The Joy of Being Hopeful

We are still in the Easter Season and the Gospel readings for daily Mass recount Jesus’ appearance and conversation with the disciples after his resurrection. The account that is most compelling for me is Luke’s Gospel (24:35-48), proclaimed on the Third Sunday of Easter, in which Jesus says to them, “’Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.”

When we think about death or experience the loss of someone we love, I am sure that all of us have different thoughts about what life after death is like. Is the resurrection a metaphor for just some biological change that happens – the stuff of our bodies deteriorates and the energy within us becomes a part of some universal energy that we like to call “God?” Did Jesus really eat with the disciples after his resurrection; he was not a “ghost,” and yet he would not need food for sustenance? Is the account literal or symbolic, or did Jesus eat before them to prove that he was present to them in body and spirit? There is much theological conversation about the interpretation of this Gospel account, but for me, it provides certain hope that life after death will be rich and full, as dimensional and dynamic as our current experience, but without the worries and fears that plague us. That gives me “hope,” and the strength to manage through the rough times, the uncertainties, and let go of the things I sometimes try to control consciously or unconsciously.

Our school community has experienced untimely and tragic loss twice this school year with the passing of Anthony Penna ’19 and Mark Dombroski ’17. So many emotions and feelings, questions and doubts, acts of kindness and compassion, examples of faith and love have been a part of these days at Archmere. Thank you to all the members of the Archmere community for “being there” for our students, our families, and for each other.

Some years ago, a good friend of mine who eventually passed away from brain cancer, gave me the “Serenity Prayer” when I was going through a career transition that was challenging. My career challenges did not nearly compare to her physical challenges, I am embarrassed to say. But she lived the first four lines of the prayer so well, that the words, written on a small hanging scroll that I kept on my desk, became very real and meaningful to me. I found the prayer to be a helpful reminder of my limitations, the vastness of creation, and the discernment I was to go through to know what God was calling me to do with my life.

In a few weeks, our seniors will graduate, and now they are making important college decisions. The Class of 2022 is ready to begin the Archmere journey starting with orientation in May. My prayer for these students in transition, as well as all of our students and graduates making decisions and going through transitions, is that they know the joy of being hopeful, because of their faith in God and in God’s loving plan for them – a plan that includes the Easter message of resurrection and new life. My hope is that this Easter Season has brought you peace, renewal of spirit, and many opportunities to relax and enjoy precious time with family and friends!

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Season of Renewal

We are entering Holy Week in the Catholic Church beginning with Palm Sunday on March 25. This year, Easter is arriving earlier in the calendar, and the recent series of cold, wet, and snowy weather events make it a challenge to “think Spring,” with all its promise of new life.

As a school community, we have also been faced with a greater challenge, learning about the disappearance and eventually the untimely death of Mark Dombroski, a recent Class of 2017 graduate, who died while on a trip with the Saint Joseph’s University rugby team to Bermuda. Missing for more than day, students and staff prayed after school on Monday in the Oratory for Mark’s safe return. Shortly after, those prayers were changed to ones of acceptance and of strengthening our faith as the student body, faculty, and staff celebrated a Memorial Mass for Mark on Tuesday morning. We continue to pray for Mark and his family.

These sad events of the last week test our faith just before we celebrate the events that are the very core of our belief – the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the life of Christ, where would we be? While it is hard to accept the passing away of those we love and cherish, there is some comfort in the belief that they are now sharing in the promise of the resurrection; and, in our human understanding, we know and believe that they continue to live in spirit, free from the hardships and difficulties of this world. Nevertheless, the challenge for us is to understand why a young person with such promise and goodness would be taken from us so tragically. And perhaps there is no reasonable explanation, other than to rely on our faith and on each other to work through our grief and pain, so that one day we can find comfort and acceptance.

Just a few months ago, we experienced the untimely passing of Anthony Penna ’19, another young man who had a whole life before him. We continue to pray for his family and for those whom he touched in this life, especially those whose lives were changed by receiving his organs. We know that we will never forget Anthony or Mark, but, as time passes, perhaps we will see the small miracles that come from these tragic events.

Next week is the Triduum – a celebration that moves from a close gathering of friends for a meal, through the suffering and death of one who is dearly loved, to a reunion beyond imagination. Our faith tells us that someday we will also be on that journey, similar to the one that Mark and Anthony have experienced, and now will celebrate an Easter like they have never celebrated before. Through all of these challenging moments of the year, the Archmere community has become stronger in faith, more grateful for the love and concern we have for one another, and more compassionate for those in need of our presence and prayers.

May you know the hope and joy of the resurrection this Easter and throughout the year, especially during the most challenging times.

A New Year and New Beginnings

NewYearsResolutions_main_0
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.

liturgical_calendar

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!