Responding to the Message of Peace

When I was in grade school, I looked forward to May, not because it was the end of the school year – though that was exciting – but because it was the month of the Blessed Mother (and my birthday!) Every May, I would set up a “May Altar” in my bedroom. I really don’t know if that concept even relates to this generation of young people. I just recall that devotions to the Blessed Mother were very special in my family and in my school community as I was growing up. I attended Saint Helena Parish School staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. And each week in the spring, we would practice the hymns and format for the May Procession that took place in the parish church. It was simply magnificent! As students, we would process around the block and into church as we sang hymns to Mary. There was the crowning of the Blessed Mother statue in the church, followed by Benediction.

On May 13, 2017, the Vatican canonized Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three children who saw the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary six times between May 13, 1917, and Oct. 13, 1917 at Fatima. They died in the influenza epidemic during 1918-1919. Lucia Santos, who was their cousin and whose beatification process began in 2008, died in 2005 at the age of 97. The vision told the children three “secrets,” and according to the Vatican website, they are described as: “The first and second parts of the ‘secret’ . . . refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism. . . The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the Message, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the Message itself asks of us: ‘If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, etc.’. “

Saint Norbert, when he established his first community of Norbertines at Premontre, France, incorporated a special devotion to Mary, and since that time, all of the churches or communities of the Norbertine Order around the world are dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Archmere is dedicated to the patronage of Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

So why are there many different titles for Mary? Wasn’t she just one person? It is true that Mary was singularly the Mother of Jesus, but she has been given a variety of titles over the centuries that are dogmatic, poetic, or allegorical in nature. Additionally, more titles of Mary are found in religious art. All of these are reflections of the ways in which Mary has revealed herself to us, delivering messages of peace, love, and devotion to her Son, Jesus.

The Blessed Mother is the quintessential figure of motherhood in the Catholic Church and in other Christian faiths. A life of sacrifice completely dedicated to God’s will and to her Son’s ministry, she said, “Yes,” to a plan that included her holding the lifeless body of her son after he was crucified. She also had to “let go” of her Son so that he could fulfill his life’s plan, and potentially hear words that may have been difficult to understand or emotionally accept:

“Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” But Jesus replied, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers.…” (Matthew 12:48)

The Blessed Mother is a powerful role model for parents. At this time of year, we contemplate our seniors graduating and leaving “the home nest” to go on to college. Being with family pretty much every day, students will become more independent, finding their way in new academic communities and creating new social circles. Just as Mary, with her husband, Joseph, provided guidance and support for Jesus through his formative years so that he would be ready to take on his public ministry later in life, parents have created the foundations for their sons and daughters to take the next steps in their lives.

As we graduate the members of the Class of 2017, let us pray for them through the intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother. May they be inspired to challenge themselves academically, enrich themselves with new friendships, and strengthen themselves through prayer. Our graduates have the capacity to make change in the world, and to respond to the messages of peace delivered by Mary under her many titles.

A New Year and New Beginnings

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I have always enjoyed working in a school environment because the academic calendar punctuates the seasons of the year with beginnings and endings. This rhythmic approach to the year seems so natural, like inhaling and exhaling. Those who do not keep an academic calendar still celebrate beginnings and endings at least once on January 1. Within two weeks of the start of the New Year, Archmere students take semester-end examinations, completing the first half of the school year, only to begin the second half a few days later. January is a time of accentuated endings and beginnings – in our educational world, in our faith tradition, and in nature.


…In Our Educational World.

As we begin 2014, we say farewell to two of our faculty members. Ms. Denise O’Meara, after taking a medical leave of absence, has decided not to return for the second semester. She planned to retire after her long teaching career, which included, most notably, the creation of a vibrant community service program. We are happy to report that she is doing well, and we are grateful for all of her contributions to Archmere Academy. We are also grateful for the work of Ms. Lauren Gerber, Mr. Michael Burdziak, Mr. Bill Gabriel, and Ms. Maria Calzado-Saavadra who taught Ms. O’Meara’s classes during the first semester. For the second semester, we welcome Ms. Mary Anne Matarese, who will assume the long-term substitution position.

Ms. Sarah Jamison, Spanish teacher, will not be returning for the second semester. Though she has been with us for a short time, she has supported a vibrant program of foreign language study, and we extend to her our best wishes. Ms. Maria Calzado-Saavadra and Mrs. Leah Lightcap will be leading Ms. Jamison’s classes for the second semester.

Mrs. Carolyn Doyle, College Counselor and Director of Guidance, has decided to retire at the end of the current school year. Mrs. Doyle has created and shaped the college counseling program, assumed responsibility for the Guidance Department, and has been involved in a number of leadership initiatives at the Academy over her 25 years of service. Her initiative, professionalism, and commitment to our kids have helped to create a counseling department that serves our families faithfully each year. Mrs. Doyle is well-respected within the professional circles of high school college counselors, most recently serving as President and immediate Past President of Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admissions Counseling. A national search process is underway to identify Mrs. Doyle’s successor.

…In Our Faith Tradition and In Nature.

We began a new liturgical year with the Advent Season on December 1, 2013, and after we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ and welcomed the arrival of the Three Kings, suddenly, the Church fast-forwards to celebrating the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan – the signature event that marks the beginning of his public ministry. In a short two months, we have three cycles of beginnings and endings – the anticipation of the birth of our Savior, the commemoration of His presence among us, and the proclamation of the Good News that tells us the reality we know is not the end – the promise of everlasting life. The Church calendar is rich with dates of commemoration, seasons, and related imagery to accentuate the “rhythm of life,” the natural beginnings and endings we all experience.

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The Liturgical Calendar of the Catholic Church.

For example, as we approached the day with the shortest amount of daylight on December 21 – the winter solstice, we were lighting more Advent candles each week to celebrate the coming of the Savior who is the Light in our darkness. Now, as we approach the summer solstice on June 21, each day increasing the amount of daylight, we celebrate on February 2 the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. According to Judaic law, Joseph and Mary presented their son, Jesus, at the Temple, 40 days after his birth. In his 1962 Code of Rubrics (officially titled Rubricarum instructum, published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis), Pope John XXIII identified this date as the official end of the Christmas season in the Catholic Church. Soon after this feast, the Church keeps the Lenten Season, this year beginnings on March 5 with Ash Wednesday, only to lead to the Vigil of the Resurrection of Jesus on April 19. All the while, the seasons incubate new life that takes form as longer sun-lit days approach the summer solstice on June 21. Our faith tradition reminds us daily of the ever-changing and creating Spirit that is in and among us!


While I am not one to create “New Year’s Resolutions,” I do pray and wish that all of our students, families, alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, and benefactors may know the blessings of our God in the New Year, and also may know the gratitude and care of our Archmere community for all of the sacrifices, support, and prayers offered on behalf of the wonderful educational and formative work being accomplished every day.

Blessings in the New Year!