souls. As the alumnae reminded the seniors, in the end, our spirituality, our sense that we are God’s Beloved is the strongest foundation upon which to build one’s life.
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Today began with the screams of sheer delight and joy that we all associate with congé. As I watched the students from the youngest to the oldest gather on the Athletic Field, I thought that congé is a wonderful way to draw close to Carrollton’s celebration of Catholic Schools Week. Consider the week – we began on Sunday with a Mass of Thanksgiving during which we thanked God for the gift of a Sacred Heart education. We prayed to be worthy of the legacy of Mother Barry, St. Madeleine Sophie’s and St. Rose Philippine. We acknowledged that our relationships need to be rooted in the conviction that each person is made in God’s image and that it is in our ways of being with one another that God communicates with us. Our hope, our delight, our joy of the weekend, gave witness to our confidence in our God. That same confidence is at the heart of congé.
Let me share with you the Congé Skit the Class of 2013 wrote:
Once upon a time, in the heart of the Barat campus, there was a little Carrollton girl named Suzanne, who loved to learn, play with her friends, and imagine all kinds of wonderful stories. But one day, the nasty and evil Queen of Hearts and her minions heard tell of the kind of creative powers that this little girl, and all her other friends at Carrollton, had.
“Look at how their imaginations let them create or be whatever they want—it makes me sick!”, the Queen grumbled to herself. She knew that this kind of imagination could make them into strong, courageous women who would be a threat to her power. Jealous and grumpy, the Queen emerged from her lair beneath El Jardin and conspired with her evil minions to put an end to their creative powers.
(all villains huddle and whisper)
“I’ve got it!” the Queen exclaimed. “I’ll cast a spell on all of the Carrollton girls so that no one in all the land can become more powerful than us! OFF WITH THEIR IMAGINATIONS!” (EVIL LAUGHTER)
The next day, Suzanne was sitting in math class - she realized she couldn’t solve any geometry problems; in art class, her friends had difficulty finding inspiration for their latest pieces. In history class, no one could come up with any ideas for the Renaissance Fair. What on Earth had happened? What on Earth could be done?
Suzanne decided to do something to help herself and all of her friends. She wandered through El Jardin and happened upon the fountain.
“Perhaps if I make a wish, I can wish for our imaginations to return!” said she. And bipiddy boppidy boo, a shiny new penny she threw. Into the fountain it flew, she wished and she hoped that her wish would ring true.All of a sudden, with great splendor and might, the Genie appeared with a burst of great light.
“HEY THERE, KID!” he boomed. “Rumor has it that your imaginations have run dry. But I’m gonna tell it to you straight: I can’t do squat about your wish unless you yourself put in some hard work and determination! But I will introduce you to some friends from my neck of the woods who can help you out. I tell ya...” “(singing) You ain’t never had friends, never had friends, you aint never had friends like these,” the Genie laughed to himself.
“GET OUT HERE, GANG! You see,” he said, as the characters came and went, “each of them has something special to offer, something you’ll never forget! They’ll teach you grace, wisdom, resourcefulness and teamwork!
(bring others from the committee) The genie continued, “Each world of the fantasy universe contains its own special spark of imagination. We’ll search each nook and cranny, far and wide, until all your creativity is restored!”
Caitlyn: And with that, the gang was off! Safe travels, and good luck! You have now entered the happiest place on Earth...WELCOME TO CONGÉ 2013!
After a long day of work and play, the Carrollton girls were finally ready to confront the Queen of Hearts and her evil army to take back their imaginations! (all gather onstage)
“You won’t win!” they yelled, “You are no match against our faith, trust, and pixie dust!” “That’s right!” the Genie cried, “they’ve done their work! But I’ve known all along that these girls (gesture to audience) have had their imaginations inside of them the whooooole tiiiiime.” The Queen paused and frowned, she mused and groaned.
“I was afraid of this!” she said. “if only these Carrollton girls weren’t so intelligent and determined, I would’ve gotten away with it!” There was a contemplative silence. The queen finally spoke “...but I guess you’re right. How could I be victorious against the power of imagination?” Everyone stood in silence. But then Suzanne stepped forward, and said: “But Queen, you have imagination inside of you, as well.”
The Queen looked surprised. A small smile crept onto her face. The Carrollton girls gathered around her, spun her round, and VOILA. The Queen of Hearts emerged from within the crowd no longer evil, but pure – she was now...
THE QUEEN OF SACRED HEARTS!
“Girls, I cannot thank you enough for showing me the power of friendship, hard work, and imagination. Congratulations on completing your tasks. You have taught me well,” said the Queen. And with that, Congé 2013 came to a close... Suzanne grew up to be a woman of confidence and courage as Carrollton’s headmistress.
Sister Cooke: ...and they all lived happily ever after!
