October 2019
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Foundation Day Festivities Celebrate SSND Heritage

Demarest, NJ: October is a month of celebrations at the Academy of the Holy Angels. Events begin with the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels in early October, and end with Foundation Day, the anniversary of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who established AHA 140 years ago.

The School Sisters trace their beginnings to October 24, 1833. Blessed Mother Theresa (formerly Caroline) Gerhardinger and two other women are credited with establishing the organization in Neunburg vorm Wald, Bavaria. At that time, many convent schools were being closed due to political and religious sentiments that resulted from the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. Gerhardinger, who had attended a school that was closed, made it her mission to provide others with a proper education. When Gerhardinger died in 1879, there were more than 2,500 SSNDs educating girls in elementary schools, day nurseries, and orphanages. The SSNDs also provided homes and night schools for girls working in factories.

A highlight of this year’s prayer service was Principal Jean Miller’s talk about the heritage tour she and AHA Director of Mission and Ministry Joan Connelly enjoyed during the summer of 2019. Miller noted that the face of religious life is changing, and fewer women are entering religious orders. However, she pointed out that the mission and charism of the School Sisters are being carried on in SSND institutions, like Holy Angels.

Connelly and Miller were invited to take a heritage tour, which traces the life of Blessed Mother Theresa. They prepared by attending meetings for two years, and ultimately traveled to Munich, Vienna, and Rome. The experience included a visit to Theresa’s childhood home. While the building has changed, Miller explained that the garden and an outdoor well had been preserved intact. The travelers enjoyed pumping water from the well while imagining Mother Theresa doing the same thing many years before.

Miller shared photographs of the Motherhouse and school in Munich, which is decorated with student-made art, including hand-painted crucifixes. Those who took the tour with Miller and Connelly visited Mother Theresa’s tomb in the chapel within the Motherhouse.

While touring Vienna, Miller and Connelly enjoyed seeing a mural painted with the words for “peace” in many languages. The banner continues throughout the entire building.

Miller also highlighted her group’s visit to the Vatican and the Generalate in Rome. As Miller and Connelly walked through the

Generalate, they were greeted with a familiar image: a photo of AHA students standing at the Academy’s peace pole.

“I want to impress upon you how important you all are to all of us,” Miller told the students. She added that we all belong to a larger community and must support other women, especially girls. She urged the students to treat everyone with love and respect, beginning at Holy Angels.

Multiple School Sisters then renewed their vows and sang the SSND blessing for everyone in attendance. SSNDs who attended this year’s celebration included S. Mary Foley, S. Kathleen Dunham, S. Carole Tabano, S. Henrice Eckert, S. Kathleen Cornell, S. John Vianny Zullo, S. Limétèze Pierre-Gilles, S. Janice Algie, S. Mary Kelly, S. Kathleen Fullerton, and S. Patricia Ferrick. They were joined by SSND Associate Kathleen Sylvester.

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

315 Hillside Avenue Contact Us & Driving Directions

Demarest, NJ 07627

Phone: 201.768.7822

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