Christmas Reflection #1

During December, the Head of School’s Blog will be a series of reflections on the meaning of Christmas. All reflections have been composed by the Head of School in previous  years during the Christmas season. It is my sincere hope that these reflections will bring tidings of comfort and joy to you and your loved ones throughout the month of December.

In stages, it approaches…

Reflecting on thanks,

We turn shining eyes to December,

And welcome Advent.

Wide eyed with wonder,

Transformation begins,

And Christmas beauty emerges.

Our homes, our minds, our faces, our hearts,

Begin to prepare for HIS presence.

We awaken our Christmas selves

And emerge,

Transformed by God.

Together, let us celebrate the beauty that is Christmas! 

Originally written in 2016

Giving Tuesday…Support SDA!

It’s finally here…the much anticipated “most wonderful time of the year!” December is upon us and with it comes all of the joys of Christmas. From Advent calendars to candlelit windows, purple sunsets catching the glow of lights, pine and evergreen trees decorated with cherished family ornaments, the sound of carols on the radio and church choirs rehearsing for Midnight Mass…all of the love and festive spirit truly surrounds us for this month, wrapping us in the embrace of the joy of the birth of Christ.

How many of us, while we do enjoy the holiday cheer, have had to run out to buy “one last thing”, at least a dozen times? How many of us have run out of tape, of labels, of stamps for Christmas cards, of wrapping paper for that one oversized gift, and instead of feeling happy about the holidays, what we feel is frustration for a moment or two. With so much going on in just 25 short days, each of us is bound to forget something…that’s the nature of Christmas gift giving. Oh, we’ll throw on our coats and grumble a bit and run back to the store, and although the errand frustrates us, all of that is forgotten when the sun rises on Christmas morning. 

Today, let me take on the role of one of Santa’s “elves” and remind you about one very special gift you can make- from the comfort of your home. No wrapping paper needed, no tape, no label- just you and your phone or laptop or any tech device you choose. This gift, which will only take a moment to give, will benefit not one special person, but over 200 dedicated, hardworking young women who are pursuing their dreams right this very minute. 

December 3 is Giving Tuesday and there is no better gift you can make than a gift to Saint Dominic Academy. Your donation fuels dreams, motivates the leaders of tomorrow, inspires girls to achieve their goals…what better gift could you give than a gift that ensures a bright future for a young lady determined to succeed? As we all know, when it comes to gift giving, its not the size that matters but the fact that the gift comes from the heart. We at SDA would welcome your gift this Giving Tuesday…any and all donations to our school will help change the lives of our students, both this year, and far into the future.

Now is the time to support your SDA family! Now is the time to give! Please, take one moment at the start of this holiday season and make a donation to Saint Dominic Academy. You will have the thanks and love of over 200 young women who are most deserving and grateful.

Happy December!

Veteran’s Day Prayer

The Head of School asks for prayers for the loss of her grandfather, Nicholas Carmen Fargo- a veteran of World War II. We pray for him and all the veterans who have gone before him, today, on Veteran’s Day.

Dear Lord,

Today we honor our veterans, worthy men and women who gave their best when they were called upon to serve and protect their country.

We pray that you will bless them for their unselfish service in the continual struggle to preserve our freedoms, our safety, and our country’s heritage, for all of us.

Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced, for the sacrifices they made for their many different contributions to America’s victories over tyranny and oppression.

We respect them, we thank them, we honor them, we are proud of them. We pray that you will watch over these special people and bless them with peace and happiness.

Tricks of the Trade…

Those of us in the education “game” know well that there is more to teaching than just the three R’s. (reading, writing, rithmatic…as the old rhyme goes!) For those of us who teach to truly motivate and inspire the young minds gathered before us each day, we have to do way more than merely quote Shakespeare or recite the periodic table or place the Pythagorean theorem on the chalkboard. (Do we even have chalkboards these days?!) It’s no longer enough to know what the green light on Gatsby’s dock symbolizes, or who won the Battle of Yorktown, or the theory that early birds were descended perhaps from dinosaurs. Knowledge is, of course a gift that we who teach have, but our job is not only to turnkey that knowledge over to our students, but rather lead them toward the vast connections that can be made both across a genre of study and inspire them to want to learn more about a myriad of given subjects.

