It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Advent. Within the busyness and bustle of the holiday season as we move through this first week of Advent, my mind and heart are reminded to slow down, to pay attention, and to seek peace. This desire to retreat, to be present, and to pray was born and nurtured for me as a student at the Academy.
It was – and is – a magical time with sparkling trees and decorations, preparations for Silver Tea and the sounds of merriment, but one of my most indelible memories is gathering for morning assembly as a Middle School student in the library (now the Computer Lab). During these times, crowded together with friends, our principal, Mrs. Hopper, would light the candle on the Advent wreath and share some of the 100 Neediest Cases from the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The experiences of extreme poverty and need, of the most basic requests – a bed, groceries, a new coat – were so different than most of our lives that it truly opened our eyes and our hearts.
Little did I know then that we were being awakened to Goal III – a social awareness which impels to action; in the 1970s the Goals and Criteria had not been articulated as such. Still, a sense of service surrounded us and was modeled by our teachers. Sister Marheineke’s Little Red Box was an ever-present reminder to give a little spare change after lunch, which she then pooled and donated to an area charity. Holiday collections and bake sales encouraged us to think beyond ourselves to making the holidays brighter for those in need. These traditions are alive in our Toy Drive, Adopt-a-Family program, and Santa’s Helpers, as students increasingly learn what it means to be “other-focused.”
And, the much-loved Christmas Basket Mass for decades has been the culmination of an awareness of the needs of others, with Academy families – present and past – assembling baskets full of holiday meal ingredients which are then shared with those in our community. As a student, shopping with my mom to choose items, then seeing the baskets filling the gym before we left for Christmas break was something I anticipated each year. The outpouring of generosity for strangers was something I will never forget – and I still tear up as we sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” at mass. It’s a beautiful reminder that we don’t have to know someone to have compassion: “A Child, a Child shivers in the cold. Let us bring Him silver and gold.”
As we celebrate these next weeks of Advent, may you experience the hope, love, joy and peace of the season and the anticipation of Jesus’ birth.
— Lisa Tebbe ’80, Director of Marketing and Communications