Get Your Irish On…

This past weekend, one week before Saint Patrick’s Day, Jersey City celebrated – hosting a Saint Patrick’s Day Award Dinner and Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. This long standing Jersey City tradition was made extra special for all of us at Saint Dominic Academy this year, as sophomore Megan Dunne was named Miss Colleen. Megan, a 10th grade Honors student at SDA, also plays varsity soccer, basketball and runs outdoor track. She was recently named to First Team All County Soccer and was one of the top 75 Freshman Soccer Players in the State of NJ last year. NJ.com featured her this year as Player of the Week for soccer as well. Megan, who works diligently both in her classes and on the playing field, also shares her voice with Saint Dominic Academy, singing as a Domino in our world renowned Glee Club.

On Sunday, Megan was joined on her float by members of the Glee Club/Dominoes and the SDA Soccer team as we celebrated this honor and recognition for one of our most talented young ladies. Her duties as Miss Colleen did not end when the parade route reached Journal Square; Megan will participate in the Detective Michael SASniago JCPD Memorial Walk Wreath Laying and the JCPD Detective Marc A. DiNardo One Block Parade later in March.

Megan’s Saint Dominic Academy family is proud of this outstanding achievement and we ask all of our alumnae and friends to pray for Megan this month, as she serves as Jersey City’s Miss Colleen. May all of your March days be filled with laughter, love and a twinkle of Irish charm! Remember…everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day!

Ash Wednesday Reflections…

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of our Lenten Season. It marks the first of forty days, where we dedicate ourselves to prayer and reflection. As we ready our hearts and souls for the celebration of Easter in April, let us start our Lenten season by committing ourselves to re-focus and reflect on the truths in our lives. It is important that we dedicate a daily portion of this 40 day period to self examination, contemplation and reflection on God’s grace and His infinite mercy and to how we can reach out to those in need of comfort and hope and be for them, a Christ like image in their lives.

As March enters in like a lion- winds blowing, cold temperatures, still full of grey winter skies, barren trees, and frost covered ground, so too do our hearts and minds still carry that “winter weight”, holding us down, causing us at times to shrug our shoulders against the obstacles in our own little worlds, instead of reaching out to embrace change and grow to become better persons. The month of March truly reflects the changes that should take place within our hearts during the Lenten season; for as we reflect on God’s grace, our spirits should become less burdened, less weighted down and instead begin to fill with light, joy and hope as Easter draws closer. So too does our environment change, the light grows softer, the breezes grow warmer, and suddenly on one April day, we see the winter world transformed…into the beauty that is spring.

Allow your soul to change and lighten with the change of seasons. Today and tomorrow, prepare for Ash Wednesday by meditating and reflecting on the questions below. Prepare your heart to shed its winter weight this Lenten season and be open and ready to accept the miracle of Easter that God will send to us all on a beautiful April Sunday.

Ash Wednesday Reflection

For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink… Psalm 102:9

What personal sorrows haunt you, bringing you to pain and tears? As you reflect on your sorrows during this Lenten season, may you sense compassion growing inside you…a compassion for the sorrows of others.

As Lent begins, may my heart turn to you, O God.

May my repentance be truthful and sincere.

May my heart and mind become open to your guidance and grace.

May Your love guide me on this forty day journey and may I find joy

within my soul as the dawn rises on Easter.

Amen

Love What You Have…

On our most recent snowy day, Miss Abigail started to make out her birthday list. Eight items, because she will be turning eight. (As if that’s not hard for me to believe!) I was presented with a perfectly organized list, with not too many crazy demands; she did not really ask for anything unreasonable. However, I was shocked that she had undertaken such a writing exercise…because her birthday is in AUGUST! However, she already has her eyes on the prize(s), so to speak and I have to wonder why.

Perhaps it is because, in our daily society, every single thing is marketable and marketed. Young girls, still wearing bows in their hair, are the “target” audience for lip gloss, bath bombs, makeup sets, cell phones…the list can go on and on. What happened to baby dolls and paper dolls, and Barbie? I did not even own a cherry Chapstick when I was seven years old and if I asked for nail polish, I got clear only painted on by my mother! Times have changed and unfortunately, if we are not careful, the way young women think as they move toward adulthood will change as well.

