Some time ago, a valedictorian at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport used the words of Hannibal to describe the path of his class to graduation and into the future: “Either we will find the way or we will make a way.”
St. Madeline Sophie Barat & St. Rose Philippine Duchesne were not students of military history but they had all the resourcefulness and determination of a Hannibal. In 1802, Sophie Barat became a religious superior just after making first vows at age 23. With few resources, she attracted other women to a way of life that included a warm devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus coupled with a passion for excellence in education. A single Convent of the Sacred Heart became eighty before her death in 1865. They were to be found in Europe, North and South America, and Northern Africa.
It was St. Rose Philippine Duchesne who brought the Society of the Sacred Heart and their schools to the shores of North America. “Either we will find the way or we will make a way!” we can almost hear them saying.
But for Sophie Barat and Philippine Duchesne, it was not military strategy and engineering prowess that cleared the way. It was the determination with which they relied on the Lord and his love. It was their total dedication to Christ that gave them the freedom not to be consumed by anxieties and worries and trumped up limitations. Instead, they pressed forward, confident in their calling, confident in their mission. They pressed forward not indeed with military might but rather with that heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness & patience which St. Paul commends to us in his letter to the Colossians just proclaimed.
Their Vision Still Lives
Their vision still lives, as it has for 160 years. Sophie Barat once said: “What is the good of teaching various subjects . . . if at the same time we cannot teach children the words of life and touch their hearts and consciences?”
This afternoon we celebrate success on both fronts, academic excellence and formation of hearts and consciences. Dear graduates, you have captured a dazzling array of honors and you will matriculate at the very best universities in the years ahead. Even in these economically challenging times, the doors of opportunity open wide to your talent and idealism. Whether in the fields of journalism or engineering, science, poetry and the arts, or whether on the fields of hockey, lacrosse, and soccer, you have already distinguished yourselves in ways that make us all very proud.
Yes, you’ve experienced a high measure of success in academics and athletics but, I daresay, an even higher form of success in the formation of the heart. This senior class has complied 12,000 hours of community service in the last 4 years. You’ve taken the words we read from the prophet Micah and made them live: “Only to do justice, to love kindly, and to walk humbly with your God!”
You’ve expanded the horizons of your hearts to the poor and needy in New York City, Stamford, and Bridgeport. You’ve opened your heart in love to your fellow students in Uganda and you’ve developed friendships with the students attending the Catholic inner city schools in Bridgeport. You met students from impoverished homes and blighted neighborhoods. Like yourselves, these young people are striving for and attaining excellence. You’ve befriended fellow students many of whom will attend Connecticut’s only inner-city Catholic high school – Kolbe Cathedral High School. Last night I learned that 100% of the Kolbe graduates, like yourselves, will go on to college in the fall, some to Ivy League schools. “Either we will find the way or we will make a way!” I could hear them saying!
Tribute to Sr. Joan Magnetti
We’ve come to the altar of the Lord so that we might walk humbly and recognize that every good gift comes from God. St. Rose Philippine Duchesne once said, “Humility is the virtue that requires the greatest amount of effort.” Humility is simply the grateful acknowledgement of how God has blessed us and a determination to use those blessings not for ourselves but for others. Dear graduates – may you always live what the Eucharist celebrates – a gratitude at once so humble and so great that we rely on the Son of God to bring our prayers before the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of the greatest blessings that this or any school could receive from the Lord is now completing her service to the Convent of the Sacred Heart. She has brought to us the spirit and wisdom of a Sophie Barat & a Philippine Duchesne and, might I add, some of Hannibal’s strategic thinking! The signs of her wisdom, love, determination, and strategic thinking are all around us, in this campus that has been transformed, in a school that is flourishing, in the hearts and minds of students and alumnae. In them her greatest success will shine for generations to come: women of skill and knowledge who exhibit kindness and compassion.
Sr. Magnetti was once of the very first people I met when I first came to this Diocese and Sister, you have been a wonderful friend and co-worker. With this stellar senior class, these graduates, and in the presence of so many friends and colleagues I pay you tribute and I ask God to bless you and keep you in his love!