Magazine article Momentum

Affirming the Past, Empowering the Future

Magazine article Momentum

Affirming the Past, Empowering the Future

Article excerpt

St. Elizabeth's Academy re-ignites the founding charism for future generations

"Let us affirm and empower! Let us be the presence of Christ! St. Elizabeth, pray for us."

These were the words prayed by a member of the class of 2010 during the meal blessing at the senior prom. The seniors at St. Elizabeth Academy (SEA) in St. Louis, Mo., had spent four years praying these words, a prayer that echoes the mission statement of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood (CPPS) of O'Fallon, Missouri, who founded and continue to sponsor the girls Catholic high school.

Later that school year at graduation, Krystal Knese, the class valedictorian-without prompt- spent the greater part of her speech recalling the Precious Blood sisters' four core values of reconciliation, presence, hospitality and responding to human needs. Krystal said, "Yes, it would be very easy to walk out of these doors tonight and forget everything the school has taught us these four years about the values.... It would behoove us to take these four core values and put them into action; to take all of this knowledge and all of this power and turn it into lifestyles of the successful women St. Elizabeth Academy has taught us to be."

Although the class of 2010 never knew any difference, these prayers and themes were not commonly known by the school community just seven years ago.

After nine years teaching in schools built around the strong charism of one particular religious congregation, I began my current job as director of campus ministry and member of the administration at St. Elizabeth Academy in 2003. 1 knew of the founding and sponsorship by the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, and I knew that, at the time, St. Elizabeth had been open nearly 125 years. Acknowledging such a lengthy heritage, I expected to learn quickly of the charism of the Precious Blood sisters, knowing that all that happens within campus ministry-and indeed within all of the school's programs-must flow authentically from the religious charism of the school.

Charism is a Special Gift

This was not the case. Some artwork revealed some of the sense of the spirituality of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood and, certainly, the four sisters still on staff revealed a sense of the reconciling and hospitable presence for which their congregation is known. Aside from this, there was not much in the school that spoke explicitly of the charism of the sisters. What had happened to the spiritual heritage of the sisters within the school?

Meanwhile, Sister Susan Borgel, who was the superior general for the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood at the time, was coming to the same conclusion. "As I met and shared faith and life with leaders of other religious communities," she reflected, "I grew to appreciate the reality that a charism is a special gift given to a community by God to benefit the church, promote the common good and respond to some need in the world. As the grace of the charism is actualized in the life of the members df the community, the charism is the constitutive energy of the community's identity and the identity of the ministries that are sponsored by the religious community. This realization motivated me to search for ways to integrate our community's charism into the culture of our sponsored ministries more fully."

The two of us met and began discussing our shared observations, a meeting that resulted in a plan to revitalize the CPPS charism at St. Elizabeth Academy. Many formal and informal discussions with Sister Susan and other Precious Blood sisters, visits to their motherhouse and readings about the congregation's foundress and other pioneer sisters helped me to understand the congregation's true spirit, its charism.

Little by little, with the blessing of the sisters and the support of others on the administration, I started integrating the Precious Blood charism into the life of the school. As director of campus ministry, I found it easiest to incorporate Precious Blood prayers into the school's prayer life. …

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