Junior Class Ring Mass

Tonight, Archmere Academy’s Junior Class received their class rings. Over the next 13 months, these rising seniors will make decisions that lead them to the next chapter of their lives. With the support of their families and the strong foundation of an Archmere education, I am confident their successes will exceed the desks and chairs of the classroom.

Earlier this evening, I spoke briefly about the significance of the Ring Mass and the class ring, which remind us of this foundation.

Members of the Junior Class,

As we conclude this momentous event – the Junior Class Ring Mass, when your rings are blessed and distributed among you – I think about family sayings.

You know these sayings, the one’s your parents may often talk about. They usually start with, “My mother always used to say to me…” or, “Your grandfather always said…” Often times these parental remarks are made during the holidays or on special occasions, especially when the person who used to say them is no longer with us to celebrate.

Well, this evening the Archmere family is offering you another saying that will be forever added to your personal history – Pietate et Scientia. Translated, it means “Reverence and Wisdom.” Archmere’s motto was selected by Abbot Crets of Averbode Abbey in Belgium during the early part of the 20th century.

junior class ring mass

Class Rings of the Class of 1976

Abbot Crets selected this motto to be included in his coat of arms when he was elected Abbot General of the international Norbertine community. During Abbot Crets time as Abbot General, Archmere Academy was founded. Very much like family sayings that are adopted by each successive generation in our own families, Archmere adopted Abbot Crets’ motto, including it on all of the graduates’ rings.

On the other side of the Archmere ring is another Latin motto – Ad omne opus bonum paratus. Translated, it means “Prepared for every good work.” This is a quote taken from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, 2:21.

Used by the international Norbertine community as a “call to arms,” this quote is incorporated into the last phrase of Archmere’s mission statement:

Inspired by its heritage, Archmere cultivates empathetic leaders – young men and women prepared for every good work.

As classmates of the Class of 2014, you are connected to each other. You are connected to all Archmere alumni. But in addition to this Archmere family, you are also connected to the 2,000 years of faith and heritage of the international Norbertine community, its schools and apostolates around the world.

In graduating, you are, in the words of Saint Paul, “prepared for every good work.” Welcome to the Archmere “workforce” in the world.


41st Honors Convocation

On Wednesday, we recognized students at Archmere who, throughout the course of the year, have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership at the 41st Honors Convocation ceremony, held in the Performing Arts Center. Below is my address to the students.

At this 41st Honors Convocation, when we recognize academic excellence, achievement, and leadership, I would like to talk about failure.
41st honors convocation headmaster's remarks
Mark Shead, in an article entitled, “The Five Most Important Leadership Traits,” references five leadership traits and qualities, according to the research of Kouzes and Posner:

  • Honest
  • Forward-looking
  • Competent
  • Inpsiring
  • Intelligent

    Shead goes on to say that effective leaders demonstrate these traits, and in doing so, draw more people to their cause.

    Focusing on the first trait, honesty, Shead says that a true leader does not miss the opportunity to display honesty when he or she admits to making a mistake. Leaders need to take risks, and sometimes things just don’t work out. It is in these moments when leaders need to be honest enough to admit failure and to change course.

    In thinking about your lives as teenagers and all that you manage, I can only imagine the pressures you feel – build the resume, stand out as a unique applicant to that college or university of your choice, run the race and break the record. Do it all. Be it all. And don’t make a mistake like getting a “C” on your transcript.

    These are wonderful aspirations, and we should work our hardest (which can be somewhat subjective) to achieve them. But often, we do not meet 100% of our goals 100% of the time. It is in those time when we fall short of our expectations – when we fail miserably, in fact – that true leaders “regroup.”

    We analyze and reflect.

    We acknowledge what went wrong, and in doing so, learn from it and make attempts to correct it, if possible.

    Author and researcher Jim Collins has been studying what makes “excellent” organizations excellent by studying the leadership of these “excellent” organizations.

    Collins found that great leaders not only have discipline and vision, but also a sense of humility. They listen to the advice of great people. They assemble around them. Most importantly, they learn from their failures.

    About 1,000 years before Collins’ research, Saint Norbert, I believe, exemplified these skills of great leadership in the very challenging times of 11th century Europe. His deeds and actions have made an impact on the lives of countless people, more than a millennium after his death.

    Saint Norbert was born into nobility and influence. He was very intelligent, and a charismatic speaker.

    The first signs of true leadership emerged when Norbert disagreed with King Henry V, who thought it his right as sovereign to invest bishops and priests. After King Henry’s forces surrounded the Vatican and forced the Pope to allow lay investiture, Norbert left the court of King Henry, giving up his financial security and privileged lifestyle.

    Norbert became an itinerant preacher. He did not join a religious community, though asked. Norbert had a vision. He had a vision of what a religious community should be. He realized he needed to start anew.

    In 1120, Norbert founded a new community in an obscure part of France called Prémontré, where he formed a religious community of both men and women, lay and ordained, supporting one another.

    It was 1120, yet Norbert conceived of a very contemporary model of community. Men and women lived separately as equals. Ordained and lay religious worked together. And Norbert envisioned that his community would grow internationally with each new community reflecting the local culture, and supporting the needs of the people in that locale.

    That is leadership – honesty, forward-looking, competent, inspiring, intelligent.

