Written on: August 21, 2019
Farewell Mass Remarks
August 4, 2019
Grey Nun Academy has been a part of my family’s life for more than half a century and I am so grateful. As many of you know, the school began in the old stone Dietz house at the end of the driveway. In those days, it was BYOC—Bring Your Own Chair—for reading group and mine was a little ice cream parlor-style chair with a white vinyl seat.
Admittedly, as a five-year-old, I had been perfectly happy at home and so put up quite a fuss when my mother delivered me to the Sisters who in 1965 wore full habits and had compound names, like Sr. Mary Aloysius, Sr. Mary Karen, and Sr. Ann Paul. The Sisters, for their part, were so gentle and friendly and showed no sign of concern at my tears and at my mother prying my fingers off the doorjamb. Their calm absorbed my fear and made me realize that everything was okay. I was able to enter the classroom and join my classmates, some of whom are here today—Joey Rago, Anthony DeStafano, and Maryann Forcina.
These classmates could tell you about lunches in the Spring House which was our cafeteria. It was always naturally cool in the Spring House and smelled like peanut butter and jelly. Or, art shows near the old barn with our pictures hung from a clothesline strung between two trees.
In the beginning, the Sisters started the school with just the lower grades, adding upper grades as those students progressed through.
It was the kind, calm patience and respect for their students that I remember most about the Sisters. Following in the tradition of Marguerite d’Youville, they walked their talk and in that walk, gave us room to learn and become who we would be in the world.
And so in 1994, when it came time for my husband, Mark, and me to send the oldest of our three sons to school, Grey Nun Academy was our first choice. Sister Mary Aloysius was now Sister Martha and teaching preschool. Sister Eileen taught religion and saw to the Campus Ministry. And at the helm as principal was Sr. Dolores. There were also now many dedicated lay teachers. Our sons practiced conflict resolution in Miss McGinty’s Peace Tent; reading in Mrs. Shield’s first grade; and creativity in fourth grade at Mrs. Ogborn’s Invention Convention.
When we parents called the school for one reason or the other, Kathy Cantwell and Mary Ann Turnbull recognized who we were by our voices even before we had a chance to say who was calling. Both of these women offered warmth and hospitality to everyone who visited GNA. And I have lost track of how many peanut butter sandwiches they made for children who forgot their lunches at home!
Students from Grey Nun went well prepared to the high schools of their choice and then on to college where their early learning foundation, set here, served them well. Despite going their separate ways, many alumni in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, still enjoy friendships which began in kindergarten and preK at Grey Nun Academy.
For the past 55 years, what the Sisters have provided for our community is a place of unconditional love, of respect for our children and families, and room to become who God calls us to be. Their approach to faith is not dogmatic—it’s lived and breathed.
So though this is a Mass of farewell, I believe that the Sisters’ mission lives on in the lives of the more than one thousand students who have passed through these doors.
What a gift the Grey Nuns and all at Grey Nun Academy have given us. We are blessed.
To read another reflections on GNA click here.
From Sr. Dolores Beatty click here.