It’s not a just a case of growing up too quickly. It could become a case of raising a generation that sees the gift, whatever form it takes, as more important than the giver. And that is a real hazard in this world; the idea that things count more, are valued more, are more important than people. And that mindset is seemingly starting at a younger and younger age, and, even worse, it is emulated by older women in the spotlight; via social media, television and of course, the internet. When children as young as seven or eight see all the fuss that is made over a celebrity’s engagement ring or an actress’s multi million dollar wedding or an actor’s sprawling mansion complete with every accessory on the earth…then perhaps they start to want more “things” too. After all, if they see that “splurge” taking place all around them, then why wouldn’t they expect to be constantly splurged on as well?

This is dangerous, murky water for impressionable girls. ( Boys too…but as I have a girl, my concern lies deeply there!) For, while we want young women to feel confident, sure of themselves and empowered, what we don’t want is for them to feel as if they deserve everything, regardless of sticker price because, as commercials are so apt to say “you’re worth it!”. There’s a catch phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it and one I think we should be wary of all of our daughters hearing. Because, what message does it send, really? That if I don’t buy all 8 items on that birthday list, than I don’t think she’s “worth it”? That if you don’t buy the thousand dollar prom dress for your senior in high school, she’s not “worth it”? And it goes on and on, the older we get…if someone does not get down on one knee with a 3 carat ring…do you see how this mindset grows more and more harming as girls grow into women?

We all show the girls we love how much they are worth to us, how much they mean to us. We do it with bedtime stories and kisses on the forehead and early morning hugs, and small gestures of affection…some of which are probably unnoticed on a day to day basis. We stay up late baking cupcakes for birthdays, fathers bring home flowers for dance recitals, cards are slipped into tiny lunch boxes…the little things we do for those we love are what truly show the people we love how much we value and appreciate them. Grand gestures are beautiful at times, but only if we don’t feel we are entitled to them.

What should we be raising this generation of girls to do? We should be raising them to be thankful, to be appreciative of the special people in their lives. We should be sending forth the message that when love is given…love is enough…material things are not needed or necessary in order for a person to show how much another means to them. We should be daily reinforcing the message that “when you love what you have, you have everything you need.”

And, as February comes to an end, a month bathed in celebrations of love, we should remind our daughters that it is love that truly makes the world go round and makes the world a better place. Let us all, young and older, remember that things are secondary to the gifts that come from the heart.

Checking In With Caldwell…

As we celebrate President’s Day weekend, I wanted to share with my readers just how essential President Lincoln and President Washington felt their mothers were. Washington’s words about his mother were as follows: My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am, I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. Lincoln’s words were briefer, but no less beautiful. All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.

And that made me think…not just about our own mothers, but about the women who have supported the Mission of Saint Dominic Academy from 1878 to today. We owe our successes to the women who answered the call, who felt the flame inside of them, and followed in the footsteps of Saint Dominic to become Dominicans…preachers of his word, bearers of his light. We would not be where we are today at SDA without the guidance, kindness and support of the Sisters in Caldwell.

Yet, within the day to day hustle and bustle of the school year, we sometimes forget to reflect on just how they impact the lives of all they reach, in many ways. And so, I want to share with my readers a link to The Flame, which spotlights the good works of the Caldwell Dominicans. I call special attention to Sister Pat Hogan, O.P., featured on the cover, as she has tirelessly served not only the students under her care, but the young ladies of Saint Dominic Academy as a member of the Board of Trustees. I encourage my readers, take the time to read this magazine, and then, take the time to say a prayer of thanks for all that these women to do help shape the lives of those under their care. We are truly blessed with wonderful women at the “Motherhouse” in Caldwell and they deserve our admiration, praise and prayers.

http://caldwellop.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2018-Flame-Fall-all.pdf

Love is in the Air…

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The second week in February … and one event looms large. There are heart shaped boxes everywhere, chocolate roses in every single store, florist trucks clogging up the road, pink and red envelopes being delivered by mail carriers…what an outpouring of love we will all see this week, leading up to Thursday, February 14th. It’s challenging to even type the date without adding a little heart after it…so ingrained it is in our culture to profess our love for all we hold dear on this one day in February.

And yet, it begs the question, why is it so ingrained? I know that there are those among us who call Valentine’s Day a “hallmark holiday”, one pushed upon the public to make money during the winter months. While I am not quite that cynical, I do wonder why the same flowers that cost one price online in January see a sharp spike in price in February and whether chocolate actually tastes better because it comes in a heart shaped box. But no, I am not so cynical that I refuse to celebrate…I helped Abigail with cards for her class, cards for her friends and even sent a pastel colored envelope of my own off in the mail. Of course I have a small gift for her to show her how much I love her on the morning of 2/14…but then again, I have tiny unexpected gifts for her every so often, just because I love her.