    It is not, however, a “happily ever after story.”
    41st honors convocation headmaster's remarks
    In his book, The Order of Premontre: History and Spirituality, Father Bernard Ardura notes the great successes of the early Norbertine communities in flourishing abbeys and schools. Ardura even mentions a Norbertine priest who proposed a flying machine contemporary to Leonardo Da Vinci (slide #23). But Ardura also chronicles the Norbertine’s failures – poorly funded abbeys, unsuccessful ventures that closed, and even unfaithful community members.

    This is just one small part of the wonderfully rich Norbertine heritage that is Archmere’s. What we need to take from it is the works that continue to survive long after we die come from those people who have honestly acknowledged mistakes along the way and learned from them, only to be stronger, improved, and enriched by other gifts.

    So, this evening, I congratulate you on your achievements based on your hard work, your mistakes, and all those moments that leave a hole in your stomach or give you a headache. Because I know for you to be here now at this 41st Honors Convocation, you overcame them. You learned from them. You were true to yourself and to your faith.

    I celebrate your potential as the future leaders of the world who will construct a reality based on community, respect, zeal, reverence, and wisdom, in the hope that one day our world does not have to experience another Enron, another Bernie Madoff scandal, another economic meltdown, oil spill, or terrorist attack.

    I give thanks to God for bringing you here to Archmere, with the support of your families who have sacrificed much so that you can have the best education possible through the dedication of your teachers. I am so proud of each of you, as are your teachers, your parents, your families, and your friends.


“Pray Hard”

On Wednesday, March 6, there was a flurry of media coverage around the Dow Jones Industrial Average breaking an all-time high – and, as I write this, the average sits at 14,338.81, up 0.3% from the opening bell.

This news of economic upswing (even if slight,) provides a contrast to the early days of the school, when Father McKeough and the other Norbertines who became the first faculty of Archmere exhausted all of their resources to generate funds for the Academy.

raskob estate hagley museum

John J. Raskob Estate, 1927
Dallin Aerial Survey Company

I recently finished reading “Passages and Transitions: A Reflection on the First Eighty Years of Daylesford Abbey” by Father Francis Cortese, O. Praem. In his researched work, Father devotes a section to the foundation of Archmere Academy, in which he includes some of the correspondence between the first headmaster of Archmere, Father Michael McKeough and Abbot Pennings, head of the Norbertine Community in America at Saint Norbert Abbey in DePere, Wisconsin.

Much of this correspondence deals with the Norbertines’ struggle to keep the school afloat.

In a November 30, 1932 letter to the Abbot, Father McKeough wrote:

“Father Hurley has a thousand dollars coming on an insurance policy which he offered today to collect. We both have our government ‘bonus’ of which we can collect fifty percent of the face value, which in our case would amount to about eight hundred dollars. Even these will not carry us far.”

Not two full months later, on January 28, 1933 he wrote:

“My bank balance is below fifty dollars. I don’t know where I can get the money to pay the salaries due the end of this week. Debts, debts, appeals, demands, every day. Something must be done soon. We must either get some money or quit.”

In the middle of the Depression, Archmere leadership struggled with keeping the school open. On June 19, 1933 in response to Fr. McKeough’s letters, Abbot Pennnings wrote:

“The enclosed 2 items will help you some to tide over the hard times of beginning a new institution. Let us hope and keep hoping that we may pull through the lean years. The one item as you can see is from Fr. Kirkfleet, who cancelled his life insurance and collected what was due him. The other item $700 I have borrowed.”

Apparently, the assistance of the Abbot, though appreciated, was not sufficient to meet all of the obligations. Again, Fr. McKeough writes on July 20, 1933:

“I have been waiting as patiently as I can for some financial help but it is hard to be patient when creditors are calling up and writing letters day after day and asking for their money, which is due them. I have made excuses and promises until I don’t know what to say any more. Our own income since school left out has been insufficient even for salaries. As a result I haven’ t paid the food bills for June and some of them not even for May.”

In another letter, Father McKeough concludes:

“The depression is really getting worse . . . Some people are withdrawing their boys at the 2nd semester. They cannot even meet a reduced rate, and they are honest people, others leave them here with perhaps no intention to pay all their dues. . . I cannot help to feel discouraged at times. Let us pray hard.”

These words – “pray hard” – at a time of seemingly insurmountable obstacles reveal the deep faith and mettle of these founding Norbertines who sacrificed much for generations of students and families they would never know. They were not even sure that their efforts would be lasting and that Archmere would survive the early years, and yet they continued to persevere.

As I read these accounts, I thought about the lessons learned and particularly reflected on during this Lenten season – the meaning of sacrifice; belief in a divine plan that is not your plan; obedience to God’s will (which is not always joyful but sometimes stressful and difficult); and the understanding that riches are not always measured by the Dow, but by the experience of community created by shared work and sacrifice.

In the coming weeks, we have a number of Archmere community events beginning with the Memorial Mass sponsored by the Alumni Association on Sunday, March 10, followed by a celebration of Archmere spirit on Thursday evening, March 14, at the Springfield Country Club.

On March 17, the Green Concert Series presents an afternoon of Irish music and dance in the Patio. The following weekend, the Mothers’ Guild Garage Sale takes place on Saturday, March 23, followed by the Fine Arts Festival on the same day starting at 4:30 PM.

We are so fortunate to be able to share many gifts and talents to present these events for the benefit of preserving and growing the Archmere experience. We follow in the footsteps of our first founders who sacrificed much and stayed the course.

May this Lent be a time for you to reflect on all that you do and all that you willingly sacrifice as a response to God’s will and presence in your life.  And may your Easter be a time of joy and celebration for you and your family.