With Grateful Hearts

Last weekend I was sitting outside on our patio enjoying a socially distanced fireside chat with my neighbor Susan when she said, “You know – good things did happen in 2020.” I am from a large family and have siblings and grown children who live out of town, so our Thanksgiving table is usually a reunion of a large number of loud, boisterous, talkative people who have a lot of catching up to do.  While I was bemoaning the fact that, this year, we would not be surrounded by all those loving family members, her simple statement struck me as quite profound. In spite of all the ways this year has been so challenging, Susan is right  –  good things did happen in 2020. Here we were talking about our Thanksgiving plans and at that point we were able to really focus on giving thanks.

I do not want to dismiss the fact that so many are struggling greatly- especially those who are sick (over 85,000 Americans are hospitalized) or who have lost loved ones to this virus. It is incomprehensible that we have lost 258,957 in our country to COVID19. And so many are making great sacrifices to care for others who are sick and grieving. Not only do I have much to be grateful for, but I owe it to all of these good people to act with a grateful heart.

Here is a start to my gratitude list;

  • A loving, fun and close-knit family
  • An incredible husband and adult children with partners who love and support them
  • Our NDA community filled with dedicated educators, eager learners and supportive families
  • Generous benefactors who help us advance the mission of NDA in all we do
  • Notre Dame sisters ever inspiring us through example and prayer
  • Alumnae who really do make a difference in the world, especially those who are parents, educators, healthcare workers, first responders and community leaders

One of our family traditions is to begin our meal prayer with our “I’m thankful for (family member) because…” That tradition is on this year when 30 of us will meet on Zoom (of course!) and two of our youngest cousins, Nate and Cameron, will read each of our expressions of gratitude for another family member. There will be laughter, a few tears and a lot of love.

Just as my friend Susan opened my heart to being thankful, so too does our gratitude open our hearts to God’s goodness and love. In giving thanks we focus on all we have been given and our gratitude becomes a gift not only to others but to ourselves as well.  I hope you and your family enjoy a very special Thanksgiving this year and, while your table may be small, may your celebration overflow with shared gratitude and an abundance of God’s goodness and love.

I am thankful for each of you for being a part of our NDA community!

2020 Open House Experience

This Sunday, Notre Dame Academy kicks off our first ever Open House Experience week. For the last several months, NDA has been finding creative ways to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can keep our young women engaged in meaningful learning. Our Open House is no exception and we have innovated and put together a number of ways to share the Notre Dame Academy experience with our prospective students and parents, alumnae, donors and friends of NDA – all week long! Our week features a new interactive virtual tour of NDA, Panda Sneak Peek in person Information Sessions, Virtual Interest Sessions, individual tours and more!

We will kick the events off with our Open House Panda Parking Lot Pep Rally on Sunday, November 8, from 1-2 p.m. Drive through campus where you will be welcomed by the Sisters, faculty, staff and students of Notre Dame Academy and experience the uplifting sounds of our NDA/CCH Band. We will also have some NDA gifts for those prospective Pandas who come by as well.

As Northern Kentucky’s only Catholic college preparatory high school exclusively for young women, we are excited to offer a variety of opportunities to learn about Notre Dame Academy. You can find the link for these events during the week at our website. One of the highlights of this experience is a new interactive virtual tour of NDA. Please take a few minutes to click on the link and learn about the many features of our campus, as well as information about our programs that support the academic, personal, physical and spiritual development of our students.

A century ago the Sisters of Notre Dame came to the greater Cincinnati area and, in 1906, opened the doors of Notre Dame Academy for the very first time.  From that campus on 5th street in Covington, Kentucky, to our current location in Park Hills, the NDA tradition has continued to grow and flourish. Our Pandas have been ignited with a passion for learning ever since the days of our founding. We welcome all to our 2020 Open House Experience at NDA and we are excited to share that legacy and all it has meant to our school as we work to educate young women to make a difference in our world.

Autumn Gala Time!

I believe it was Plato who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I am sure in each of our lives we are finding that adage come to life all around us. It is certainly true at Notre Dame Academy where we continue to problem solve and innovate in order to provide our many NDA traditions in these challenging times. That includes holistic educational opportunities for our students as well as the ways we enlist others to help us meet the costs of providing excellence in education at NDA. And so it is Autumn Gala time and the show must go on!

I hope you can join us this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. as we Zoom through an hour of Gala fun and excitement. You can join for some special guests, our silent auction, cash raffle and much more. Our Autumn Gala Committee has been hard at work planning a fun event and gathering exciting auction items and prizes.  You can find more information about the Gala here and start bidding today!

