February 2020
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Capital Campaign Supports Leadership Opportunities for Angels

Demarest, NJ: Over the past 140 years, the Academy of the Holy Angels has forged a sterling reputation for educating and empowering women leaders. The Academy’s consistently strong enrollment remains Holy Angels’ most noticeable endorsement.

This year, AHA will move forward with Phase II of its Capital Campaign, a $3.5 million plan that will focus on the school auditorium and music wing.

AHA’s auditorium is a focal point for the school community, and is often the public’s first impression of the Academy. The space is used for assemblies, liturgies, awards ceremonies, honor society inductions, concerts, theater productions, the AHA Talent Show, International Night, practice for the Music Makers, and more.

Updates will include a modern lighting system for the stage and auditorium, a curtain, a state-of-the-art sound system, new seating for 745 (including the lower level and balcony), storage, a sacristy, and an air conditioning system. Plans also call for renovations to the choral/instrumental room, four new practice rooms, updates to the school store, and the addition of a dance studio.

For many Angels, the auditorium is the first place they sing, dance, act, or play a musical instrument for an audience. Other students get their start behind the scenes.

Sister Mary Maher, a School Sister of Notre Dame and 1968 AHA alumna, fondly recalls her work with the AHA Drama Club.

“I have a lot of wonderful memories from Holy Angels,” the former SSND General Superior stated. “I was a member of the drama club. I worked behind the scenes. One year, we staged Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special and we made it ‘snow.’ We chopped up Styrofoam and shook it onto the stage. It really looked like snow.”

S. Mary will be honored with the AHA Distinguished Alumna Award at the Angelic Evening gala set for March 20. Born in Oceanside, Long Island, she moved to Closter as a girl of seven. She entered AHA when the school was located in Fort Lee, and helped move the school library to the current campus in Demarest in 1965.

“I’m extremely proud of the school as an alumna and as an SSND,” S. Mary noted. “It’s truly marvelous what the girls do. They are so socially aware. They are citizens of the world.”

These words also describe S. Mary. While she entered the convent at 18 (and asserts that she has been happy ever since), S. Mary has continually educated herself and others. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology summa cum laude from Fairfield University, and taught at a high school in Brooklyn for two years before receiving a master’s and a doctorate in theology from Catholic University of America. She spent 10 years teaching at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York, one year at Villanova, and nearly eight years at the Washington Theological Union.

She was the last provincial leader of the Wilton Province of the SSNDs and the first provincial leader of the Atlantic-Midwest Province. S. Mary later became SSND General Superior, and spent two five-year terms working in Rome, Italy.

“In that position I got to know Blessed Mother Theresa Gerhardinger better than ever before,” S. Mary said of the foundress of her order. She added that she read many of the thousands of Mother Theresa’s letters, and prayed to her often.

During her service as general superior, S. Mary oversaw the establishment of the Gerhardinger Fund, an international financial resource named in Mother Theresa’s honor. All of the SSND provinces donate to the fund, and all may draw upon it to cover non-ministerial costs, such as building repairs after a roof collapse.

“This is part of our commitment to ‘hold all in common,’ as stated in the SSND Constitution,” S. Mary pointed out.
In addition, S. Mary’s terms of office saw the development of a comprehensive Communication and Technology Plan for the international congregation and, most significant for the future, the establishment of one Novitiate in Rome for the entire congregation with English as the common language.

S. Mary has developed a reputation as a noted theologian. After her recent sabbatical, she looks forward to a return to teaching.

This woman’s extraordinary contributions have been fueled through an educational journey that began at Holy Angels.

Details about Angelic Evening are available at Proceeds from this year’s gala will be dedicated to the auditorium renovations.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

Academy of the Holy Angels

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Demarest, NJ 07627

Phone: 201.768.7822

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