Within the walls of private education, we have been given a gift- the gift of NOT having to “teach to the test.” I know for certain that the men and women teaching in the classrooms here at Saint Dominic Academy are gifted educators, grateful for the opportunity to make their daily lessons and yearly curriculums active, engaging and most of all interesting to the young ladies sitting before them. I am in awe of what I see in our classrooms during the year: an Escape Room based upon A Midsummer Night’s Dream!, a crime scene worthy of CSI set up in ELAN!, robots that walk across the science labs! Cross curricular hikes between English and Science class! Connections between classic novels and contemporary music! Day of the Dead altars in Spanish Honors! Trips to French restaurants where only French can be spoken! The list goes on and on…seemingly endless in its creativity, its desire to tap into the minds of the students, to attune them not only to the lessons found between the pages of a text, but rather, the connections those lessons have to the larger world around them. 

I applaud the teachers at Saint Dominic Academy; their bold and engaging classes, their embrace of the unconventional teaching methods, their desire to have students truly develop a love for learning and an appreciation for every subject they are exposed to during their years of 7th -12th grade. Our young ladies are being given more than just a paper and pen education when they come to SDA; they are being given a thought provoking and creative educational experience- one that they will never forget and one that will serve them well all the days of their lives.

Cheers to the faculty and staff at SDA! May their creative juices never run dry and may their classrooms always be filled with energy, excitement and engaging lessons. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you do for our students!

The Eve of the Ring Ceremony…

Tomorrow night, the members of the class of 2021 will officially become upper class women at Saint Dominic Academy. They will gather at Saint Aloysius church and prepare to receive the school ring, a symbol of their “official” transition. It is an exciting event for our juniors; coupled with their Ring Dance which will be held on November 7th– just a few short weeks away. Today, as they reflect on their past two years here at Saint Dominic Academy and look forward to what the future holds for them, beginning tomorrow night, all of us here at the school will keep the young ladies of the junior class in our prayers. It’s a big step- the beginning of the end of high school. 

Tomorrow night, I will use my brief remarks to encourage the girls to use the rest of their time with us at SDA wisely, and then, go forth and change the world for the better. After all, although it seems impossible, the members of the class of 2021 only have about 19 months before it is time for them to head to Saint Aedan’s Church to graduate from high school. 

In reflecting on what I want to say to these young women, I did a bit of thinking about the symbol of the ring in regard to the ring ceremony. Rings…very important things, are they not? These little circles. We all wear at least one, at one time or another, right? However is the ring ceremony event really about the ring inside the box? Or is it about something more…something that the circle represents? That eternal circle, no beginning, no ending, unbreakable…a circle that can never be destroyed. 

The true meaning of the Saint Dominic Academy Ring Ceremony is not for the young ladies to go home with a new piece of jewelry. Rather it is for all of them to move forward as upper class women at Saint Dominic Academy, after two years of forging friendships, of getting to know each other, of having ups and downs, petty disagreements, moments of angst, joys and tears, to finally reach that moment of maturity where their circle is fully forged…unbreakable…no beginning, no ending…just the bond of the class of 2021- the memories already created and the ones they will create over the next 19 months. 

That’s what the Ring Ceremony really about; the substance behind the symbol; the event is not about the ring, but about all the ring represents- it’s this class’s own unbreakable bond of sisterhood, a sisterhood that has been rooted in the Catholic Dominican tradition for 141 years, a sisterhood that will live on in their hearts long after the class of 2021 leaves Saint Dominic Academy. That’s the purpose- for these young ladies to forge that circle together and after the ceremony ends, that circle can never ever be broken or destroyed. I know you will join me in welcoming the class of 2021 into the role of upper class women at Saint Dominic Academy and commend each of them on the lasting bond of friendship they have forged with each other.

Remarks from the Mother Daughter Brunch…

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Saint Dominic Academy Mother Daughter Brunch and to spend some time celebrating that bond between mothers and daughters with my own little girl at my side. I’d like to share today my remarks from that event…

Good morning and welcome to the Mother Daughter Brunch. This event, coupled with the Father Daughter Dance are, hands down my two favorite Saint Dominic Academy events each year. I love sharing in these events with you and your daughters and also important to me is the fact that I am able to have my daughter here today, and my dad at the dance each year. It really brings home the message that our SDA community truly is, at its heart, a family.

