Gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  Cicero

This is one of my favorite quotes! It brings to mind the question of the glass being half full or half empty. It speaks to having a grateful heart, a mindset open to focusing on our blessings first. Many have commented on things to be grateful for at this difficult time – those silver linings that lift our spirits and embolden our days. What would we do without them?

This quote also speaks to the necessity of gratitude before all else. Perhaps we can reflect on how a grateful heart makes us more courageous, hopeful, kind, compassionate, loving, generous – the list of virtues goes on.  And aren’t those many of the virtues we need most at this moment?

Ironically, one outcome of this COVID19 pandemic may be an increase in this greatest of virtues – gratitude. We find new gratitude for things we may have taken for granted, we are grateful for small gestures of kindness, our hearts are filled with gratitude for those who put their own lives on the line to care for others, we thank God for our health and being spared the worst of this disease.    

May this prayer of gratitude nurture courage, hope, kindness, kindness, compassion, love and generosity in you and those you are grateful for.

Prayer of Gratitude during COVID19 Pandemic

Good and Gracious God,
We thank you for the beautiful weather over the past week – the sun and the refreshing rain. 
We thank you for the signs of new life that are blooming all around uWe thank you for the extra family time we have been experiencing. 
We thank you for the creative ways we have been able to connect with family, friends and the community. 
We thank you for the many people who are working the frontlines during this crisis, setting aside their own safety for the good of the many. 
We thank you for all the many blessings that perhaps had been taken for granted but are now acknowledged. 
We ask you to help us continue to recognize these blessings and to seek out ways to celebrate all our students and their many accomplishments as we draw close to the end of another school year. 
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
Bridget Price, Campus Minister

Hope

“Hope is a thing with feathers – that perches in the soul…” This excerpt from a poem written by Emily Dickinson around 1861, was shared on a note to our seniors with a yellow rose they received when they picked up their cap and gown on Friday. The rose is a reminder of the traditional red roses they will receive at graduation.

Ms. Dickinson would not have known how relevant her poetry is in this specific moment in 2020, but there is no doubt she wanted to offer a reflection on hope’s eternal promise even in times of great disappointment.

Dickinson presents hope as ever present – a bird that never stops singing. In our faith we know that hope is a virtue and confident expectation of what God has promised. Psychologist Charles Synder defines hope as the “perceived ability to produce pathways to achieve desired goals and to motivate oneself to use those pathways.” Ethereal metaphor, God’s constant love for us, psychological construct – hope is real and present in our lives. It us something we can identify and embrace.

We are all dealing with many disappointments and fears in the midst of this pandemic. Hope is needed now more than ever. May we always be open to the promise of hope knowing this is the first step to making this all better for ourselves and each other. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
 
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
 
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
                                                                                                      Emily Dickinson

Dawn Comes After the Night

Happy Earth Day – the 50th anniversary! It was April 22, 1970 and concerned citizens, in response to a multitude of environmental crises, took action by creating this day. It was to bring awareness to the importance of preserving our beautiful natural creation. Our earth is a gift from God and we are called to care for it and all its creatures, including ourselves.

Ever seeking a connection to this present moment – because it is so present to us – I went in search of a connection. I found this quote by Rachel Carson – one of my favorite female scientists – who is credited with starting the environmental movement in our country after the publication of her book Silent Spring. 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”                                                                            Rachel Carson

It was a very difficult day today for so many reasons, and I know our seniors are hurting especially. They were on my mind all day. It was also a very beautiful spring day. I take comfort in Ms. Carson’s words and pray fervently that our students can as well. This moment of disappointment and pain will not last forever. But today we celebrate the hope that the beauty of our earth – a gift from our good God – surely will.  May the beauty of this day bring peace, hope and renewed energy to stay focused on the incredible journey God has placed before each and every one of us. May we become emboldened knowing that “dawn comes after the night.”

Somebody To Lean On

Today as we all returned from our spring break – hopefully refreshed and emboldened by the message of the Easter Season – we also learned from Governor Beshear that in person schooling will not happen for the rest of the school year. This has many implications for all of us, but most certainly for the class of 2020 – at NDA and at schools across our state. Our hearts go out to each and every one of them. We remain committed to doing all we can to make the best of this very difficult situation for our soon to be newest alumnae.

