Hopeful Anticipation

December 3, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

Last Sunday we entered into the liturgical season of Advent — a time when we as Christians ready ourselves to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world. It is a period of preparation and anticipation. In this first week of Advent we focus on hope — the hope for that which is yet to come, that which sits on the horizon, but is not yet within reach.

Hope supports the emotional well being of all. After a year of COVID precautions and separation, hope for a better day is essential. “Hope is seen as an active process of conscious and unconscious reasoning.” Hope is fueled by optimism and an outlook that each of us has the ability to bring about positive change for ourselves and for others. In this season of Advent, where are your hopes centered? This is a wonderful time of the year to reflect on this simple question.

One of our greatest challenges to experiencing a rich experience of hope comes from living in a world ripe with instant gratification and immediate response. One of my favorite spaces at the Academy is a small room on the second floor of the 1836 building — it once was the community room for the Religious of the Sacred Heart. In this little chamber I envision Philippine sitting by the hearth waiting for a response to one of her many letters to Madeleine Sophie. The patience and the trust she had, confident that a reply would come, is a lesson for us all.

Recently, I read a quote from Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ that connects with this season of anticipation of Christmas. Mother Stuart stated

Preparation is spoilt by impatience and want of resignation. If the vision make any delay, wait for it, for it will surely come and shall not tarry. Few things are so restless, unsatisfactory and useless as impatient waiting — especially following on hurried preparation, and one of the hardest gravest lessons is to learn to wait with patience and resignation. If Advent adds any of these qualities to our spirit of preparation, it will have been well spent.

In this season of anticipation, may you truly experience hope. May it linger in your heart and home across these weeks of Advent.

United on this journey,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Celebrating Philippine

November 19, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

Happy Feast Day… today we join with Sacred Heart students around the globe in celebrating our saint and friend, Philippine. This morning as I was getting ready for school I was thinking about how I have celebrated this feast in the past, whether as a student in my very itchy wool dress uniform on the Kenwood campus or as a Sacred Heart educator in Newton, MA or in Miami. I feel very blessed — we all are — to be in this holy place. To be where Philippine lived, prayed and dreamed. To be where Philippine struggled, failed and endured. I think one of the reasons why Philippine is so dear to us at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, whether student, teacher, alum or parent, is because she was very real.

She was not perfect, I am not perfect, no human is… but seeing how Philippine navigated her life, like the Mississippi River with its shifting sandbars and floating obstacles gives us hope — hope that we can do the same. Philippine continues to teach us to have courage and confidence. Courage to listen for the presence of God in our heart and confidence to act, to do something that answers the call that God has for each of us.

In a message to the Heads of Sacred Heart Schools received this morning from Sister Suzanne Cooke, Provincial of the Society of the Sacred Heart US-Canada Province, she stated:

“On this day when we acknowledge Philippine, we recognize that each human being is simultaneously grace filled and challenged by inclinations to fail to operate from this grace. The good news is that we are loved by God. If we can only trust this identity as God’s Beloved, we can overcome our frailty and our failures; we can and must work to build the Beloved Community as Jesus envisioned. Philippine’s words encourage to move forward confident in God’s mercy.

We cultivate a very small field for Christ but we love it,
knowing that God does not require great achievements,
but a heart that holds back nothing for self.

Let’s pray for one another and all with whom and on behalf of whom we serve. May our union of hearts rooted in mission be a source of life to our world.”

And so with those words in mind, let us all go forward on this Feast Day — parents, grandfriends, teachers, staff, alumni and Board members — to continue to cultivate this small field for Christ, this field of children before us…a field filled with hope and joy, promise and the capacity to serve the purpose that God has given to each, and without whom God’s work will go undone.

Happy Feast!

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Growing into Wise Freedom

November 5, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

As we turn our attention today to Goal V  Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom — these Criteria offer insight into ‘the why’ behind some of the practices supported at the Academy. Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ wisely offered the following:

There are two ways of educating: one, to give heart, mind, energy, everything to working for the children  doing things for them. The other, to try to teach the children to work for themselves. And this is the higher of the two. It requires more prudence, more foresight and there is less immediate return. We ought not to do things for the children which they ought to learn to do for themselves. We want to make them independent of us.