Each year our Autumn Gala features a special Panda Paw event where we ask for support in funding special projects and initiatives at NDA. There is no doubt that support for our Panda Paw over the last several years was instrumental in our move to Remote Learning @ NDA and in accommodating in person learning while meeting all the safety requirement in this time of COVID-19. This year, our Panda Paw request will fund innovation at NDA and the technology, materials, supplies and training that are so needed right now as we continue to meet the needs of our teachers and students. Please take a moment to view a brief video HERE about the culture of innovation at NDA.

We have been so blessed with dedicated students, teachers and staff who are, to this day, making in person school a reality while doing all we can to keep everyone safe and healthy.  Over the years we have been also blessed with many generous alumnae, parents and friends who support the needs of our programs and help make our NDA education possible for so many deserving young women. What a great partnership! The Autumn Gala event, our largest fundraiser, is a central to this effort.

I hope you will join us this Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m. for our first ever virtual Gala as we come together to celebrate our NDA community and lift up our students, teachers and staff in all the good work they do each and every day. I look forward to seeing you online!

Please register for our Zoom event by going to this link.

You can start bidding on so many wonderful items and pledge to the Panda Paw at this link.

Foundation Week at NDA

This week at Notre Dame Academy (NDA) we celebrate our Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) Foundation Week! On October 1,1850, the Sisters of Notre Dame were founded in Coesfeld Germany. (CLICK HERE to watch a brief video highlighting the foundresses and all the good works the Sisters have done and continue to do today.) Here we are 170 years later living out the vision of two courageous young women, Hilligonde Wolbring (Sister Maria Aloyisa) and Elizabeth Kuhling (Sister Maria Ignatia), to ensure a holistic Catholic education for your women in our community. The vision of these young women of Coesfeld, resulted in numerous ministries across our world thanks to the dedication and loving work of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Since 1906, Notre Dame Academy, the first ministry of the SND Covington Province, has carried out this vision through our mission to educate young women to make a difference in the world.

In 18th century Germany, the challenges were many and young girls had to sacrifice educational opportunities to the boys in their family. Poverty and cultural discrimination made for a very difficult life for members of the community. Hilligonde and Elizabeth responded to these challenges and made a difference in their world that extended across the globe and into our present day. They responded to the needs of their time which has been a persistent theme of the SNDs in applying their spiritual gifts in service of others and sharing God’s goodness and love with all they encountered. That charism lives on today in the work of so many Notre Dame Academy alumnae, students, teachers, staff and administrators who embrace the Notre Dame Life.

Today we face many of our own challenges especially in light of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our families, schools and communities. In recent months, tragically 150 Catholic schools across our country have closed permanently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At NDA, we have seen our community come together to innovate and collaborate on ways to make our school thrive. Remote Learning @ NDA and our 2020 Pandas Return to Campus Plan have exemplified the ways that we, as a community, have followed the lead of the SNDs and responded to the needs of our time. As always, our SND legacy is an inspiration and model for success.

Celebrating SND Foundation Day is way to honor and give thanks for this legacy that is at the core of who we are. Today our young women of NDA will join teachers and staff as we kick off Foundation Day week. The SND mission has and always will be at the heart of our mission and work at Notre Dame Academy. Since their founding in 1850, the SNDs have continued to meet the needs of the current times and in doing so ensured the relevance and effectiveness of their mission. As we are all responding to the realities of our times, may we take a moment to reflect on the great gift the SND’s are to our community – the Sisters have taught us well! 

“…the most important in all our work is the uniting of all our actions with the works of the divine Savior. Thus we make gold out of stones…” Sister Maria Aloysia  (Hilligonde Wolbring, 1828 – 1889 ) foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

The Common Good

“Seek what is good for others and for all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

We are finishing week three of school at Notre Dame Academy and things are going well so far! That would not be possible without the commitment and contribution of so many. Our faculty, staff and students are all working hard to make the best of all the protocols we have in place to keep NDA a safe and healthy environment to come to school. Key to our success is embracing the idea that we have to take care of ourselves and one another!

This year we are celebrating the 2nd Educational Principle of the Sisters of Notre Dame – the Human Dignity of Each Person as an Image of God. Our school theme, Uniting Humankind as Reflections of God’s Love, is most appropriate for the time in which we find ourselves. This theme reminds us to accept others for the persons God made them to be and to extend our kindness and care to each person we meet. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in many ways – and perhaps most importantly in this fundamental way. We make sacrifices such as wearing masks and social distancing because we know this can mitigate the spread of the virus and that this is the right thing to do for others and for all.

The path to resolving this pandemic is guided by science and our commitment to the common good. The science tells us that the mask is a game changer and our commitment to the dignity of our fellow humans requires that we wear one out of respect for the lives of others and our own. God’s goodness and provident care is certainly at work in our community as rise to the many challenges we are facing.

