March 15

Way back in 2002, when I first began teaching British Literature, I always began the year with “Beowulf”. We talked in class about rune letters and the runic alphabet, and I’d have my students memorize The Rune of Saint Patrick. A beautiful and meaningful prayer, it captures the reason we, as Catholics remember and celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day each year. The legend of Saint Patrick tells us that he “drove the snakes out of Ireland” and into the sea. Of course, as we grow older, we know that snakes were a metaphor for evil, darkness, pagan beliefs and that Saint Patrick was credited with bringing the word of God and the message of Jesus’ power to save to the people of Ireland. 

If Saint Patrick were with us today, what would we ask him for protection from? What snakes need to be driven out—from our communities, our schools, our culture, and our country? What message of love and redemption and salvation would he bring into the world as we know it right now? Sadly, we’ll never know for certain what Saint Patrick would have offered protection from if he were here right now. However, as we prepare to celebrate his memory this week, let us take a moment on March 17th to reflect on the words of The Rune of Saint Patrick and to call upon him in prayer. He, like all the saints we venerate in the Catholic Church, are still with us, to provide guidance and love and protection, whenever we lift our voices and hearts in prayer to their memories. 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from Saint Dominic Academy!

In this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

~The Rune of St. Patrick

March 8

I just read the most creative book! It was called The Ghost in Apartment 2R. It’s a book I was “previewing” before I gave it to Abigail to read; wanted to make sure it wasn’t too scary. I sat up two nights to read the 200 pages and I’m looking forward to talking with her about it as she now begins to read it.  We’re a reading house—during Read Across America and always so, I love the onset of March, when the internet is filled with options for children to participate in Read Across America.  

Saint Dominic Academy is hard at work embracing these reading initiatives; our National Honor Society is reading Bedtime  Stories via Zoom all month long, and they also partnered with University Heights Charter School to read to the k-2 students at an assembly. If you follow our Student Council and/or SDA Instagram, you’ll see our faculty taking a few moments to read either their favorite bedtime story from childhood, or an excerpt from one of their current favorite novels.  Our Advancement Office is working to coordinate a small Author’s Panel for our students, one that features alumnae authors and a current student whose work has been published.  A love reading is most certainly being fostered within the Saint Dominic Academy community.

For me, reading is almost as essential as breathing; I am always in the middle of at least two books ( one fiction, one non-fiction), plus I re-read every book that Abigail is reading or that, in years past, I was teaching for a class. My Kindle travels everywhere with me and one of my favorite questions to ask family when I see them is “ What are you reading?”  I’m never without a “recommendation” for others, no matter what genre someone likes and I have had friends reach out to me, saying “ Can you recommend something for ______________; he/she just doesn’t like reading.” I’m always happy to suggest a long list of titles, because not like reading is such a foreign concept to me.  However, I am aware that not everyone is as avid a reader as I am and so, in honor of Read Across America, I thought I’d just give a few suggestions to the young women of SDA ( and to anyone else looking for a good book), as to some of my favorite stories to curl up with.  As the winds of March blow and the evenings are blustery, instead of binge watching Netflix, maybe try one of these instead. 

For Horror Fans:

Bag of Bones – Stephen King

The Haunting of Hill House  Shirley Jackson

The Historian Elizabeth Kostova*

For Fantasy Fanatics:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy- J.R. R. Tolkein

The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling*

Historical Fiction:

Beloved- Toni Morrison 

The Color Purple- Alice Walker 

The Little House Series- Laura Ingalls Wilder *

Romance:

The Bridges of Madison County– Robert James Waller

Message in a Bottle– Nicholas Sparks

The Blue Bistro– Elin Hilderbrand *

Waiting To Exhale – Terry McMillan

The Wedding– Dorothy West 

Mystery/Thriller:

Anything by Agatha  Christie!

The Thirteenth Tale– Diane Setterfield

The Lost Symbol- Dan Brown 

Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier *

Non Fiction:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- Jon Berendt *

Three Weeks with My Brother- Nicholas Sparks

Into Thin Air– Jon Krakauer 

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings– Maya Angelou 

The Sunflower– Simon Wisenthal 

And my lists could go on and on and on…this is just a short compiling of some of the hundreds of books I’d happily recommend to anyone at SDA ( or elsewhere) who asked me for a recommendation. I’m placing a * next to my favorite in each category and I do hope, during March and onward, if you choose to read any of the works I recommend, you email me. The one thing more fun than reading is talking about and sometimes tearing apart, books with another fellow reader!

March 1

“Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty… ~The Winter’s Tale | William Shakespeare.