To this end, students and educators of the Sacred Heart “grow in courage and confidence as they discover new abilities, cultivate strengths, learn from mistakes, develop empathy and exercise resilience in meeting challenges.” Through trial and error, the scientist grows in understanding and the body of knowledge is advanced in their field of study. This is true for growing up as well! Life does not always present the perfect situations, children must learn to navigate the journey — a journey complete with mountains to climb and rivers to cross. “Initiative, creativity and agility” are essential skills that will be central to successful navigation of life.

The COVID-19 pandemic called for increasing reliance on technology as a primary mode of communication. The Criteria within Goal V call us to support the development of “safe, ethical and responsible use of technology.” So, too, it prompts us to “model and teach respectful dialogue in support of clear, direct, open communication.” The lessons learned in these areas will serve students well into their adult lives as technology continues to evolve and bring people and ideas together.

Yet another call to action brought forward under Goal V is an understanding of life balance. The pressures of adolescence are growing each year; this is brought on in part by the challenges faced in our communities and world. It is a privilege to listen to the prayers of our Academy students. They ask God for the protection of animals. They thank God for clean water. They recognize the needs of the homeless as the weather turns cold and seek ways to support these persons. These prayers are beautiful and bring much hope for the future. They also indicate that youngsters are not growing up in stress-free times.

The support of “a school culture that promotes spiritual, intellectual, physical and social-emotional well-being” is needed now more than ever. Teaching children and supporting the adult members of our community to model health and balance is a means of teaching strategies to support life-long wellness. So, too, does recognizing the needs of self and others support the development of transformative leaders.

For many, Goal V “Personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom” is their favorite Goal. It allows each of us to strive, to stumble and to try again. It teaches ‘grit’ and perseverance . . . and in this home of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, whose feast we will celebrate on November 18, perhaps she serves yet again as our best inspiration.

United in mission,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Expanding our Community with Goal IV

October 29, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

This week we continue our deep dive into the 2020 Goals & Criteria of Sacred Heart Education, specifically turning our attention to Goal IV – Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to the building of community as a Christian value. The ‘tagline’ of this goal ‘community’ is often first considered as the social opportunities membership in the Academy family affords. While this is important and helps to build camaraderie as well as shared bonds with both the Academy and other families, alumni, faculty, staff, Board members and friends, Goal IV challenges us to go beyond our first thoughts of this beautiful community of Christ’s heart.

Goal IV offers us a form of cultural norms and sets out for each of us a way of being and interacting. Starting from the most basic belief that all are created in the image and likeness of God, Criteria 1 calls us to “promote the inherent dignity of the human person” and asks us all to engage in relationships grounded in respect and inclusivity. As an outflow of that experience, Criteria 5 asks all members of our school community to “practice and teach the principles of non-violence and conflict management” in “a spirit of peace and reconciliation.”

School leadership is identified in Goal IV as a key player in the development of community as a Christian value through the Criteria calling for “a conscious effort to recruit students and employ faculty and staff of diverse races, ethnicities and backgrounds.” Likewise, socio-economic diversity is valued in the Criteria as the Academy is called to allocate financial resources that support this, both through admissions and the experience lived by our students.

Criteria 2 of Goal IV draws our attention to “educating all members of the school community to the charism, mission and heritage of the Society of the Sacred Heart.” Several weeks ago in Thursday Mail, I spoke directly to our understanding of Saint Madeleine Sophie’s charism to prepare us for a deeper understanding of this Criteria. The celebration of the Feast of Mater Admirabilis as well as the upcoming Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne are also expressions of our engagement with our shared heritage.

Growing from our local community to a more expanded understanding of the community to which we belong, within Goal IV we, as a school, are asked to engage as a member of the Network of Sacred Heart Schools in the United States and Canada as well as those around the world. In today’s Thursday Mail you will hear of how the Academy hosted a gathering of the Society’s Provincial Team, Network Board Chairs and Trustees as well as the Heads of Sacred Heart Schools. We do this annually as the Academy of the Sacred Heart is the launching off point for the foundation of many other Sacred Heart Schools and the final resting place of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne who, along with her companions, brought Sacred Heart education to these lands.

