Lessons In Remembrance

The Archmere Academy community ushered in November with a Mass on the first day of the month celebrating the Feast of All Saints. In recent years, to prepare for this month traditionally set aside in the Church as a time when we especially remember all those who have died, we have begun the tradition of asking members of our Archmere faith community to send us names of relatives and friends who have died, and for whom they would like included in our prayer intentions.

During this year’s Mass, we sang the Litany of the Saints, during which we remembered deceased members of Archmere families. In addition, a Book of Remembrance with a lighted candle was carried in procession to the altar along with bread and wine at the Preparation of the Gifts. The candle represented all alumni, and it was placed on the altar with six other candles, which represented the other constituencies of the school. The Book includes the names of all deceased alumni, faculty, and staff. It has been placed in a specially designed memorial in the newly-renovated Saint Norbert Oratory.

Mr. Bill Gabriel, Campus Minister, explained all of these actions to the assembly at Mass. As I watched and felt the reaction of the students, faculty, staff, and parents in attendance, I thought how much that hour of prayer and remembrance embodied the essence of Archmere’s strength, uniqueness, and ethos.

Remembering our heritage is something we do well, and it is important for our current students, faculty, and staff to know about our roots as a place of learning and growth. The month of November holds special significance in Archmere’s history.

SS Veendam

SS Veendam

On November 1, 1893, Father Bernard Pennings, Father Lambert Broens, and Brother Servatius Heesakkers left as missionaries on board the ship Veendam bound for the United States. From their home at Berne Abbey in Holland, these three men traveled to the Wisconsin frontier. They were asked by the Bishop of Green Bay to minister to the spiritual needs of the Dutch-speaking settlers in the remote, rural areas of Wisconsin by taking over small mission churches. This was a difficult assignment, since there was little, if any, infrastructure to support them in their ministry. Harsh weather conditions, miles of travel, minimal living conditions, and little financial support were all significant challenges they faced. Nevertheless, Abbot Pennings wrote with optimism on the morning of November 13, 1893, from Hoboken, New Jersey:

Thanks be to God, we are safe and sound on land again; over an hour ago, about 11 a.m., our feet touched dry land. All morning we have been admiring the beautiful shoreline …picturesque, with hills, and dales, villas and castles; all around us it was teeming with boats, large and small.

From that day forward, the Norbertine ministry in the United states grew under the guidance and vision of Father Pennings, who, with his confreres, wrote seven letters over the month of November – the first month of their great American adventure.

The three missionaries reached Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and in his sixth letter dated November 24, Abbot Pennings wrote about the adventurous trip through the wilderness:

Sometimes the road was so bumpy that we and the luggage were catapulted into the air, and Father Lamberts and I burst out laughing…”

augustine_wiki

In addition to it being the 120th anniversary of Nobertines in America, November 13 is an important day in our school history for two other reasons. First, it is the birthday of Saint Augustine, born in 354 AD. After his conversion, he became a great bishop, writer, and founder of a religious order. Saint Norbert adopted the Rule of Saint Augustine – a way of community life – when he founded the Norbertine Order.

Second, November 13 is celebrated as the feast day of All Saints of the Norbertine Order. One of those saints, St. Siard, was the fifth abbot of Mariëngaarde. He was a good administrator and leader in both spiritual and material matters, and the apostolic spirit of the order thrived at Mariëngaarde under his leadership.

siard2-2

Whenever Siard went on a journey, he took along a large basket full of bread and other food to distribute among the poor. Because of this he is usually depicted with a basket at his feat. He had the gift of appeasing hatred and reconciling enemies. Siard urged three things upon the confreres who had to leave the monastery: a joyous departure, a peaceful sojourn, and a happy return. We celebrate St. Siard’s particular feast day on the day of his death, November 14, 1230.

November 13 also takes on special meaning this year as Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, Pennsylvania, celebrates its 50th anniversary. The histories of Daylesford Abbey and Archmere Academy became interwoven years before the Abbey was even established.

