Celebrating our First Communicants

April 22, 2022

Dear Academy families and friends,

This weekend I will have the honor of witnessing one of the most significant moments of faith formation experienced by our students, as eight members of the Class of 2028 receive Eucharist for the first time.

First Holy Communion is the moment at which members of the Catholic faith join more intimately with God. For as the body and blood of Christ is received by these children they become part of the body of Christ. They become His hands, His voice and His heart in our world. It is a beautiful and humbling experience to witness such complete openness to grace.   

My thanks go out to Miss Christina Soukenik for her exquisite preparation of these communicants. Moreover, my appreciation is fully extended to each parent, godparent and family member who has lovingly joined in partnership with the Academy to help not just the Second Class students, but all our students see through your example the Gospel lived.

In the weeks to come there will be messages about Chemin, Maypole, Prize Day, Field Day, the close of the school year and plans for the coming year . . . each of these will be exciting and hope-filled. However, let us not lose sight of that which comes first and ultimately is our greatest Goal — the deepening of our relationship with God through education to a personal and active faith. 

United in mission,

Dr. Dempf


An Easter Message

April 15, 2022

Dear Academy families and friends,

As we enter these most holy days of the Paschal Triduum, the three days commemorating the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us commit ourselves anew to giving thanks for the blessing of God’s love poured out in the life of Christ. Let each of us carry forward into Easter Week, and beyond, the hope made manifest through the Risen Lord.

Wishing you and your family every blessing at Easter,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Belonging to the Wider Sacred Heart Family

April 8, 2022

Greetings Academy families and friends,

Across the past three days I have been representing the Academy at the Network of Sacred Heart Schools Spring Membership Meeting. In attendance at the Spring Meeting are the Heads of School and Board Chairs who comprise the ‘membership.’ If you envision the atmosphere of a lively and loving family reunion you will gain a sense of the tenor of the meeting. It is a joy to participate!

There are two annual gatherings of the Membership — the first is held annually in St. Charles and provides an opportunity for new Trustees from across the 25 schools to come to know the roots of the Sacred Heart Schools in the United States and Canada. As the first Sacred Heart school in the Americas and the home of the Shrine of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, the Academy is in some ways the ancestral home of all members of the Sacred Heart family. The second meeting, held in the spring, is hosted by the different schools across the Network. Yesterday we were invited to visit, pray and celebrate our shared mission at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart outside of Boston (pictured below).

The Academy’s active participation in the Network yields many benefits for our school, our students, faculty, staff and Board. Students are offered opportunities for Summer Service Projects, Leadership opportunities appropriate to Middle School students, the Middle School Roots that Give Us Wings conference (returning to St. Charles, post COVID, in the fall of 2022) and exchange opportunities. Teachers and staff members attend a conference here in St. Charles offered each summer that helps new employees to grow in their understanding of and commitment to the mission of Sacred Heart education as articulated through the Goals and Criteria. If there has been any positive side effect of COVID-19, perhaps it is the use of technology and the offering of various Network affinity groups and more than 200 Zoom “meet ups” that regularly support dialogue within a larger community of educators.

The meetings held this week offered face-to-face conversations on topics including how contemporary Sacred Heart leaders are extending the mission of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat into the world, the educational mission of the Society and how that extends beyond the 25 Network schools as well as the ‘business aspect’ of the Network. The importance of the Head of School Board Chair relationship, a tuition assistance model (very similar to our own Affordable Customized Tuition program) and Catholic social teaching and the new Criteria are also topics. Lunchtime conversations were focused on enrollment, advancement and capital campaigns and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice best practices. 

The next gathering of Network constituents will be held at the Academy with the offering of Roots that Give Us Wings in mid-June. Academy faculty and staff will participate in this gathering and in doing so, will engage with educators from across our Sacred Heart family. I am so very thankful that this event will return to campus and be offered in support of our shared mission!