In conclusion, Goal IV is rich in its direction for how we experience community and how we strive to extend ourselves outward from this historic campus.

Wishing you all a blessed week and a joyful celebration of the All Saints and All Souls feast days,

Dr. Susan Dempf
Head of School


Stretching Beyond Service with Goal III

October 22, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

This morning on my drive to campus and then over to the Membership Meeting for the Network of Sacred Heart Schools held annually in Saint Charles, I saw a bumper sticker on the car in front of me as together we were stopped for a red light. The sign on the silver Prius read “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.” My immediate thought was ‘what a shame!” As the Prius moved away from me, the message stayed with me.

As promised, this week we continue our journey into the 2020 Goals & Criteria of Sacred Heart Education, with a focus this week on Goal III “Schools of the Sacred Heart Commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action.” This is the Goal most commonly thought of as our commitment to service. Service certainly is a component of this Goal, a very important one, but it is not the only dimension represented in the Criteria. Goal III and associated Criteria is our response to the problem noted on the bumper sticker.

Through Goal III, the Academy and all its members — students, parents, teachers, staff, alumni and Board members — are called to “serve the common good in an interdependent world.” Drawing from Catholic Social Teaching, students are educated in a manner that views social structures, practices and systems with a critical eye . . . to consider the ways things have been done and to challenge themselves and others to find a more just path forward for all.

Through these 2020 Goals, we are to be held accountable “for the care of God’s creation” and to be responsible stewards of the great gift of our earthly home. Again, the Criteria require us to look to the future and in doing so, take action to prevent harm. Immersing “students in diverse global perspectives, developing competencies such as critical consciousness, language facility and cultural literacy” all come together to offer our young learners a view that goes well beyond the school campus.

I think the key term that sums up Goal III is “impels to action.” Academy students do not just learn about the challenges faced in our communities, they are invited to consider what they can do to right a wrong, correct a problem and eliminate injustice. They seek to grow up to be the best for the world.

And, that is the answer to the quandary of how you “explain” that “you should care for other people!”

United in mission,
Dr. Susan Dempf


Diving Deep into Goal II

October 15, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

As we continue our journey into the 2020 edition of the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Education, this week take a deep dive into “Goal II – Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a deep respect for intellectual values.” From our youngest learners in the Little Acorns class to our Eighth Class students readying themselves for the next step of their educational journey, high school, there is focus on creating opportunities to ‘stretch intellectually.’

Goal II, Criteria 1 calls educators and students to “engage in challenging experiences that inspire intellectual curiosity, a global mindset and a life-long love of learning.” A walk down the arcade hallway and you are transported to Russia as students share their paintings depicting Matryoshka nesting dolls. Likewise, the question of “what did Magellan’s expedition accomplish” sets a student to consider global exploration and how that changes mindsets. While Criteria 2 focuses on the “offering of a dynamic curriculum, effective instructional methodologies, review of current educational research and ongoing evaluation.” Learning labs that allow for a student to move ahead or a student to receive a little extra support is an example of how this criterion is approached.

At the Academy Goal II, Criteria 3, which focuses on the “use of a variety of teaching and learning strategies to support growth and development,” is experienced through science labs in the Lower School where students explore and document their findings on the sounds made by different objects and then put this knowledge to work to create a ‘secret code’ that directs action. From word problems and sudoku to algebraic equations, students learn the universal language of mathematics though varied learning strategies that help connect with each learner in the manner that suits them best.

This past year’s Fund-the-Need, focused on technology, directly supported Goal II, Criteria 4, “the curricular and cocurricular programs integrate innovation and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, the exploration of emerging technologies and critical evaluation of information.” A visit to John Storjohann’s computer labs finds the Middle School students engaged in designing in 3D and making those designs come to life through the 3D printer. In Second Class students are asked to consider the problems that pioneers might have encountered when travelling in a covered wagon or three ways to cross a river. Across the grade levels from Third Class to Eighth Class the use of Microsoft Teams allows for the development of collaborative skills as students are provided with the opportunity to work together on shared learning projects incorporating authentic assessments.