Most of you, in fact I am fairly certain, all of you know that we are putting on Hairspray! at SDA this year. What a fun show it is…so it’s kind of strange that every time I assist with rehearsals (yes, I wear many hats!) there is one song that has me in tears. Well, I guess that’s not too shocking, as most of your daughters know I am often moved to tears and/or overcome with emotion, but it’s a happy song, a funny song and so, why am I crying over it as I watch our girls- yours and mine perform it onstage? 

The number is called “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now!” and it’s just that age old mother-daughter argument, set to a catchy tune. The teenage daughters in the song are begging for their independence- they want to date, they want to spread their wings, they want to do what all teens want to do—if not cut the cord, then stretch it as far as they can, while still knowing that Mama will be there when they need to come home. And the moms in the song, well, they only sing three words over and over “Stop! Don’t! No!” The effect is humorous, to say the least; and our audience is meant to sympathize with these poor teens whose moms don’t let them have any fun. And of course, we’ve staged it that way, for optimum laughs. However, when you come and see the show, I am willing to bet that my eyes won’t be the only ones filling up and spilling over onto my cheeks…because it’s oh so hard to see your little girl grow up to be a “big girl now”.

And yet, moms, that’s whose sitting next to you today; your teenage daughter, no more ribbons and Mary Janes and stuffed toys they need to take everywhere. All of a sudden, you have a companion- a friend one moment and at other moments, you may very well feel as if you are Burr and Hamilton at their final showdown—that’s the daily in and out of life with a teenage daughter. ( From what I remember…I am still only entering into the tween phase with my own!) I know, as a mom myself, that when you look at the young lady with you today, you can still see a brand new baby, a toddler, a 5 year old heading off to kindergarten, and all the stages that brought you here, to this day, to sitting together as not only mother and daughter, but as friends sharing an event together. 

I don’t know how your morning started before you got here- perhaps there was a little bit of “Stop! Don’t! No!” going on at your house as you both got dressed and ready to arrive. Goodness knows there is always a little bit of that going on at my house in the morning. That’s ok- that’s the way it is with moms and daughters…what matters is you’re here, you’re together, and you’re making a memory that you can look back on during those more “trying” moments in your relationship. It’s so hard, moms, to do as the daughters ask in the song and “ Give a push and watch me fly…”, but we know we’ve made raising our daughters to become radiant, successful, and empowered young women, beautiful inside and out, and so we can truly find the means to both carry them close to our hearts and let them fly out into the world.

And daughters, know this- it’s so hard to be a mom and to watch your baby girl grow up. It’s the hardest thing we have to do- and it starts happening the minute you come home with us. So, go easy on your moms; give in a little, every once in a while skip time with friends to hang with your mom. Don’t say your day was “fine”, sit down and TALK to your mom about it. And, every once in a while, give her a hug, for no reason other than she deserves many more hugs than you can ever possibly give her…she’s your mom- your friend for life…and even if you are all “big girls now”, you’ll always be her little girl.

October Horrors…

For many of us, October is that “scary time of year”. Jack o Lanterns on porches, Halloween lights in windows, witches flying across doors, ghostly apparitions on lawns…it’s endless. And let’s not forget TV; a parade of horror films, both good and bad, are on 24/7. Here at Saint Dominic Academy, the new Film Studies class is embracing “the horror” of the month, watching Psycho, Jaws, Poltergeist, and Scream.

However, a “spirited” celebration of all things spooky is not the only important issue of October. For women, from young to old, October also calls our focus toward two serious issues, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. These two situations, much scarier than any spectral sighting should be the focus for most of October. And at SDA, that’s just where our focus is…

On October 18th, we will raise funds for Women Rising, a Jersey City based organization that supports women and children who are experience domestic abuse. On October 22nd a speaker from that organization will address the young ladies in grades 9-12. Her focus will be not only the early warning signs of a potential abusive relationship, but how to take steps to prevent being in that situation, as well as, sadly, how to get out if you are indeed in on. 