Grateful to join the journey,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Sharing in our SHCOG Process

April 1, 2022

Greetings Academy families and friends,

In Ecclesiastes (3:7) it is stated that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.  In this season of Lent we take the 40 days given to us to listen for God’s voice as we strive to align ourselves with Jesus. Last night at a meeting of the Sacred Heart Commission on Goals (SHCOG) Steering Committee, Janis Dougherty shared the following:

In today’s high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world, communication is more important than ever, yet we seem to devote less and less time to really listening to one another. Genuine listening has become a rare gift — the gift of time. It helps build relationships, solves problems, ensures understanding, resolves conflicts, and improves accuracy . . .At home and at school it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant children who can solve their own problems . . . 

Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening. To experience empathy, you have to put yourself in the other person’s place and allow yourself to feel what it is like to be him/her at that moment. This is not an easy thing to do. It takes energy and concentration. But it is a generous and helpful thing to do, and it facilitates communication like nothing else does . . .

The entire school community has been actively engaged in the SHCOG process across this school year. It has been a privilege to listen to the ways Academy constituents have experienced and lived the Goals & Criteria of Sacred Heart Education. In mid-April there will be a wonderful opportunity for cross-constituent groups to meet and engage in both listening and sharing. I think you will find it fascinating to hear the thoughts of our young alums and teachers, as well as those of our parents, students and Board members. Each has offered their thoughts, and I hope you will join us on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the White Center. All are welcome — please mark your calendar and participate in this conversation.

United in mission,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Learning Beyond the Classroom

March 25, 2022

Greetings Academy families and friends,

The blue hyacinths have arrived and will soon pop up and announce spring on our beautiful campus. This weekend I hope all will visit the Academy during our Be Part of the Heart Open House. The teachers have planned engaging activities for students and parents to enjoy. There will be choir and violin performances and you can even learn how to fly a drone! Each student attending will, upon arrival, be ‘issued’ an official Academy of the Sacred Heart Passport to Learning. Teachers will have fun stickers to place in the passports as students complete each of the activities. Sweet treats will be served with help from our Seventh and Eighth Class friends. Come visit and bring a friend who might be looking for a new school for their children. It will be a great way to introduce new families to our school and community!

Along with the return of the Open House, we are so happy to share that Academy students will once again have the opportunity to take learning on the road as they travel to Hannibal, Springfield and Jefferson City where they, along with their teachers, will engage in cocurricular experiences that make direct connections to their classroom learning. Going to Hannibal will be the Sixth Class as part of their study of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The Fourth Class will travel to Jefferson City in support of their study of Missouri history. Joining them will be last year’s Fourth Class who did not have that opportunity due to COVID-19 restrictions at the state capitol. Springfield, IL will be the destination for the Fifth Class students in support of their study of Abraham Lincoln’s role in the Civil War. Accompanying them will be last year’s Fifth Class who likewise missed the opportunity due to COVID-19 restrictions.   

Learning beyond the classroom will also be evidenced as students will once again participate in the Poverty Simulation and the Bed-In-A-Box experience which helps them to grow in understanding of the challenges associated with homelessness.  These Goal III related opportunities are so very important to help students understand social structures, to become engaged citizens and to develop a life-long commitment to service. One never knows when they will be placed in a position to help another. Certainly, this is the case with the Academy’s own Williams family who recently relocated to Warsaw, Poland. Below I hope you will read about how this Academy family is making a difference in the lives of those coming across the border into Poland from Ukraine.

United in mission,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


In Honor of Jane Cannon

March 11, 2022

Dear Academy families and friends,

The message I planned for today’s Thursday Mail focused on the return of field trips and Goal III cocurricular activities such as the poverty simulation and the bed-in-a -box experience. That is what I planned and pledge to share in my message following Spring Break. However today, I am opting for a much different message.

Every once in a great while we come to know a person who truly makes a difference . . . so was the case in the Academy’s great friend, Jane Cannon. Below you will have the opportunity to read about Jane’s contributions to the Academy which stemmed in part from her roles across the years as Lower School Coordinator, Development Director and Alumni Director. Greater than each of these was her contribution as an Academy mother to Angie ’74, Cindy ’75, Carol ’77, Robert and Erin ’85 and a beloved advisor and friend to many alumni and staff.