The Norbertine Fathers of Saint Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin, founded Archmere Academy in 1932. They staffed and administered the school – originally a boarding and day school for boys. In addition to the Archmere educational venture, Abbot Pennings signed a contract on July 12, 1934, in which the Archdiocese of Philadelphia agreed to provide priests to serve as faculty members of a new diocesan school, Southeast Catholic High School for boys located at Seventh and Christian Streets in South Philadelphia. As both Archmere and Southeast Catholic grew, so did the local Delaware Valley community’s awareness of and affection for the Norbertine fathers.

Because of the Norbertine presence in the local community, there were a sufficient number of vocations to the Order by 1954. As a result, the Daylesford Priory was established in the former Cassatt Mansion on the Kelso Farms Estate in Easttown Township of Chester County, Pennsylvania. The estate was previously purchased by the Order in 1950, and it became the site of formation studies for novices – men joining the community to be ordained as priests. As numbers increased, the Norbertine community decided that Daylesford Priory should become an independent abbey. On November 13, 1963, new personnel were appointed and the official announcement of the membership of Daylesford Abbey was made – 70 years to the day after Abbot Pennings first stepped on American soil.

On behalf of the Archmere Academy community, I congratulate the members of Daylesford Abbey, their associates and friends, on such a joyous occasion. We are grateful for the years of administration and service given to Archmere by so many dedicated Norbertines.

Our history also includes John and Helena Raskob, who built the magnificent estate we now enjoy. In her Raskob-Green Record Book, Mrs. Raskob quotes an essayist:

When building, build forever – not for the present, but for such times as our descendants will thank us for. (p. 133)

The Raskobs had a vision for the future, not only evident in the architecture of their beautiful home, but also in their lasting philanthropic actions that have left a positive impact on the lives of future generations.

On November 11, we celebrate Veterans’ Day, a day of remembrance and prayer in honor of all those who served in the armed forces. This year, on saturday, November 9, we will dedicated the Armed Forces Tribute on campus, made possible by Mr. Larry Cylc ’73. The Tribute, along side the track and football field, is laid out in the shape of a five-pointed star with a flagpole at each point, flying the flags of the five branches of the armed forces. At the center of the star is the flagpole with the American flag. Our plan is to create a brick “Freedom Walk” leading up to the Tribute with the names of all alumni who have served or are serving in the armed forces. We know of many graduates who have served or are serving, but we would be grateful for our Archmere families to spread the word and be in touch with our staff to be sure we have a most comprehensive list of names.

On November 11, 1989, Father Justin Diny, O.Praem., fourth headmaster of Archmere Academy (1946-83), died. Since 1990, Father McLaughlin has celebrated a memorial Mass for Father Diny on the anniversary of his death. The 24th annual memorial Mass will be held in the newly-renovated Saint Norbert Oratory in Saint Norbert Hall at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, November 11. All are welcomed to attend.

In the Oratory, we have just finished the installation of nine stained glass windows that depict the life of Saint Norbert, the founder of the Norbertine Order and our inspiration today for living as a “Pentecost Community” – a community filled with the Holy Spirit, as were the apostles on that first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection. Saint Norbert’s zeal and passion for a vision of life gave him the resilience and faith to persevere and be “prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

As we look back and remember during this month of November, we also look to the future as we follow in the example of great people who have helped shaped the Archmere of today. And like the messages of the feast of All Saints and All Souls in the Church, we recognize all of those people who have contributed to a better life for all, yet who remain unknown to us but known to God as saints. We appreciate and honor them through the opportunities we have at Archmere to achieve a vision of the future with the same driving force that was behind their sacrifices and endurance.

25,000 Mornings

25,000 mornings… I heard in this recent tourism commercial that the average person lives 25,000 mornings. Of course, the commercial is advertising a vacation destination, but I hang on to the idea of 25,000 mornings and find the thought to be one for deeper reflection.

I started to think, “How many mornings did I already? How did I ‘feel’ most mornings? Who was around me on those days? If I can think of my lifetime in ‘mornings,’ how does that change the way I think about new beginnings, opportunities, and changes in my life?”

About the same time I heard the commercial, I was praying with a group of administrators before the start of a meeting, and the reflection was based on Mark’s Gospel for the daily Mass, in which he writes:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”

They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

They said to him, “We can.”

Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not want to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mark 10:37-45)

Jesus was explaining that to follow him was to experience the trials of life that each day brings. It is a journey of faith, with a reward for those worthy – “for those for whom it has been prepared.” The disciples were on their way to Jerusalem with Jesus when they asked him to be with him “in glory.” They did not know the kind of suffering and death Jesus would face, nor did they fully understand his resurrection from the dead that would follow. These are not everyday events that the disciples could grasp.

Twenty centuries later – or about 730,000 mornings after – we can witness the miracle of resurrection with each new day born out of the last day’s night. We can see the death-life cycle in nature all around us. We might even consider that each increment of time is filled with life before dying, only to give way to the birth of the next minute or second.

Death and resurrection are all around us, all of the time, and we need only to reflect on how we might see it so that we may see it.

Just last weekend, the Class of 2013 graduated from Archmere Academy, with Baccalaureate Mass on Saturday evening and Commencement on Sunday morning. The cliché phrase is to say that graduation is not an ending but a beginning. This is true, but it takes vision and a point of view to see that same moment of graduation as a beginning rather than an ending.

We wish our newest Archmere alumni continued success in their future careers. As students, most of them spent four years (that’s about 1,461 mornings counting a leap year) working and achieving with friends, making the most of the experience. It was the students, along with the faculty, who set the tone for each school year with the energy and focus they contributed each day to being present and moving toward their future goals.

How do we choose to wake up each morning? Can we, perhaps, not forget the past, but recognize taht it ahs happened and cannot be undone? If we can accept this, then we will not live in the past or let it define the present or future.

I have found this very difficult to do at times, particularly when I have felt that I have been treated unfairly, or experience hurt feelings, or conversely, when I reflect on my own actions that I consider to be “less than” what I should or could have done. The challenge for me each time is to confront these thoughts and do something with them in the present, thinking toward the future instead of ruminating about the past. When I am successful, I have renewed energy that I believe comes from the creating force of the present and future – the Spirit that drives us from dwelling in death and sin to dwelling in life and grace.

We, as an Archmere community, have dealt with the feelings of loss that come with the death of someone we know and love during the past school year – alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents. We have have also had the loss of two Norberintes who served on Archmere’s faculty – Father Tom Meulemans, O.Praem., and Father Tom Hagendorf, O.Praem., with whom I worked during my time at Archmere from 1984 to 1996. Father Hagendorf was also my Freshman religion teacher.

mondaye_abbey

Mondaye Abbey

Yesterday, Ms. Leah daPonte, Mr. Tim Dougherty, Mr. Robert Nowaczyk, and myself were invited by Abbot Richard Antonucci, O.Praem., to participate in the celebration of Saint Norbert’s Feast with the Daylesford Abbey community. I shared a presentation of music and prayer from Mondaye Abbey in Normandy, France as Morning Prayer. The other faculty members also shared their thoughts and experiences after having visited five working Norbertine Abbeys, Prémontré, and other places important to the life of Norbert during the 2012 Heritage Tour offered by Saint Norbert College and Archmere.

The discussion that followed highlighted an awareness and perseverance of the members of the Norbertine communities over the centuries. Many Abbeys were suppressed under various governmental and political conflicts. Some were reconstituted with a a handful of Norbertines who had to live separately in homes and parishes. Others were physically dismantled and the properties sold. Even then, many of the local Norbertine communities, such as the one at Tongerlo in Belgium, repurchased portions of the land and rebuilt the Abbey. These were men of vision who perhaps knew that they would not see all of the community’s works achieved in their lifetimes, but they knew that those who followed them would carry on.

Over ten centuries, these communities of faith preserved a way of life, guided by the Rule of Saint Augustine and the life of Saint Norbert. The Abbeys, through all of their difficulties, advances, and losses, have maintained a constant, persevering faith. Moreover, they upheld and built upon the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving one another.

I am proud that Archmere Academy is part of that heritage. The zeal exemplified throughout the history of the international Norbertine Community is one of the core values that drives the members of the Archmere community.

In the midst of loss, we need to find the hope of the resurrection, which waits on the other side of the final minute spent in sickness, suffering, and hardship. Although this thought may be easier to write than to feel, it is important to express so that our perspective as Catholic Christians is not lost in only focusing on the present.

We welcome each new morning, because with it comes another day, and another, and another – until we will no longer have to keep time by our mornings.