Goal II, Criteria 5 encourages the school to use space and “the physical environment in alignment with best pedagogical practices.” A visit with the Little Acorns brings you into a classroom-based ‘fire station’ complete with a truck, a ‘burning’ building, and a 911 call center. “Stop, Drop and Roll” comes alive as learning and imaginative play are experienced to the delight of our youngest learners in a space designed for free movement. On the opposite end of the school spectrum, students in Seventh and Eighth Classes have a very different learning environment with high top tables, ‘living room’ style spaces within the classroom and a Harkness table to support their maturing styles.

Goal II, Criteria 6 supports the cultivation of “aesthetic values and the creative use of imagination.” This is represented by the study and depiction of movement and rhythm as students learn how the viewer’s eye traverses a work of art. While in Middle School Science classes students combine knowledge of human movement and engineering to develop functioning models of prosthetic devices.

Sacred Heart educators assume responsibility for their professional growth, supported by resources and a culture that promotes life-long learning. This happens in many ways, including professional development days sponsored by the school, participation in conferences off-campus as well as teacher-initiated requests for support of advanced course work and content study. This is how Goal II, Criteria 7 is lived out by our teachers and staff.
Goal II is alive and well at the Academy, this is just a ‘little glimpse’ to help demonstrate the Criteria in action.

Have a wonderful weekend,
Dr. Susan Dempf


Delving into the Goals

October 13, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

The Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Education serve as our guide map for all that we undertake at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. The first articulation of the Goals was released in 1975. While the Goals have not changed across the years, the way we aspire to live them (as articulated through the Criteria) has evolved. These periodic updates help to keep the schools, and all the constituent groups associated with them, responsive to the changing needs of Sacred Heart students and the communities surrounding them.

This week I welcome you to consider with me Goal I: Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a personal and active faith in God. The first Criteria offered under Goal I helps to define us as a school community: “The school identifies itself as a Catholic-independent-Sacred Heart School and embodies the mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart.” “Catholic” identifies our faith tradition, “independent” identifies our structure, and Sacred Heart identifies the sponsoring religious organization (the RSCJ). This connects beautifully to the understanding that the mission of our school is part of the Society’s educational mission within the Catholic Church.

While Goal I may instinctively bring a first thought of liturgical celebrations such as the Mass of the Holy Spirit or the recent Commissioning Mass, the Criteria offered in support of this Goal are much broader. Criteria 2 supports the development of a position of “gratitude, generosity, compassion and forgiveness” among students and adult members of the school community. These attributes of the heart of Christ are developed and demonstrated in a myriad of ways and across settings. The playground and the classroom and the Board Room as well at Soccer games and Country Fair — each of these spaces and activities presents opportunities to grow and live these traits.

Goal I, Criteria 3 speaks of a community possessing an “ethos of joy, hope and celebration” and that the Academy programs support the essential belief that “there is meaning and value in life” for all. I have added the “for all,” as it helps us to bridge an understanding that we articulate when we say that the Academy is a Catholic school for children of all faiths. Criteria 4 speaks directly to that as it says “The school community welcomes and respects persons of all faiths and educates to an understanding of the religions and spiritual traditions of the world.”

The tradition of Espacio as well as opportunities for Eucharistic adoration are just two ways that time is set aside from the busy — and loud — life we all lead to support the ability to be still and to listen to the presence of God dwelling within. With the development of this skill, and I do believe it is a skill, students and adults alike become better equipped to tap into the interior life and draw strength, clarity and support through practices of “prayer, discernment and reflection.” Goal I, Criteria 5 and Criteria 6 call us to support growth in these areas.