Always known for her warm welcome and gracious hospitality, this past Christmas Eve the Trustees recognized Jane’s contributions through a Board resolution naming the new school entrance the Cannon Portry. The Honorary Chair of Chemin de Fer in 2018, Jane was honored for her labor of love resulting in the history of the Academy, Two Hundred Years: A Legacy of Love and Learning, published for the school’s bicentennial celebration. Her legacy at the Academy is great, clearly her heart abided here.

Just a few weeks ago Jane sent me a lovely handwritten note thanking me for “a perfect remembrance of our too short friendship.” I think it is safe to say that we all feel exactly that way, our friendships with Jane, no matter how many years they spanned, were so very precious, but far too short. In the coming days, weeks, and months, please join me in prayer for the Cannon family and for all who loved our dear friend Jane.

United in mission,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


An Olympic Opportunity

February 4, 2022

Dear Academy families and friends,

The countdown has begun to the official start of the XXIV Winter Olympic Games which presents a great opportunity for students to learn, explore, grow in empathy and nurture their own dreams for their future.

Held on this occasion in Beijing, China and the surrounding areas of Yanquig and Zhangjiakou, it is reasonable to expect that the television coverage will provide students with information about Chinese culture, languages as well as the topography of China. The sports themselves will offer the chance to learn about the engineering science of bobsleds, the chemistry of ski wax, the physics of figure skating (including the center of mass and projectile motion — vertical and horizontal velocity) and how aerodynamic principles are applied to enhance the flight of ski jumpers.

Beyond science, there will be features on athletes from around the globe which will give insight into where and how others live. There will be stories that inspire and stories that will have us cheering on athletes such as Erin Jackson, Nathan Chen, Chloe Kim and Shaun White (making his fifth Olympic appearance). We may even learn about curling stones made from granite taken from the remote Scottish island of Alisa Craig that once served as a refuge for Catholics fleeing religious persecution in the 16th Century.

While the ‘heart piece’ cannot be predicted specifically, if I have learned anything across my years of Winter Olympic interest and study, I can guarantee there will be moments that inspire, a few that prove heartbreaking and countless that reflect the athletes’ (and their families’) commitment and sacrifice. Lessons in struggle and perseverance along with those of grace and gratitude will have the capacity to inspire us all.

I do not wear ‘rose colored glasses’ when it comes to my interest in the Olympic Games. The Olympics, like most organizations and systems, are not perfect. We have seen the ills of society reflected in them across the years, including the historic exclusion of female athletes from competition, the shunning of gold medalist Jesse Owens in 1936 and the deadly assault on the Israeli team in 1972. The latter example serves as my own first true awareness of a global situation and opened my young eyes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well to the existence of terrorism. I pray that these Games will be peaceful, that their focus will be on the glory of human accomplishment and the possibilities presented by our shared relationships.

I hope that awareness will be raised regarding the value of all humans as each is made in the image and likeness of God. As adults, we also need to be prepared for the children’s questions prompted by media coverage surrounding topics such as human rights issues, gender identity, human-caused climate change and the United States diplomatic boycott. How we handle these questions will shape the thoughts and future actions of these youngsters and may ultimately be the prize ‘won’ by us all as they seek to bring about good in our global world.

Stay safe in snowy conditions,
Dr. Susan Dempf


The Art of Growth

January 28, 2022

Greetings Academy families and friends,

Last week I had the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone — big time! When the need arose to provide substitute teacher coverage, I stepped in . . . to the Art Room and entered a different world. It was a great experience, firstly because I had the chance to spend time with my Fifth Class friends with whom I had periodic lunch duty last year when we were eating in the classrooms, and secondly because it reminded me that each day we ask our students to try new things, to stretch and grow in unfamiliar areas of experience and intellect. This certainly was what I experienced.

Admittedly I am not very artistic. I survived the high school art requirements at my own Sacred Heart school through my skills not in drawing, but rather photography.  Actually, I can draw — four things: mountains, pine trees, sailboats and houses. If you consider these you will realize, each is constructed by a series of straight lines . . . the closest I come to something curvilinear is a pretty good depiction of the normal curve as applied in statistics. (Please feel free to laugh!)