Of course, these challenges go beyond our school building – to the many homes and communities of our 535 families of NDA. As we head into this Labor Day weekend and all take a break from work and school, we wish our students and families a safe and healthy weekend. Please know that the care that is taken by each of our families contributes to the success of our work at school as we all seek to do what is right for the common good – keeping everyone healthy and safe!

Good and Provident God,

We praise you for the gift of community, the gift of Sisterhood here at Notre Dame Academy.

We thank you for the community in which we work, study and live.

May we use our bonds of sisterhood to bring about peace and justice for all our brothers and sisters uniting us as one HumanKind, made in Your image.

Fill us with Your Spirit so that, as one, we reflect your light and love to each other and to the world.

In Christ’s name, we pray.


SND USA…Becoming One for the Sake of Mission

This past weekend was a momentous occasion for our founders and sponsors – the Sisters of Notre Dame. After nine years of planning, the sisters have moved to a new national leadership model and on Saturday, July 5, the SND’s installed their new Provincial Government representing SND USA. The event celebrated the unification of the four SND provinces in the United States. It was a moving and grace filled ceremony that reflected the sisters’ charism and commitment to mission.

We congratulate our new Provincial, Sr. Margaret Gorman, and members of her leadership council, including assistant provincial Sr. Shauna Bankemper (past president of NDA). As Sr. Margaret stated in her remarks, “Our journey was never about us – all along we have said we are becoming one for the sake of mission.” SND USA is about that mission and ensuring its future success. Sr. Margaret explained that each of the sisters received a picture to the Annunciation by artist John Swanson. The image portrays Mary as she is standing on a threshold – just as the congregation does at this moment of transition.  

As the founders and sponsors of Notre Dame Academy, the SND story is our story and our legacy. That fact does not change. The SND mission has and always will be at the heart of our mission and work at NDA. Since their founding in 1850, the SNDs have continued to meet the needs of the current times and in doing so ensured the relevance and effectiveness of their mission. I know we can all relate to responding to the realities of our times, the sisters have taught us well! 

Last but not least, this event marked the final day for Sr. Mary Ethel Parrott as our local provincial of our Covington Province. In this leadership role, Sr. Mary Ethel has served our sisters, our school and our community well for the last six years! In many ways this is a bittersweet moment indeed as significant change always is. Sr. Mary Ethel has been appointed to the new Board of Directors for the National Ministry Corporation – she is one of seven leaders from around the country who will sit on this Board. I am hoping she will also take a much deserved break.

Please join me in congratulating the Sisters of Notre Dame in making this major transition and never wavering from the commitment to their mission to serve others and transform our world. Just as they do for us, let us keep them in our prayers and embrace them today and always with “hearts as wide as the world.”

A Just World For All

Every Tuesday evening I am blessed to join an amazing prayer group as we reflect on the readings for the upcoming Sunday and relate them to the realities of our lives and the current times. As you might imagine, much of conversation last night centered on the horrific fatal arrest of George Floyd and the protests and violence that have ensued since. This Sunday is the  Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – a celebration of our Good God as a community of persons. What a fitting reminder for our current times! The human family is also a community of persons each made in the image of God.

In the second reading for Sunday, St. Paul invites us – brothers and sisters – to “mend our ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace…to greet one another with a holy kiss.” At the heart of the peaceful protests are people of good will seeking a just world for all. In this we can see St. Paul’s prayer that we live in peace with one another. As a Christian community we do not condone the violence or looting that has taken place, but we do support and lift up those who stand up for justice for all – knowing this is the only way to truly achieve the community that God calls us to be. 

As a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame, we embrace their four educational principles, the second of which is the human dignity of each person as an image of God. This is fundamental to a just and peaceful world which is why we want our students to experience it as defining component of our school community. The Sisters have published a statement condemning the violence that has unfolded in recent days and standing in solidarity with all those who hold us accountable for the respect and dignity that each human person deserves. May we join the sisters and embrace this message in our own lives.

“Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” 
2Cor 13:11-13

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”           
Margaret Mead

“If you want peace, work for justice.”
Pope Paul VI

Go Make A Difference Class of 2020

Graduation 2020 is certainly one for the history books! While memories may focus on what was not possible, we certainly learned what is possible with a little innovation and creativity. May it be the latter that rests in the hearts and minds of our 2020 graduates. Our traditions were celebrated in new ways that created special memories they can always call their very own!

Last Friday, as our graduates drove through our campus, it was such a joy to present them with their awards certificates, memory book, bouquet of red roses, diploma and alumnae gifts. Our seniors arrived to congratulatory signs at the entrance, faculty and staff greeting them along the driveways, the sisters cheering them on and administrators presenting their graduation materials and memorabilia. As graduates, they left with many meaningful items in their possession. We hope they also left with a sense of accomplishment knowing how much they are loved and celebrated by our Notre Dame Academy community.

