Information, Celebration, Inspiration (Academy President’s Blog)
04.22.15 - A Celebration of Our History, Future, and Community
Sunday, April 19 was a beautiful day for so many reasons. In honor of the 150th Anniversary of St. Mary's Academy, we celebrated Mass as a community in the amazingly transformed Bishop Evans Sports Center. Over 300 alumnae, alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, friends, and members of the Loretto Community filled the space with smiling faces, joyous music and prayers of thanksgiving. We continued the celebration in the new Community Center, opening its doors to the SMA community for the first time. The day was full of wonderful opportunities to commemorate our history and revel in what our future holds. Below, I share with you the remarks I made at the beginning of the Mass and a link to the beautiful poem that Sister Cecily Jones wrote to observe SMA’s sesquicentennial:
Good afternoon. Welcome to our Celebration Mass honoring St. Mary’s Academy’s 150th Anniversary.
It’s been a beautiful year here at school. When we began to plan for this year—having conversations about this year as long ago as 2012—we knew we wanted not only to celebrate, but also to share and delight in the story of St. Mary’s Academy. And we knew we wanted to add to the story.
This year has not let us down. It has been a year filled with history lessons, reunions, remembering, and parties.
It has been a year of achievements—in the classroom, on the playing field, on the stage, in the artist studio, in the science lab. It has been a year of construction—opening a new building and playing on a new turf field.
It has been a year of service—service here in Denver, in Peru, in our own halls. It has been a year filled with faith and love and grace and joy.
Much of what we know about our earliest days comes from the writings of Sister Joanna Walsh, one of the founding Sisters. Her stories and writings have informed our understanding of those first days in August in 1864. She recorded that the first day of school, August 1, 1864 included twenty students—both day students and boarders. And her writings include the challenges that they faced as teachers, as newcomers to this territory and as a Loretto community.
Today, as we come to celebrate this Mass as a community, I am reminded of the story Joanna shared when it came time to celebrate their first Feast day as a community in Denver—the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15. A day of jubilation throughout Loretto.
But these three women were far from home...in a new city, without their usual comforts and necessities, and with no priest to celebrate Mass since the two priests they knew were engaged in the outlying areas of the territory. Joanna admitted that the Sisters were disheartened and discouraged.
But, Joanna writes, they quickly resolved together to “turn the drift of their thoughts to intensifying our fervor in the interior preparations we are making for the renewal of our vows;” and, “that after dismissing the day scholars, we take the boarders for a walk, in search of some wild flowers from the prairies around us.”
So on the morning of August 15 as the boarders slept late, the Sisters rose at their usual early hour. They gathered for prayer and renewed their vows at their simple altar now decorated with humble wildflowers.
She wrote, “During that day we thought of the celebrations at the different houses and the dear ones pronouncing the same solemn words as ourselves; yet, we were happy in our prairie wilds hundreds of miles away, happy because Holy Obedience places us there.”
How overwhelming it is to be here together these many years later to celebrate this glorious and beautiful school.
From the early days of humble wildflowers on a simple altar to this beautiful moment today...
In honor of our 150th anniversary, Sister Cecily Jones wrote the following poem, School at the Edge.
As you listen to the poem this afternoon, you will hear at the start of each section quotations from Joanna Walsh's memoir, next you will hear quotations from students that we have memorialized in our admissions packets and that Cecily enjoyed finding as she researched for this poem. And then the third section is Cecily’s poetic reflections on our founding and continuing story.
The poem will be read in three voices: Sr. Joanna Walsh, current SMA students and Cecily's reflections.