Letter from Sr. Cooke
Carrollton’s 50th Jubilee continues to provide us the ideal time to reflect on Carrollton's culture and how we define ourselves as a School of Christ’s Heart. We define culture as a collective way of living and working which shapes the hopes and behavior of all the members of the school community. Evidence of a school’s culture is seen in its traditions, its language, its myths, its heroes/heroines, its customs, its attitudes, its relationships. Culture shapes the tone and atmosphere of a school. The ideals and values we see in our behaviors and in our actions speak most clearly of the values we actually hold to be true.
What are the demonstrative behaviors in our schools that reveal our values? The core activity at Carrollton is learning. In our learning community our common imperative is to teach, to educate in such a way that we and our students learn to slow down, to be still, and to listen to the mystery, we know as God. Ours is the work of forming conscience and instilling skills that enhance critical thinking and compassionate action. We encourage students to develop an assertive, active questioning attitude toward learning while enhancing the qualities of nurturing and caring.
Our sacred imperative is to educate the whole child, and through the dynamic of this education, the adults and the students come to experience knowing, being loved by and loving God. The foundation of this imperative is St. Madeleine Sophie Barat’s vision. To attend to one another is rooted in St. Madeleine Sophie’s conviction that the very milieu of a Sacred Heart School is charged with the presence of the Holy Spirit. In and through our relationships we experience being loved and loving God.
Central to our vision and practice of education is our belief in God, as revealed in and through the person of Jesus Christ. To experience the Spirit dwelling within, each of us needs to embrace silence. The simple daily practice of espacio helps develop the capacity for prayer and reflection. As we come to know the Spirit within, we grow in our self-understanding as God’s Beloved.
This self-understanding becomes the foundation for courage and confidence. We are firmly committed to the conspicuous daily success of each member of the community. We believe self-esteem must be nurtured in children and adolescents if they are to develop into thoughtful, compassionate women. Such women will work for the transformation of our world by acting on behalf of others, particularly those in greatest need.
Essential to our sense of being a Family of Christ’s Heart is our capacity for joy. Mother Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ wrote, “the quality of our joy…depends on the spring from which it is drawn…to be a joy bearer and a joy-giver says everything; it means that one is faithfully living for God and that nothing else counts, and if one gives joy to others we are doing God’s work.”
Celebrations such as Conge and other traditions have delighted generations of Sacred Heart students since the very early days. Such traditions are essential to the life of Carrollton because they give witness to the genuine care and happiness of the school family members.
St. Madeleine Sophie insisted that Sacred Heart women develop intellectual competence because our world needs such thoughtful, prepared decisions makers and leaders if it is to reflect God’s glory. As educators of girls and young women, we are professional nurturers of thought. Our work is to form master thinkers who will be confident, courageous, compassionate women.
At the very core of such women is a lively faith. Faith that lacks reason can falter. Madeleine Sophie believed that one needs to understand why one believes as one does. To know that one is the Beloved of God calls for understanding by both the heart and the mind. Our work is to help students develop both with integrity.
Learning is an adventure in grace, because the ultimate objective of a Carrollton education is to grow in holiness. Of course we want to ensure the students’ preparation for the next moment in their education, but like Madeleine Sophie we are intent on preparing strong women of hope and conviction.
Our common imperative as a Sacred Heart school is to educate in such a way that we and our students learn to slow down, to be still, to listen and be open to mystery – the mystery of God. We hope to provide students with an environment in which they will have opportunities to encounter a personal experience of God and develop a capacity for silence so necessary in understanding and accepting the mystery of God.
In the end, Sacred Heart education is a formation for life. The signs of success in Sacred Heart women can be seen in lives rooted in prayer, hearts opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and minds attuned to the attitudes of Christ’s Heart. St. Madeleine Sophie hoped that, inspired by the conviction that God loves her, each Sacred Heart graduate would work to make known God’s love in her family, community and the world.
Our Jubilee continues to feel like a “song or psalm of Carrollton’s very spirit under the pressure of happiness.” May the activities of the coming year bring all of us closer as members of this Community of Christ’s Heart.
Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