This quote was hanging in my home all throughout my childhood. Long before I studied The Winter’s Tale as an undergraduate literature major, I carried this quote with me and it came to mind yearly at just about this time. While the snow around us melts into puddles that run down the streets, if you look here and there over the next few weeks, you’ll see the buds of daffodils, of crocuses, and the first froth of that lemon yellow forsythia emerging from the depths of winter. March can be a long month, no doubt about that, but if we learn to look for the first signs of spring under the sometimes windy and blustery March skies, we can see the promise of new life at Easter all throughout nature.

So too, do our hearts and souls need to dust off the snow and sleet that have them covered; perhaps covered for longer than just this winter season. The Lenten season is all about repentance, seeking forgiveness, and celebrating once again our personal relationship with God. I would venture to say, from last March until now, our personal relationship with God may have grown even deeper and stronger; isolated from so many, we needed to call on His strength more and more often, leaning on our faith, perhaps much more than we’ve done so in past Lenten seasons. 

Let us not, as more and more “signs of life” emerge this spring both in the world that surrounds us and in our own expanding social circles, forget the One who was with us, who carried us from March of last year until now. This Lenten season, while each of us has something to repent for in the quiet of our souls, our reflections daily should take us to a place of thanks, for the solace and comfort God provided us this past year. All this month, as we draw closer and closer to Holy Week, let us each try to set time aside daily, to stop and look for the signs of spring that God sends into our lives, and let us remember to pause and say Thank You…for without His love, nothing else could possibly sustain us all “winter” long.

Wishing you a peaceful Lenten season and a beautiful path to spring.

February 15

Have you ever fallen down a “rabbit hole”? You know what I mean…an internet search “rabbit hole.” You look for information on one thing and hours later, you are still at the computer, learning about things you never even knew you wanted to know about. This happens to me, more often than I really care to admit…and it happened on this past Sunday. It started simply enough, I was reading a brief list of anticipated movies in 2021 and one was called The Vigil. The description indicated it had to do with a shomer. 

And off I went—what’s a shomer? Well, in the Jewish religion it’s someone who sits with the body after death. Why do they do this? Well, that led to a page all about Jewish funeral and burial customs (very interesting) which then led to a page about Muslim burial customs and just as Alice did in Lewis Carroll’s classic work, I went further and further down the rabbit hole. I’m glad I did, because it brought me to a reflective state that’s been on my mind all week long. In short, I began to wonder, what effect has COVID-19 had on funeral, burial and mourning customs in the past year? And, what would the long term effects be on society in general; the inability to gather to mourn, the inability to say farewell to someone in their religious traditions, the inability to have hospice care or palliative care in one’s home. Sobering thoughts for Valentine’s Day weekend, and yet in reality it is love that connects us to all of these final traditions—the love we have for our family and friends that causes us to grieve, to mourn, and to send our departed to God in a certain manner. COVID-19 has destroyed many things since last February and the ability to grieve as we wish is one of those things.

Still, the question begs, why am I writing about this instead of Valentine’s Day or Lincoln and Washington or the approaching Lenten season or even Mardi Gras? It’s a big few days spanning 2-14 and 2-17 this year. I think it’s because I could not get out of my mind that phrase each of us hear when people are talking about dying… “In the midst of life, we are in death.” How true that statement is, this year especially as we watched for daily counts of losses due to COVID-19. Even the youngest among our households could not be completely shielded from the fact that death was literally all around us; it had us on lockdown for most of the year. But what we didn’t hear much about, at least I didn’t, was how once death came, those who were left behind were able to cope with the loss and how, for many families across the country and the world, that the grieving process, so essential to us in life, was incomplete at best. 

If you turn on your TV or scroll social media these days, you hear about the vaccine, the rollout, who gets it first in which state et al. You see people with their stickers announcing their vaccination status, you can watch videos of health care workers administering the doses, you see indoor dining opening up, entertainment venues opening up, and we won’t even get into the heated debate about schools…I’ll just say my feeling is that all those in education are doing the best they can. You can once again buy tickets to a major league baseball game, it looks hopeful for Broadway to be open by the fall, vacations ( with masks) are once again being planned…and there’s a sense of re-emerging from the pandemic and coming out on the other side. Hope springs eternal and perhaps this spring season, more than ever in anyone’s memory, people will have a renewed sense of hope. However, for some it will be a hope tainted with sadness; because for every person lost to COVID-19, there’s been an imbalance in the grieving process for their loved ones. The tales I read during my time in the “rabbit hole” were heartbreaking and I will not heavy your hearts with them in detail. Suffice to say, the words I read and the images I saw are things I will carry with me, always. 

