At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, in 1918, the armistice took effect, ending World War I. In a Congressional resolution in 1926, the commemoration of that event was named a national celebration, “inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples”. Then, on May 13, 1938, Congress made November 11th an annual federal holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’ But in 1954, after World War II and the Korean Conflict, the 83rd Congress replaced the word “armistice” with “veterans”, making November 11th an occasion to honor American veterans of all wars.
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month this year, on the 96th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, Father Joseph McLaughlin, O. Praem. will bless the newly installed “Freedom Walk” on the Archmere campus. The “Freedom Walk” honors all Archmere alumni who are currently serving or have served in the armed forces. The “Freedom Walk” was made possible by the generosity of members of the class of 1962. During the dedication ceremony next week, a bench will be dedicated along the walk in honor of their fallen classmate, Eugene J. Garrity ’62, Hospital Corpsman 3/C, USN, in addition to bricks bearing the names of over 120 alumni service men and women. We will continue to add to the Walk over the years, to honor all those who have served. Members of the Class of 1962, along with several students and staff members, will be present for the ceremony. All are invited to attend.
It is significant that this day of remembrance comes during November, when the Catholic Church especially remembers our deceased loved ones, beginning with the feast days of All Saints and All Souls on November 1 and 2, respectively. Many Archmere families responded to our request to submit names of deceased relatives and friends to be included in our prayers, and the list of those names has been placed in the Immaculate Conception Oratory in Saint Norbert Hall. Those individuals, as well as all those alumni and former faculty and staff listed in our Book of Remembrance, are remembered in our daily Masses in the Oratory, especially during this month of November.
By experiencing these traditions of remembrance, our students acquire a sense of reverence and respect for the sacrifices and the work of those who have gone before them. Nowhere is the sacrifice of others more profoundly visualized than at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France. Having visited the cemetery this past June with three other faculty members, it is a sobering reminder of the devastation of war and the sacrifice of so many for our rights and freedom.
Not far from the cemetery is Mondaye Abbey, where a Norbertine community of priests have lived and worked since its founding in 1202. The abbey church, still scarred by the machine gun fire of World War II, is a symbol of the enduring spirit of the approximately 50 priests and novices living in the community – a community that has withstood wars, political coups, suppression, and economic hardships. It is fitting that we will inaugurate our Academic Study Abroad Program for our students in June, 2015, with a stay at Mondaye Abbey – a wonderful reminder to the students of our Norbertine legacy.
As we prepare to gather with family and friends for holiday celebrations, we remember those who have gone before us. For me, these family celebrations bring to mind the image of gathering up the harvest and preparing for the winter retreat into our homes. It is a time when we slow down our daily pace a little to take stock of our lives, to pause and give thanks for our “harvest”, particularly recognizing those who have sacrificed for us.
At this Thanksgiving time, in gratitude for all of you who support and sustain the Archmere Academy community, I offer this prayer by Msgr. Michael Buckley included in The Catholic Prayer Book:
“Thank you, God, for having created us and given us to each other in the human family. Thank you for being with us in all our joys and sorrows, for your comfort in our sadness, your companionship in our loneliness. Thank you for yesterday, today, tomorrow and for the whole of our lives. Thank you for friends, for health and for grace. May we live this and every day conscious of all that has been given to us.”