The social distancing and stay at home strategies have clearly saved lives and made a difference to mitigating the exponential growth of this infection. We know that so many are making sacrifices and are seriously affected by the COVID-19 virus. Of course there is no greater sacrifice than those who have lost their loved ones or their own lives to this virus.

Human suffering is a part of our experience. At this difficult time, we suffer as individuals, as families, as a community, as a country and even as a world. Our humanity is not only defined by this reality – it is defined by our common experience of suffering and by our sense of compassion for each other. We can all imagine the pain that our seniors are experiencing and know how vital it is to support them and each other in such difficult times. 

Bill Withers song – Lean On Me – seems to have taken on a lot of significance these days.   Perhaps we can each think of someone we can reach out to and be that person they can lean on. 

“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain 
We all have sorrow 
But if we are wise 
We know that there's always tomorrow 
Lean on me, when you're not strong 
And I'll be your friend 
I'll help you carry on 
For it won't be long 
'Til I'm gonna need 
Somebody to lean on.” 
                           Bill Withers, 1938-2020

Inspired by St. Julie Billiart

On this day in 1816, Julie Billiart died at the age of 65. She was canonized a saint in 1969. St. Julie’s life work was to bring God’s goodness into our world through the many good works she performed throughout her life. Most notably, she founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (Belgium) and is considered the spiritual mother of the Sisters of Notre Dame (Germany). You can hear more about St. Julie’s story here. You can see her portrait in the foyer of our school building.

St. Julie suffered extreme physical and emotional hardship in her personal life including persecution during the French Revolution. In spite of all this, she proclaimed a hope-filled philosophy of life grounded in her belief in God’s infinite goodness. Here are two frequently quoted sayings of St. Julie that have been inspirations to many of us at NDA. Perhaps these offer points of reflection in your Easter week journey.

“Be like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun and keep your eyes always turned towards our good God.”

 “Our charity must not be limited by the love we have for one another. It must make our hearts as wide as the world.”

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New ways to experience community

One thing is certain – we all miss each other at NDA! I have heard this countless times from students, faculty, staff and our dear SND’s on the 4th floor! It is a blessing to see each other virtually on Google Meet, but certainly not the same as being in the school building together every day. Social media has been a saving grace in many ways but can’t replace the energy and camaraderie of our daily interactions at school – in the hallways, classrooms, auditorium, cafeteria, gym, library, theater and even the crazy parking lot at the end of the day!

There are few small things we can do to help us with that and today was a great example. Several of our faculty and staff did a drive by greeting with the sisters on the 4th floor. Yes, we miss them too and they miss us – so we drove in our individual cars through the parking lot and around the circle as the sisters all stood a safe distance away. Sharing signs, waving and blowing horns and kisses – it proved to be a rather joyous occasion. You can see a bit of it on the video here – enjoy!

We are finding news ways to experience community and show support for one another in these difficult days. They are proving fruitful in many ways not the least of which is appreciating the basic needs we have for each other and the simple ways we can share that. The sisters pray for us all the time! Let us all keep one another in prayers of petition and gratitude!

Embracing Father,
You grace each of us with equal measure in your love.
Let us learn to love our neighbors more deeply,
so that we can create
peaceful and just communities.
Inspire us to use our creative energies
to build the structures we need
to overcome the obstacles
of intolerance and indifference.
May Jesus provide us the example needed
and send the Spirit to warm our hearts for the journey.
Amen

—from Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice

Bringing the good news of the Easter story to life

During this Holy Week we recount the journey that Christ took into the darkest experience of human pain and suffering. And today, this journey of human suffering seems all to present to us with the COVID19 pandemic. Christ’s story has the joyful ending of resurrection to new life –  how can we find Easter joy in our current time? How can we apply the Easter story to this present moment? 

It might just be possible that Easter was made for moments like this! We see how the story of Christ’s passion unfolds and we also get to know how it ends. Of course, that alone is an inspiration! We don’t know for sure how our current story will end but we can have faith and imagine the ‘new life’ that can come from all of this. We can hope for a good outcome and put that hope to work through our actions that do make a difference. There are so many in our community doing this already. Think of the health care workers who go to the frontlines every day to provide comfort and care for those who are suffering.