So, while God would want us to be hopeful, to see the rainbow shining through the darkness of the past year, to rejoice in the goodness of medical breakthroughs and the slow reemergence of gathering as we did once before, with hugs and laughter among friends, He would also remind us to never once forget those who are not with us, nor the families who lost so much. Those who lost a loved one lost that person in their lives; but they also lost the ability to say goodbye just as they would have wanted, the ability to have others help them grieve, and the ability to come to terms with loss surrounded by the warm embrace of family. We cannot ever lose the memory of all that loss and we should work to expand our sense of compassion and understanding as we move forward. Now and in the future, compassion is what everyone will need most.

Rose Fitgerald Kennedy once said “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

How fitting those words are in light of what we’ve all lived through from last March until now. And how important they are, when it comes to us understanding and empathizing with the sadness of others, even as we celebrate our own joys in the coming months.

Happy Valentine’s Day and my prayers to all in the Saint Dominic Academy community who are grieving a loss. You have my sympathy and my empathy always.

Saint Dominic Academy’s National Honor Society Presents…

BEDTIME STORIES For READ ACROSS AMERICA

National Honor Society Students & Faculty Volunteers will pair one on one with your child, via Zoom for a ½ hour read aloud and discussion. 

It’s the perfect way to wind down the little ones before bedtime!

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays in March

March 2nd, March 4th March 9th, March 11th, March 16th, March 18th, March 23rd, March 25th, and March 30th 

Time:  7:00pm- 7:30pm

Age Range: 3 year olds to 9 year olds

(older siblings welcome to join the Zoom!) 

To sign up, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/GriwJ1vc2cDTLqHg6

You will receive a confirmation email with a Zoom link and the name of your Reader(s). 

There is NO cost and you can sign up more than once! Looking forward to fostering a love of reading all month long!

February 1

Today, I share with the entire Saint Dominic Academy community the letter regarding on site instruction that was given to our parents and students last week. We ask for the continued prayers of all who love Saint Dominic Academy, as we work hard to continue to provide both remote and in person learning options for the young women under our care.

Thank you for being so understanding and cooperative this week as we once again navigated the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic and its continual impact on our school community.  I had the opportunity to speak with some parents over the course of this week, and as always, I welcome the opportunity to talk with each and every one of you, should you ever wish to express your concerns and frustrations to me.

Every time I communicate with parents and students, I stress over and over again that the administration, faculty and staff of Saint Dominic Academy have been, from day one constantly committed to ensuring stellar education while at the same time keeping everyone in our “family” safe. That’s been quite a challenge from last March onward, and even when we make a decision we never consider it fully final—we are constantly re-evaluating and discussing the situations connected to our school, as we realize circumstances change quickly in the face of this pandemic.

The commitment to the health and safety of all truly extends to all—the dedicated and caring teachers who currently teach remotely for health reasons, those who are temporarily unable to with us due to quarantine or COVID recovery, and those who can be present on site, even if it’s at personal sacrifice—the inability to see family or friends due to their interactions at school. At all times, we are considering every single student under our care, those who wish to be remote and as well as those who wish to be in person, those who have the desire to participate in sports and those who chose to remain at home, relatively isolated until this pandemic is finally behind us.

I’ve made no secret of my disappointment in the fact that, in NJ, teachers are unable to be vaccinated as of yet. It’s a risk to their health when they enter the classroom—although we have taken every safety precaution and although we know you join with us in ensuring the young ladies take the necessary precautions as well, there is always a risk of exposure.  That said, our teachers, whether they are remote or able to be on-site, put the needs of our students first and foremost at all times.

It is in that vein that I am able to announce today that the administration has re-evaluated our remote learning status, and as of Monday February 8th, when  teachers who were quarantined are fully able to return, we will once again make an effort to have a hybrid learning option for those young ladies who wish to return to Saint Dominic Academy.  I know this news will please many of you and I am happy to be able to offer this in person learning option.  Students who wish to be remote may still opt to do so at any time, via an email to Mrs. Farrales ( gfarrales@stdominicacad.com) and those who wish to come off our remote list and return to hybrid can do so by also informing Mrs. Farrales.

Our commitment to returning to hybrid learning does not mean that we can 100% assure that we will be able to remain open at all times, for the duration of the school year. Our commitment to health and safety has not wavered and as such, if there is a need for quarantine, a need to re-evaluate the hybrid model due to rising numbers, or due to anticipated travel plans and higher risk of exposure after the Easter recess, we will do so.  Furthermore, as we move into the spring, the schedule may once again need to be adjusted, depending upon how the College Board plans to implement AP testing. I do have to ask for your cooperation and consideration in all of these situations, as they are yet unknown fully.

Teachers who are remote for health related reasons will continue to be remote until further notice. I ask that you please keep in mind that these men and women are fully dedicated to their roles as teachers; the only difference is where they are teaching. We have all, in our jobs and day to day activities had to be more understanding and accommodating from last March onward, and of course, we should all continue to do so.