On October 20th, SDA will raise funds to combat breast cancer by participating in the “Making Strides” walk. The link to that event is on the homepage of our website and, as in years past, we do have students and teachers working hard to raise funds to support this endeavor.

2 timely and essential issues; both that need the focus and attention of women, not just here at SDA but across our extended community and our nation at large. And so, before we focus on the “paranormal” aspects of October, let’s work to end two real horrors for women; horrors that many women suffer at the hands of, not just during October, but all year long.

Like Dreamers Do…

Friendship is a funny thing sometimes, and the deeper the friendship the more complex it is. Friendships formed during the heady days of youth can last a lifetime, this we know. However, that is not to say that they are not fraught with tension and turbulence, hurt feelings and times of estrangement. It’s a hard lesson to learn, that the person you feel closest to at one point in your life may be the person you are most estranged from at another point in your life. The level of trust, of understanding, of intimacy that grows and flourishes in a strong friendship can sometimes become almost too intense- leading to one or both of the parties to have to take a “step back” for a while. Friendship, in its variety of forms is truly the best gift each of us can have in our lives. However, the gift of true friends, friends for a lifetime, is a gift that comes with great responsibility and each of us have to be ready to take the joys along with the tension and sorrow.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the same best friend since I was 17 years old and from that time to today, the friendship is strong and true. But it takes work; quite a bit of work on both of our parts and there were times over the course of over 2 decades were tensions were high enough that it could have easily fallen apart. It’s a choice, always, to stick with a relationship that you feel is truly enriching your life, or to walk away when there are times of trouble. It’s hard – to be a good friend and to have a good friend, because both of those things require you to give up a little bit of you to become a little more attuned to them. When people describe friendship as “give and take”, it is the most apt description one can give. 

Friendship cannot be defined solely gifts given or hours spent in each other’s company or how much two people have in common. In fact, some friendships work best when there is distance – I know my best friend would agree that if we lived close to each other, instead of NJ and TX, the friendship might not be as strong, as loving and as long lasting as it is now. Our personalities, so well suited to forming a life- long friendship, could not always withstand being in the same room at the same time. And that’s perfectly ok- normal even. Your best friend might not be the person you can spend 24/7 with. It might be the person who, through deep conversations and even differences of opinion, helps shape you into the best version of yourself. And you might be that person for someone else- and that’s a great gift to bring to another’s life. Time, space, distance- none of these will be a debilitating factor for those great friendships that are destined to survive.

A case in point- a huge Beatles fan, I had the opportunity to listen to Paul McCartney being interviewed by Stephen Colbert in late September. Nobody who is a fan of rock music is unfamiliar with The Beatles, their glorious time together and their seemingly insurmountable discord that eventually dissolved their partnership as musicians. From their earliest time in The QuarryMen, Lennon and McCartney had that type of friendship that comes along once or twice in a lifetime, at the most. From the late 60’s onward, there was always a level of tension between them, but the bond of friendship was never truly broken. And so, I was moved to tears when I heard Paul McCartney say:

The thing is when you’ve had a relationship like that for so long—such a deep relationship—I love it when people revisit you in your dreams,” the singer said. “I’m often with John, just talking about doing something, and I go to get my half of the bass, and it’s covered in sticky tape….when Lennon’s around in dreams, it’s always good.” 

That’s friendship, pure and simple- and the truly the most beautiful expression of it I have heard in quite some time. Nothing, can come between a friendship that runs so deep; it seems not even death. All of us have the gift within us to forge friendships like that- friendships that transcend all of life’s barriers, friendships that are, of course, rocky at times but are in perfect harmony at others. I’ve heard, during my time at SDA countless alumnae tell me of friendships made in these halls that have lasted for decades and have maintained their strength even when spread across the country. You women know of the bonds of friendship that I am writing about today…you know that your friendships will be part of you for as long as you life, and if you are as lucky as Paul McCartney is, longer than that even.

Friendship, true friendship is eternal, it’s a constant, never ending example of perfect love, even if at times we only visit with each other in our dreams. The Beatles put it best, as they often do:

I get by with a little help from my friends!

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