So, fueled by the internet and Pinterest (I am so grateful to their contributors), I came up with a few ideas. The Fifth Class boys likely noted that this was the first art class they ever had where “steps” were literally provided on the whiteboard, most likely in sharp contrast to best practices supporting individuality and creativity!  Nonetheless, there they were. Step 1: Use your blue painters tape to create an equilateral triangle. Step 2: Draw your mountain tops approximately ¼ to ⅓ of the way down your triangle and across from one side of the blue tape to the other . . . and so the steps continued. And the students followed along. By the end of the class they had produced beautiful images of mountains, with colorful skies created by their use of watercolors. They did a great job and should be proud of their work which is hanging in the Mater corridor. In the days that followed both the Fifth Class girls and boys ventured to create lanterns, which will be hung in the ‘upper deck’ of the White Center where they enjoy their lunch. While First Class students created colorful Chihuly-inspired ‘stained glass.’ 

It is good to be placed in new learning situations, to be called upon to step out of your normal routine and to have that ‘stretch’ experience. We all should try it once in a while. Doing so would help us each to recall and better understand that which Academy students know — learning is fun, it is interesting to see what happens when you add a new element to your regular way of doing things (like adding salt to a watercolor painting before it dries) and that sometimes it really is okay if you color outside the lines.

My thanks go out to Mrs. Hagen, our wonderful art teacher, for supporting the development of creativity and imagination among our students and for sharing her students with me last week.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Dr. Susan Dempf      


Opening the Door to Christ

January 7, 2022

Greetings Academy families and friends,

A blessed Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord to all. On this day in our faith tradition we recognize the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God to the gentiles . . . represented in the persons of the Magi. Not truly kings, the three visitors to follow the Star of Bethlehem at its rising include Caspar, an Ethiopian scholar, Melchior, a Persian scholar, and Balthazar, an Arabian scholar. These are the ‘wise men’ who came to pay homage to the Christ child Jesus and returned home ‘by a different way.’

In his homily today, Pope Francis called us each to consider where we are on our own personal journey of faith. The Pope cautioned that we cannot be content to live from day to day, with a slumbering spirit that fails to ask, “what God really wants from us.”  He offered: 

The Magi teach us that we need to set out anew each day, in life as in faith, for faith is not a suit of armor that encases us; instead, it is a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, ever in search of God, always discerning our way forward.

As we begin this new year, and we write “20 Ϯ C Ϯ M Ϯ B Ϯ22” on the lintel above our front door to commemorate this feast day, let us each commit ourselves to open the door to Christ, to His presence in our life, our relationships and the direction in which we journey in 2022.

Happy New Year,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


A Joy-Filled Week

December 10, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

This has been quite a week at the Academy . . . we have celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and in doing so considered how each is given a purpose by God that is ours alone to do . . . for Mary it was to become the mother of the Christ child. What does God hold in promise for us? During this season of Advent, a season marked by waiting and hopeful anticipation, it is essential to still ourselves from the busyness of the secular season of Christmas in order to attune our hearts and minds to the coming of Jesus. This recalibration of our spiritual selves allows us to focus on that which is truly essential.

This morning our youngest learners in the Little Acorns and Pre-Primary classes offered their parents the gift of their Silver Tea performance. The story of the birth of Jesus was told by the children. There were kings and camels, shepherds and doves. Mary and Joseph and the angel Gabriel helped to remind all present of the true meaning of Christmas. It was a gift more precious than gold and frankincense!

The Academy’s Silver Tea tradition stems from the Sacred Heart practice of Feast Wishes. Historically, Feast Wishes were the presentations and special gatherings that students would provide in appreciation of the Religious of the Sacred Heart with whom they lived and studied. It is so appropriate that the Academy’s Silver Tea tradition is gifted to you the students’ parents . . . their first teachers. I hope that through each Silver Tea presentation you attend, or those that you recall from long ago, happy memories of the love and joy shared by your children are kindled.

I thank you for the many ways that your generous spirit is being made known through your attentiveness to our Adopt-A-Family project in the Middle School and the Primary and Lower Schools’ participation in the Toy Drive supporting Santa’s Helpers, Inc. And a special word of thanks to our alumni for your generous participation, along with current families, in our annual tradition of sharing Christmas Baskets with those experiencing need.

May the blessings of this season be with each of you,
Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School