I have placed emphasis on certain concepts - imagination, grace, wisdom, resourcefulness, teamwork, intelligence, and determination. Through a creative skit and a wonderfully organized day, the Seniors have reminded us all that treating all whom we meet with tenderness is the surest way to honor each one’s dignity and celebrate our common humanity. True hope is born in such relationships.
Last week we celebrated the members of the Class of 2012 who had received their IB diplomas. Our speaker was Patricia Sanchez-Abril ’93, Carrollton alumna and present Board Chair, graduate of Harvard Law School and currently an Associate Professor in the Business Law Department at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. During her speech, Professor Sanchez-Abril explained that ideally resilience, problem solving, critical thinking and lifelong learning are attributes of Sacred Heart women. She underscored that the compassion and confidence often considered characteristics of alumnae spring forth from hearts and consciences that have been touched by the examples of Saint Madeleine Sophie’s global vision and St. Philippine Duchesne’s courage, as well as by experiences at Carrollton which inspire the students to use their talents for social justice.
Yesterday, during the Intermediate Mother – Daughter everyone had the chance to use their talents for a community service project. With the guidance of Amor en Acción, we regularly help a community in northwestern Haiti. Mothers and daughters prepared shoe boxes which will be used during Lent for the collection of personal items needed by Haitian children. Watching mothers and daughters working together by teams on this project spoke to the importance of Professor Sanchez-Abril’s observation that “deep, thinking faith in God and the knowledge that we are loved by God and that we are children of Jesus’s Heart” impels us into action.
Later in the day the Primary mothers and daughters gathered for prayer, lunch and a field day. The energy was amazing! Everyone seemed to be having such fun in spite of the cold.
Days like this are essential in the developmental process of girls as they mature into strong, confident women. The gift of time to be together is a precious one. Days like this create the atmosphere so essential to confidences being shared. These days are opportunities to help daughters come to understand who they are and what their values are. Who better than mothers to help in this process of growing up?
Advent at Carrollton is filled with special moments from Advent Prayer Services to Feast Wishes. Last week’s 2nd and 3rd Grade Prayer Service began with this prayer:
We are all gathered here today to celebrate the beginning of Advent. I am sure we are all excited just as Mary was when she was preparing for the arrival of Jesus. Advent is a time when we prepare for Christmas. Mary and Joseph had a hard time before Jesus came. Advent is also a time when we have to wait. On Christmas day Jesus was born so during Advent we wait for Christmas. Jesus, our Savior, was born on Christmas and throughout Advent we wait and prepare for his birth. Amen. Camille Deschapelles (3rd Grade)
Camille is correct – Advent is a time for waiting. Waiting often challenges us; we are accustomed to immediate response…even gratification. These days of Advent remind us that waiting in hope, in anticipation strengthens us by helping us value that which is about to occur. We know that Christ came on that first Christmas. What is it we await?
The answer lies within this next prayer from another 3rd Grader:
Dear Lord, While we are preparing for this happy time of Advent, please help us have the strength of Mary, the wisdom of Joseph and the blessings of Baby Jesus. I hope that during this time of Advent we all have the courage to say: Jesus I trust in you. Put your life in the hands of Baby Jesus. Amen. Francesca Ricardo (3rd Grade)
Imagine if we made Francesca’s prayer our own! Asking God for the strength of Mary and wisdom of Joseph strikes me as being a very wise idea. Approaching these often busy days with these sentiments would definitely help us enjoy the truth of this season. Jesus awaits us and hopes that we will indeed place our trust in Him.
If you wish to join us, all are invited to the High School Advent Family Prayer Service next Tuesday, December 18th at 7 pm at St. Hugh Catholic Church.
This past weekend we celebrated the Annual Alumnae Awards Luncheon. This award is given to a graduate of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart whose very life is an eloquent lesson to the world of the values of Sacred Heart education. A woman of faith, who embraces the vision of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat in her everyday life, the recipient of the Alumnae Award has contributed beyond the norm to the building of community by demonstrating active concern for the dignity of others. The recipient is well-known and respected in the community as a woman of compassion and hope. She has brought the spirit of Sophie into the world.
The luncheon was begun last year as part of our 50th Anniversary in the spirit of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat’s conviction that the mission of Sacred Heart education is extended into the world through the very lives of our alumnae. She described such lives as “an eloquent lesson to the world” of grace and hope.
As you can imagine the luncheon has an atmosphere of joy. The honorees, Margarita Ledo Carreño ’68, Annemarie Harris Block ’75, Anamarie Gari Moreiras ’85, Alexandra Codina ’96, and Lindsey Champion ’04 on the surface may seem dissimilar. An active community volunteer, a practicing attorney, a public school educator, an award winning film maker, an army intelligence officer – what common element is there? Each spoke about the great gift her Carrollton education has been to her and her family. Each described the undeniable privilege and responsibility of being a Woman of the Sacred Heart. Each referenced the legacy of hope and compassion she feels has inspired her. Each turned to the alumnae gathered and expressed gratitude for the sense of communion the Sacred Heart Family offers everyone. Finally, each echoed the belief that the years at Carrollton had provided both the challenge and the inspiration for her life’s work.