So do many of us, of this I have no doubt. For every time we do something unexpected and surprising for those we hold dear in our hearts, aren’t we in fact celebrating the concept of Valentine’s Day? Doesn’t each one of us, on a daily basis work to showcase that most important rule ~ that “golden rule” taught to us by Jesus himself. Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. I remember learning a childhood version of this maxim in elementary school “love one another as I have loved you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Never once in my life have I forgotten those words.

Now, that’s not to say it isn’t challenging. Of course it is. We get tired, we get frustrated, we don’t always treat people the way we want to be treated or speak to people the way we want to be spoken to. It’s a hard maxim to live by, day in and day out. But we try, each of us in our own way try daily to live up to that golden rule and to truly love one another, even if it is harder on some days than on others.

And so, my readers, that is why I cannot be cynical about Valentine’s Day in all its pink and red, hallmark holiday, sentimental hoopla. Because, on 2/14 of each year, I can say with some assurance that almost every one of us will spend the day treating those we love the way we want to be treated, and showing them how much we love them. Should we do this more often, not just on 2/14? Of course we should. However, if love is what makes the world go round and love is what can make the world a better place, then Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to start showing our family and friends just how much they mean to us.

Love can change the world. Remember that, always! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Remarks from the Father Daughter Dance…

As February begins, I wanted to share with you the words I shared with our young ladies and their fathers at the 37th Annual Father- Daughter Dance, which was held on January 25th. At this time, I want to thank our chair Joe Anderson and his daughter, senior Meghan Anderson for making the evening so wonderful. My dad and I had, as always, an excellent time together! And so…here is the advice I offered our young ladies…about dating!

Good evening everyone…it is my pleasure and honor tonight to welcome you all to the Father Daughter Dance. For the past few years, as long as I have been at Saint Dominic Academy, my father and I have attended this dance and it is one of my favorite events here at SDA. I know I usually get up here and entertain all of you dads by sharing with you all the ways in which my dad helps me out…many of the same ways each of you helps your daughter out daily…but this year, I want to take just a few moments to talk to the young ladies about something else. So dads, if you can bear with me…it’s a touchy subject I know for dads and daughters, even when the daughters are as old as I am, right dad?…I want to talk for just a few minutes about…DATING!

There’s that word girls, the one you probably dread uttering in front of the guy sitting next to you right now, am I right? I know I did when I was your age. I’d make my mom tell my dad when I was going on a date! It’s hard to tell your dad you’re dating someone…hard to let him know that there’s this other guy around who might, just might, capture a little bit of the heart that has always belonged to your father. It’s hard for us to say and I am sure, it’s hard for dads to hear…that’s why I used to have my mom do it for me! But I got older and I grew up, and I’ll admit it…my heart got hurt…more than once…and when that happened I needed my mom of course, but I needed my dad too…just like each of you will need your dads when that day comes for you. And ladies, it will come, because it always does.

But, with age comes wisdom and with years of dating experience comes LOTS of wisdom…and I got wise, and got out of the dating game for a good long while. So, for a long time, as an adult, I was in the seat that you are in right now…my dad was my “go to” date for everything. At weddings I danced with my dad, I had dinner with my parents on weekends, etcetera, etcetera…and that was good. It was what I needed, what all of us ladies need at times, a step back, to pause and reflect and to take stock. And so I did that…for a very long time. And someday girls…you might have to do that too…and when that time comes for you, I want you to take a very close look at the guy sitting next to you right now.

Because, the man sitting next to you right now, is …without a doubt…the most PERFECT guy you will ever know! No guy on earth loves you more than your dad/your father figure. No man cares about your well being more, no man will put you first time and time and time again like the man sitting next to you right now. Nobody will ever, ever make you feel special as your father can. It’s the truth…I’ve had 41 years to gain that insight and I know I am 100% correct on this. And what I have learned is this… when the time comes for you to pick the “right guy”, the so called, man of your dreams…you need to find one that reminds you of that man you brought here tonight.

Trust me…it took me such a long time to learn this lesson. I will be totally honest with you, I learned it less than a year ago. But I am so glad I did and I am so glad I gained that knowledge and can pass it along to each of you this event. So, before I ask my dad to join me on the dance floor…I want to tell you this and I want you to remember it always…long after you forget everything else I have said to you as Head of School. If you cannot utter the following sentence about the man you love…then he’s not the one. “You remind me of my father!” What I wish for all of you is that as you grow up and grow wise like I have, you are able to say that. And what I hope you do, when you are finally able to say it…is thank your father, for always being the perfect guy! Thank you Dad…I love you!