As we begin Holy Week, let us consider ways we bring about positive outcomes in our lives?  Perhaps we can work on a strained relationship, help out more around the house, be more supportive of a sibling, spend a little more time in prayer, be more loving to a sibling, appreciate the beautiful natural world God has given us – there are so many possibilities. The size of the action is not as important as the hope and love with which it is made. This can be the way we bring the good news of the Easter story to life and with it a joy-filled Easter season.

So inspired by the words of Mother Theresa, let us begin our Holy Week with great hope that we will indeed celebrate the joy of Easter.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”                          Mother Theresa

The Class of 2020, Prepared for Life

In recent days, I have been conducting senior exit interviews via Google Meet. These are usually done under different circumstances of course where we can sit at a table in my office and have a face-to-face conversation. I miss that format, but am grateful for the screen time I can have with these marvelous young women. Missing those office visits is minor compared to the things our seniors are missing in these final weeks. But they are handling it all with such grace!

These conversations are always insightful and rewarding not only in terms of what our seniors have to share about their experiences, but in the meaningful and genuine way they reflect the impact of their NDA education. I could not have imagined them being more poignant but these days they certainly are!

In recent years, our seniors have shared ways the academic challenges have taught them how to study and manage their time well, the confidence they have gained by learning in our all girl environment, the importance of the NDA sisterhood in making friends and growing as a community of women and the impact that caring and talented teachers have had on their learning. They have reflected on how they have grown in their faith through religion classes, retreat programs and service.

In these last few weeks the Class of 2020 is reflecting on their final days with added introspection. Some are finding that journal writing helps them cope, others appreciate staying connected to teachers and friends via online learning, and many are grateful for opportunities to spend more time with family and sit outside on a sunny day. They express how moved they are by how much our NDA community cares about them and how much they appreciate all they have in life.

I have always known our young women are well prepared for college and these last few weeks have shown me how prepared they are for life!

May the marvelous and insightful women of the Class of 2020 know God’s goodness this day and always!

What we know for certain

Today we announced that our remote learning plan will be extended through Friday, May 1. This follows Governor Beshear’s recommendation for all schools. As we watch updates from our federal and state officials we know there is no definitive answer about when all this will come to an end. This uncertainty is unsettling but we are grateful for the patience and support we are seeing from across our community. We know we must continue social distancing and find new ways to connect with one another for the health and safety of our family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. We can rely on one certainty – that this will make difference!

My son Louis and his wife Denice live in New York City and they can tell you firsthand how vital it is that we honor this method. Like many parents, I would have never imagined my children would have their lives turned upside down like this – but here we are. I am certain that they love each other and will take good care of one another through it all. The stories I hear from other parents are reminders of this certainty in many of our family experiences.

We recognize another certainty and that is the fortitude and generosity of the human spirit. I am sure you can think of many examples of this, but the most notable one on my mind right now is the bravery and sacrifice of all those on the front lines fighting this disease. This includes a number of parents, alumnae and friends of NDA. They care for those they serve as if they were their own family members. May God bless and protect all these good and courageous people.

Dear Lord,

please embrace your loving arms

around my family and friends.

Keep them always protected,

secured, loved and blessed.

Amen

The Solidarity of Family

Last Friday, Mr. Tom Richmond, well-known religion teacher at NDA, shared a video reflection with our seniors. It was an invitation for them to reflect on how the challenges of these uncertain times are a call to make a difference. He complimented our seniors on doing just that – by handling this unexpected reality with grace, by supporting one another and in appreciating time with their families. We are all proud of you Class of 2020!

A phrase that Mr. Richmond used that is so relevant to these times was this –“the solidarity of family.”  Like our seniors we are each finding more time with that unit we call our family. It is with this group of people that we are learning how to get through these difficult times and, through that solidarity, learning how to rise above it all, to focus on what matters most – the care and support of loved ones.  We may not agree on what to have for dinner, who is cleaning up the kitchen, what to watch on TV or whose turn it is to take the dog for a walk, but we know we must agree on one thing – that we can get through all of this together and we will be better for it.

As our seniors prepare for the next phase of their lives beyond high school, they have to do so in a way they never expected. This is always a bittersweet time for our young people as they prepare to launch their lives beyond high school and their family home. It is especially poignant that each of these young women has been given some extra time at home with their family. It seems they are finding an unexpected gift!  My wish for them is that when they make their journeys forward – this will be a time they will always cherish – and one that will prepare them well for their next challenge and opportunity to make a difference.

“You don’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you as you are to them.”
Desmond Tutu