As a Religious of the Sacred Heart, my heart is filled with a profound sense of thankfulness for our alumnae. Walking into the future with them and anticipating the generations to come, I shall pray with renewed gratitude on Thanksgiving for the gift of Sacred Heart education.
Today we celebrate the Communion of Saints and tomorrow, the Feast of all Souls, when we honor all those who have gone before us. Both feasts remind us that this life is a preparation for eternal life. So what does this mean to us today? Our faith reminds us that we are forever bond together in our common call to holiness. As members of the Communion of Saints, we are called to pray for one another and for those who have gone before us just as they pray for us. This Holy Bonding or the Body of Christ is held together by God’s Spirit dwelling within each of us. As Paul says to the Romans - “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We decided that the Feast of All Saints provided an ideal moment to gather the 7th-12th grade mothers and daughters for mass. During the homily Fr. Valle quoted St. Augustine: “Because You have loved me, You have made me loveable.” He invited the daughters to look at their mothers and repeat St. Augustine’s words and then asked the mothers to do the same ritual with their daughters.
This important exchange made vivid a fact. God communicates love to us through our relationships with one another. To know that one is loved is both a tremendous blessing and an awesome responsibility. Celebrating the saints as the holy people who have gone before us actually calls us to consider our own growth in holiness. This journey in grace is possible when we trust that we are God’s Beloved. Madeleine Sophie turned to girls and women as the bearers of hope because she believed that through love we help others navigate both the moments of joy and the challenges of anguish.
After communion the Choir of daughters and mothers sang A Mother’s Prayer written by David Foster and Carol Bayer-Sager. The lyrics include these words, “I pray she finds your light/And holds it in her heart/ As darkness falls each night/ Remind her where you are/Every mother's prayer/ Every child knows/ Need to find a place/Guide her with your grace/Give her faith so she'll be safe.”
As a Family of the Sacred Heart we know this safe place in the Heart of God. Let us pray for one another that each of us may continue to grow in wisdom and grace.
P.S. I have included a video below of A Mother's Prayer performed by Celine Dion. (Please ignore any advertisement(s) that may appear.)
Educators and parents touch the future every day. I wonder how each of us considers what the future might be for the young people whom we encounter daily. Each year I like to share an interesting video with parents entitled, "Did You Know?" This new 2012 HD version of the progression of information technology and the speed and constancy of change is an important video for us to watch. Please skip the introductory political ad which changes daily and has nothing to do with the video.
Since I shared the video a few days ago in the Parent Vue, I have been wondering how our alumnae in colleges and universities are navigating their futures. Coincidently in a conversation with one of our High School teachers, I heard the stories of three of our alumnae, April, Jade, and Hannah Brown.
Let me begin with April, Class of 2009, who is currently a Senior at UM, studying neuroscience. Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, the mechanisms of behavior, and the nature of mind and consciousness. She will complete her B.S. degree this spring. In the midst of a challenging program, April is part of the team organizing a Women’s Leadership Symposium, www.miami.edu/wls, for the women of the University of Miami. April writes, “I worked with women in the community to organize the day. The workshop I am hosting is called ‘Stand Up, Stand Out’ and promotes women to be ‘keen’ and ‘proactive’ in their role as leaders.”
Jade, Class of 2010, is a Junior at Duke University studying Mechanical Engineering and currently doing her course of studies in Europe this semester. Over the summer she interned at a New York based physical-digital interactive agency called Breakfast. The company specializes in creating digital experiences that utilize custom robotics and devices to bridge the gap between online and the real world. She has been involved in a project so futuristic it is better seen than explained. You can get an idea from this video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3jkoIyJgoc. Jade is standing in the epicenter of innovation in science and technology.
Hannah, Class of 2011 is a Sophomore at Catholic University. She is studying Psychology and loves the city! She just got a job working at the Archdiocese's Archives where she works with soldiers and veterans, helping to organize and find their sacramental records. As a young adult Hannah understands an individual’s entirety is incomplete without the spiritual and sacramental components that nourish the soul.
Hearing this news of the Brown sisters points to the extraordinary wonder of young people who operate from deeply formed values. These values were first nurtured at home and then strengthened at Carrollton. I offer this story as one example of alumnae living the hope of St. Madeleine Sophie who believed through their very lives, Sacred Heart women are an eloquent lesson to the world. The lesson I think Carrollton graduates offer can be articulated in April’s words, Sacred Heart alumnae… “are women who see themselves not only as educated leaders, but also as ‘smart, keen’ ones.” Such women will navigate the stormy seas of change with courage and confidence.
Sr. Suzanne Cooke holds a BA cum laude from Manhattanville College and an interdisciplinary Masters of Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. A native New Yorker, Sr. Cooke grew up on the Jersey shore and attended Elmhurst Academy of the Sacred Heart in Portsmouth, RI...