Later in the day, each of our graduates watched the first ever prerecorded video of their graduation ceremony  – the 112 Commencement at Notre Dame Academy! This video alone is unique to this class. As each young woman is presented with her diploma, what a joy it is to reflect on the amazing journey that lies ahead for her and the great potential she has to bring about positive change in our world. There is so much hope in that!

Having gone through the last few weeks, it goes without saying the journey ahead will be filled with challenges and even heartache. But it will also be filled with promise, hope and joy. Most importantly, each member of the Class of 2020 has all she needs to succeed – in the many gifts she has been given by our Good and Provident God.

We raise our graduates up in a song they sang so many times at NDA!

Go make a difference, we can make a difference
Go make a difference in the world
Go make a difference we can make a difference
Go make a difference in the world

We are the salt in the earth, called to let the people see
The love of God in you and me
We are the light of the world, not to be hidden, but be seen
Go make a difference in the world

We are the hands of Christ, reaching out to those in need
The face of God for all to see
We are the spirit of hope, we are the voice of peace

Go make a difference in the world…

So let your love shine on,
let it shine for all to see.
Go make a difference in the world.
And the spirit of Christ
will be with us as we go.
Go make a difference in the world.

                                                Steve Angrisano

Looking Forward

For the last three days our students have filed through NDA to clean out lockers, pickup personal items and drop off any school items they had to return. Mr. VonHandorf greeted and checked in every one of them. They made their way through a very orderly process that honored the social distancing and safe practices we all must embrace at this time. We are certainly creating new ways to handle school processes and interact with our students! It was good practice as we work to bring our students back in the building over these next few months.

Certainly many are wondering what our new school year will look like. Suffice it to say 20-21 will be another year of firsts, but rest assured we are preparing for the challenges ahead. Our leadership team has begun working with several faculty, staff and parents to develop options for the new school year. We are focused on the following priorities:

  • The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff
  • Our mission as a Catholic student dedicated to Mary
  • Our tradition of academic excellence for each student
  • Meaningful engagement in our community
  • Necessary support systems to empower each of our students

We will consult any and all reopening guidelines made available to us by the Kentucky Department of Education, the Covington Diocese and the Governor’s Office. We are blessed with a number of alumnae and parents who are very involved in the medical community in NKY and will seek their input as well.

We will continue to innovate and create as we look to develop best practices for getting back in school safely and effectively. At this point we are working towards options that include being in school with needed modifications or having a blended plan that includes in school and remote instruction for each student. Please know we will send regular update on our progress toward a plan.

At NDA we begin all activities with a prayer, that includes our meetings. We use this mission prayer regularly and we are counting on it to inspire and encourage as we plan for the days ahead with hope and determination.

NDA Mission Prayer

Good and Gracious God, help us to grow as a community centered in Jesus Christ, witnessing to your goodness.  May we like Mary, grow in the spirit of the Gospel, in love and respect for all, and in service of one another. 

Help us to strive for excellence in all we teach and do, so that your kingdom may come on earth and we can truly make a difference in our world. 

                                                                        Sr. Marla Monahan, SND

Facing Challenges with Hope and Optimism

Friday was our final day the 2019-20 school year and it will certainly be remembered as a year like no other. Our school community has done a tremendous job over these last 2 months as everyone made the best of a difficult situation. As we began the 19-20 school year, we had no idea these experiences were in our future!

– students learning remotely from bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms

– lectures, class discussions and student presentations on google meets

– parents sitting in on classes  and serving as teacher’s aides

– family pets joining our online learning community

– Mr. VonHandorf becoming a YouTube sensation!

And now, as we look to our future, we have no idea what surprises still might be in store for us.  Of course we all hope for the best but need to be prepared for challenges – always. That’s just life. And that is the Notre Dame Academy way! Following the lead of our sponsors the Sisters of Notre Dame – we are committed to facing the challenge of this current time with hope and optimism.

In that spirit we took on the challenge and opportunities of this school year and in that spirit will embrace those of our new school year! We are currently working on our plan to open school in August and know that we will embrace what lies ahead as a community centered on our school’s mission and the health and safety of our students and staff. Please watch for updates in the near future!

As we begin these summer months we pray for many things.  I will start with these and know each of have many of your own to add as well.

May our  hearts be filled with gratitude for our family, friends, teachers and colleagues

May our summer days provide time for relaxation and renewal

May all our young people know they are loved and supported even in the hardest of times

May our graduates look to the future with courage and excitement

May our country join together as we face the many challenges and opportunities of this 21st century


May each and everyone of us know God’s goodness this day and always!