To The Theater Going Public…

As this year’s Drama class can tell you, that’s how Broadway legend George M. Cohan started his letters to his audiences. And this week, why should I start my blog any differently? My friends, I assure you, if you join us on February 1st and 2nd in ELAN for our production of The King and I you will be amazed and astonished. Ms. DeSarle and I are so pleased to be able to put before you some of the most talented young men and women we have ever worked with during our time as theater teachers.

We have on our newly expanded stage this weekend (and a BIG THANK YOU to our Parent Association for that gift!) students who have performed onstage at Radio City Music Hall. We have students who will sing at Carnegie Hall later in the year. We have those who have just completed work on a feature film production, those who are heading off to college to pursue a career in musical theater and those who have just joined the Saint Dominic Academy family, straight from the National Tour of a Broadway musical. Indeed some of our tiniest performers tonight also have impressive resumes; with more than two or three performances under their teeny belts as well. This cast could truly rival any cast performing across the Hudson tonight, of that I have no doubt.

The cast is only as good as the story it is given to tell, and our story this year is timeless. My counterpart and I had quite a few “animated” discussions about staging during the course of the production…most especially about the “Shall We Dance” scene and I hope that the end result is enjoyable for all who see our show.  We “beg to put before you” just a few short days before Valentine’s Day, a love story not just about couples that due to Siamese rules and culture cannot be together or due to East / West boundaries may never quite find the words to express all they truly feel for each other, but rather the love that grows between the bonds created when wisdom is shared.

For when a teacher imparts knowledge, not just about reading and writing, but about ways in which to see the world differently and how to question old ways of thinking and look for new approaches and fresh innovative ideas…then the love between a teacher and a pupil, whether that pupil is the King of Siam or the Crown Prince, is the type of love that will foster a lifetime of learning.

And so, it is my hope that you will enjoy “getting to know” our talented young performers and that you will follow the link below to purchase tickets to come see The King and I at Saint Dominic Academy this weekend. The curtain rises at 7:00pm each night and I look forward to seeing you there!

https://search.seatyourself.biz/webstore/accounts/stdominicacad/buy-tix?d=0

Wise Words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, of all days…why would I use my own words in this space when a great man shared so many words of wisdom with our world. As we celebrate Dr. King today, I leave you with just some of his many exquisite insights and hope that one of them speaks to your soul.

Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.

There comes a time when silence is a betrayal.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.

Darkness cannot drive our darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.

We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We must accept finite disappointment but never lost infinite hope.

No person has the right to rain on your dreams.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worse of use and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

And the words of Dr. King’s that I choose to carry with me each and every day…

I have decided to stick with love…hate is too great a burden to bear.

Dads, Daughters, and Dates…

It’s film going season- with the Golden Globes just behind us and the Academy Award nominations looming large, now is the time when many of us rush to the movies to see what’s popular, what’s trending and what’s buzz-worthy. Movies play a large role in American culture (and I am hoping next year, that their effect on American culture will be studied in an elective here at SDA!) and in my family, the so called “Movie Game” is a crowd pleaser for generations young and old. The premise is simple and we play it all the time. One of us says a line from a movie and the others have to name the movie. It provides entertainment on car rides, around the dinner table, at campfires and we’ve been playing since I was a little girl. The “inventor” of the game? My dad, who has been playing it with me for as long as I can remember.

My dad took me to one of my first movies; Disney’s The Fox and the Hound. I remember sitting on his lap and being frightened toward the end of the film; it is a hazy memory, as I was only five years old. He took me, along with my brothers to E. T. which for some reason he does not remember. As I think about it now, if I took three children under the age of 8 to the movies, I might block it out as well. I remember other family movie outings: Forrest Gump, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, to name a few. And then there were the movies at home my dad introduced me to, many of which I am sure met with my mother’s extreme disapproval. The Godfather-so now I know what it means to go to the mattresses with your enemy. Psycho- my mom was cleaning up puddles all over the bathroom as I showered with the curtain wide open for at least a week. Arsenic and Old Lace- the second production I ever directed as a theater teacher. Jaws- and ever since, when there’s a problem, my go to statement has been you’re gonna need a bigger boat! So, thanks Dad, for these and so many more classics!