Additionally, while we remain committed to our athletic program as well, it has been noted that more and more exposures in schools, especially colleges and universities, has come about due to athletics. While I do not ever want to even ponder the idea of not having athletics, I am going to ask our student athletes, parents, and our coaches to be even more diligent and take every single precaution to ensure that all rules are being followed at all times.  We must be very careful, especially as we are in the season of indoor sports right now.

In person learning on our hybrid schedule will commence on Monday, February 8th with our 10th and 12th grade students as well as our 8th grade, in the building. Please note, that Friday, February 12 and Monday February 15, Saint Dominic Academy is closed for President’s Day weekend.  In person learning on our hybrid schedule will commence for  our 9th and 11th grade students, as well as our 8th grade on Tuesday February 16th

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call or email me. I ask for your continued prayers—as I said earlier in the week, this is not an easy time to be a student or a parent, nor is it an easy time to be a teacher, school staff member or a school administrator. We are doing the very best we can, in extremely challenging circumstances. Please, let us remember that and continue to be kind, respectful and pray for one another always.

Most sincerely,

Sarah Degnan Barbi

Head of School

Peter Pan Cast List

Come away to Neverland with SDA this spring…think of the happiest things! 

Peter Pan – Alyssa Fuentes 

Wendy Moira Angela Darling – Reagan Mattiello 

Captain Hook – Max Rueda 

Mrs. Darling – Isabel LeCompte

Mr. Darling – Joanna DeJesus 

John Napoleon Darling – Luke Mullins

Michael Darling – Sal DeSarle-Scarpulla

Smee – Abby Barbi 

Tiger Lily – Miya Morrison 

Nana/Crocodile – Annabel Calabrese

Liza – Carolina Quito 

Jane – Elle Mullins 

Featured Lost Boys/Pirates/Natives :

Lyeba Jadun 

Isabella Betancourt 

Christis Shepherd 

January 18

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

Today, as we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should reflect not only on his inspiring words, but ask ourselves as a nation—has the dream Dr. King spoke so eloquently about in 1969 truly been achieved? Or, as the celebrated poet Langston Hughes queries, has the dream of Dr. King been deferred?  While there is no doubt we’ve made great strides forward from that historic day when his speech was delivered to thunderous applause in Washington, D.C.,  we are still tasked as a country to fully come together and allow for the full realization of his dream to come to fruition.

Let us all take a moment to read excerpts from the immortal and impassioned speech of Dr. King and allow them to speak to us in the quiet of our own minds.  

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today…

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

August 28, 1963

January 11

I consider myself a good writer; certainly not one who will be studied in the halls of universities after I am gone, but I’ve been writing for a long time and I do feel, every so often, my writing can touch someone’s heart, stir their emotions, or perhaps even make a person consider a different point of view. However, I also consider myself an intelligent woman and I know better than to attempt to convey a message with new words when those great writers and orators who have gone before me have left much more meaningful words that I can “borrow” and impart.

And so, as we return to the second portion of our school year, as 2020 falls behind us like a shroud and 2021 moves forward from a murky and hazy horizon line to the center of our lives…let’s all listen to these excerpts from great American voices and hear not only with our ears, but with our hearts, the message they are sending to us all. Welcome to 2021, everyone! 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise. – Maya Angelou

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear…singing with mouths open their strong melodious songs – Walt Whitman 

They’ll see how beautiful I am …I, too, am America. – Langston Hughes

I prefer peace. But if trouble must come, let it come in my time, so my children can live in peace. Thomas Paine

It is the individual who can and does make a difference even in this increasingly populous, complex world of ours. – Sandra Day O’Connor 

Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children. – Chief Sitting Bull 

There is no life that does not contribute to history. – Dorothy West 

The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is that of my individual responsibility to God. – Daniel Webster

December 21

On this first day of Winter, 2020, I’d like to share with the entire Saint Dominic Academy family the Christmas reflection I sent to my own beloved family and friends this year. I hope its words are a source of comfort and inspiration as we head into Christmas.
Let nothing you dismay…
Tidings of comfort and joy…

Old lyrics take on new meanings this year.
As we draw closer to our inner circles,
Full of sadness perhaps ,
at this time of celebration.

We long for the days of gathering with
Loved ones near and far,
Of late night trips to the shops,
Of hot chocolate with friends,
Of cuddles on Santa’s lap.

Pause for just a moment…
Look up to the stars…
And remember long ago,
A tiny family, gathered in the stable,
Had all they needed in each other.

So too, do we this year, and always…
At our own quiet hearths, we have what matters most.

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