Lastly, Criteria 7 under Goal I states — “the school community, rooted in the love of Jesus Christ, nurtures the spiritual lives of its members through the exploration of one’s relationship to God, to self, to others and to creation.” The understanding that you are loved by God occurs in many ways and is developed over time. Children first experience God’s love through the care and unwavering love of their parents and family. Through our partnership with parents, we endeavor to further develop an openness to God’s mystery and love. Additionally, providing time spent outdoors at Camp Lakewood building trust in others, learning about nature and our earthly home in science class or, as our youngest learners did this week, spending time with a dog and his human friend from the APA all contribute to the development of an awareness beyond self and the goodness of relationships — relationships given to us by God so as to reflect His love by and for others.

United in mission,
Dr. Susan Dempf


Sophie’s Charism — A Gift to us All

September 17, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

This week we celebrated the 203rd anniversary of the founding of the Academy of the Sacred Heart by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and her four companions: Eugenie Aude, Octavie Berthold, Catherine Lamarre and Marguerite Manteau. These courageous and faith-filled Religious of the Sacred Heart came to an outpost town, the launching point for westward exploration, and opened the first free school west of the Mississippi. Challenged at every turn, they established the Academy and set in motion the founding of houses (schools) across the country and south into Cuba and South America.

To honor that tradition of going beyond boundaries, students at the Academy participated in a Commissioning Mass to honor their commitment to others. With their parents present, Eighth Class students were recognized individually with the gift of a Philippine medal.

While following in the footsteps of Philippine, students were reminded that Philippine’s work was done in support of the charism given to and shared by her friend, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. A charism is considered “the extraordinary graces given by God to an individual for the good of others.” Sophie’s charism came about as she recognized the situation in her homeland following the French Revolution — she knew she needed to do something to make a difference in the lives of others. She sought to make known the love of God present in the heart of Jesus to help people come to know they are loved by God.

This past Sunday, we read from the letter of St. James wherein he reminds us that having faith is not enough . . . it is through deeds (good acts) that faith is demonstrated. This summer I learned that 82% — nearly 2,000 charisms recognized by the Catholic Church — are no longer active. These extraordinary graces, these gifts, are no longer being experienced. This fact makes the Academy’s Commissioning Mass even more significant, as through the commissioning, students pledge to hold Sophie’s spirit, her charism, her gift in trust . . . ensuring that it will be carried forward.

Each of us, whether parents, alumni, teachers, staff, administrators or friends of the Academy, has the opportunity to choose, as these students did, to discover the graces God shares with us and reveal them to the world for the good of others. When we cooperate with the Spirit dwelling within, we see opportunities everyday to love God and our neighbor. Through this our lives become “an eloquent lesson to the world.”

Caritas vincit omnia. Love conquers all.

United in mission,
Dr. Susan Dempf


An Unexpected Growth Opportunity

September 10, 2021

It was harvest time in the Academy garden earlier this week . . . or at least that is what I thought. I was excited to see that the carrots planted last year by Mrs. Murray and Mrs. Pearce had come to maturity. I envisioned surprising the students with a snack of carrot sticks that they had grown. That was the plan.

I was shocked by the result! The stem was broad and strong and the leaves were at least a foot or more in length . . . the top of the carrot as it peered out of the garden bed looked bright orange. Every indication was that this carrot was ‘ready.’ So, I pulled, and pulled . . . and this is what revealed itself!


Your Heart is Not Your Own

September 2, 2021

Greetings Academy families and friends,

Thank you to all who attended last night’s Back-to-School Night! We were so happy to offer this event once again in person, and it was terrific to see so many in attendance. Your participation is a wonderful affirmation of the partnership between parent and teacher, parent and school on behalf of your children. Thank you again for your presence.

Recently, a line from a television ad caught my attention. It was an advertisement for some medication — I have no idea which one . . . and while the product did not catch my attention the final line of the script did. It went something like ‘after all — your heart is not your own.” This thought has stuck with me, and I invite you to ponder it as well.

‘Your heart is not your own.’ There is truth to this. We who belong to this community of Christ’s heart understand this deeply. In each encounter with those we love, a little portion of our heart is given to them. In return, they share their heart with us. This giving and receiving comes in the form of shared ideas, dreams, and desires. It comes in the form of shared loss and longing. We trust in each other to safeguard and cherish that bit of our heart and the love we share.