And yet, I realized just the other night, the last time my father and I went to a movie together was 1994! I was 17 years old and he took me to see Interview With the Vampire. Ann Rice novel, set in New Orleans, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt…what could be better? Well, as it turns out, a lot of movies were better…but I will never forget that one because it was the last movie we saw together in the theater. Will we go to another movie together? It’s possible I guess, but if we’ve gone from 1994 to 2019 without going to a movie theater together when we’ve gone so many other places together, then I kind of doubt that sharing a bucket of popcorn is in our father-daughter future. And why is that? When and why do we stop going to the movies with our dads? This I wondered the other night…and then I realized just what the answer was!

We stop, because at about 16 or 17 years old…other guys come along to take us to the movies. We still have our moms to go with to those mother-daughter films and our gal pals to go see “chick flicks” ( and boy do I hate that term) with…but the movies that we used to see with our dads, maybe the scary ones or the ones that were a little sad and we might cry at the end…now some other guy is taking us to see them. We hide our head on his shoulder or cry on his sleeve because movie night once we start growing up and growing older quickly becomes date night. Now, to be honest, do I think dads across America mind? Not really. I don’t think my dad is sitting home wishing he was the one who took me to see the newest installment in the Halloween franchise or who had to sit next to me while I got all teary eyed on a re-watch of When Harry Met Sally. But still, did either my dad or I know at the time that the last movie we’d go to together was going to be Interview With the Vampire? We did not…but I think we’ll always remember that movie. In just a few short weeks Saint Dominic Academy will host the 37th Annual Father Daughter Dance. While we cannot know for certain when the day will come when we cease to go on movie dates with our dad and start going out on more “date night” dates…what every girl at SDA can plan for each year is to make this event a special one for her and her father. So, if you have not yet made your reservation online to attend this event, I encourage you to do so. My dad and I may not be going to any more movies, but I know for certain where we will be on January 25th. This is one date with my dad I would not miss for anything in the world, one waltz around the dance floor that’s more important to me than any other dance for the entire year. Deep down, each of us will always be in one way or another “daddy’s little girl” and so I hope to see all of you and that special man in your life, your father, your grandfather, your godfather … whoever fills that place in your heart at our Father Daughter Dance on January 25th. It is the most important date you will have in 2019!

Trip A Little Light Fantastic

New Year, new goals, new way of looking at life, yes? For many of us that is how January starts. And why should 2019 start any differently? I am certain I am not the only one among us who set forth some resolutions, well thought out ones that I will do my best to keep throughout this year. And I sincerely hope that each of you will do your best to hold fast to your own resolutions whatever they may be- for those promises we make to ourselves in the early light of January mornings are like the fresh pages of a brand new journal, or the blank white canvas of a painter, or newly fallen snow- untouched, unmarred, and as of yet, unbroken. They are our covenant with ourselves, our bargain within our own hearts and souls to be the best people we can be and even though it is hard to keep those many resolutions for 365 long days and nights, if we can each only manage to maintain one for 2019, think of how much good it will do us and how much it will better our lives and the lives of those around us.

And yet, we’ve been down this path before you and I, those of us old enough to have more than a few NY Eves’ under our belts. And we know well that resolutions made are not always resolutions kept. So, what can we do differently this year…in order to ensure that we do not fall prey to our own vices, fall victim to our own worst faults, that we do not stray from our good intentions? Well…I have a thought, a “spark” of inspiration if you will – a light to lead us through the next 365 days and keep us on the path of the promises we have made for the new year. And all we need— is a leerie!

What’s a leerie you ask? Well then, my friend, you’ve not seen the new Mary Poppins Returns! For if you have, you know well that a leerie is a lamplighter and they “trip the lights and lead the way!” What an utterly charming and delightful image, is it not? A person to be your light, the one you can call on, as the song goes:

When you’re alone in your room…

When life is getting dreary…

When you’re stuck in the mist…

When you’re lost in the crowd…

When the fog comes rolling in…

When you’re lost in a park…

You can just embrace the dark, OR

You can trip a little light fantastic with me!

And I am 100% certain we all have that person who can be our light; we all have more than one person who serves in that capacity at one time or another, just as we bring the light into someone else’s days here and there. Find your lamplighters- let them blaze forth your path in 2019- do not head out into this new year feeling alone. Reach out along the way, every single day of the 360 odd days left in this year; take help when you need it, offer help when you can. And of course, as often as you are able, trip the light fantastic. After all, why walk when you can dance! Have a wonderful 2019! May it be your best year yet!