Honoring Our Lady: Annual May Crowning

“Mary is everyone’s mother and she deserves to be crowned,” altar server Henry Hilberg ‘29 explained.

This is the sentiment of many at Providence. The Statue of Mary is the first sight one sees when entering the building, standing quite literally at the heart of PA. And with a temporary outdoor shrine while the school awaits the construction of a permanent grotto, the PA community clearly holds a special devotion to the Mother of Jesus. So when Our Lady’s month of May rolled around, the Providence Lower School celebrated Our Lady in a special way with the annual May Crowning. 

Altar Servers William Robbins ´29, Benjamin Uzelac ’29, and
Anders Kaufman ´29 hold Mary’s crown during the May Crowning ceremony. PAW Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Kelly Roles

In front of the temporary shrine by the gates of the school, fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Kristine McElroy led students and teachers in singing “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” and “Immaculate Mary” and chanted The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Chaplain Fr. Michael McClellan led the students in prayer, blessed Mary’s crown, and two of the First Communicants from earlier this spring, David Lewin ‘32 and Alex Ellison ‘32, placed the blessed crown on the statue of Mary. 

The tradition of praying Marian devotionals and crowning a statue of Mary began in PA’s very first year.

Fifth-grade teacher and founder of this tradition Mrs. Beth Reopelle recounted the story behind May Crowning at PA: “I was able to start the tradition in my founding year, remembering my own time at Catholic school and wanting to pass that on to students here.” 

She continued, “We’re teaching them devotionals because we learn a lot of intellectual things, but it’s something for the kids to put into practice.”

This tradition proved to be very beloved. McElroy reflected, “My favorite part is just looking out at all the students surrounding our Blessed Mother with the beautiful flowers, with children singing and praying and honoring Her and giving all their prayers and love to Mary. I just think about how we all surround Mary and give that praise to Her.” 

Students bring in flowers to place in front of the Statue of Mary for May Crowning last Friday, May 5.

In addition to the ceremony, Lower Schoolers prayed the rosary in their classrooms beforehand to honor Mary and ask for Her intercession. Students also brought bouquets of flowers to place in front of the Statue of Mary in the front entrance of the school as more gestures of love. 

McElroy reflected on the day, “It’s a special way to honor Mary and I hope they remember that tradition as they grow older and continue their years through PA.”

And We’re Back: College Fair Returns to PA

Private or public university? In state or out of state? Small or large campus? These are the questions high school students ask themselves every year. And with thousands of institutions to choose from, it can be difficult to navigate the college scene. Such is why, on Wednesday, April 6, PA College Counseling offered students in grades 9-11 the chance to attend a college fair, surveying those options in person, on PA’s own campus.

Hudson Kinne ’25 stops by the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point table to ask some questions.

For the first time since the pandemic, Providence hosted over one hundred college and ROTC representatives, including one international school: Franklin University in Switzerland. There were many activities for students and college representatives to participate in throughout the day. Representatives enjoyed lunch in the gallery, where they learned about PA’s mission from Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders.

PA students also led tours and seniors offered panel discussions on life at PA. In the early afternoon, students attended breakout sessions discussing the college search for freshmen, applying for aid and scholarships, Catholic higher education, STEM programs, military options, intercollegiate athletics, fine arts programs, private universities, public universities, honors communities, and going into college with undecided, undeclared, or undetermined majors. The events of the day culminated in Gym A, where students and parents met with representatives individually and gleaned information about potential future schools.

College Counselor Mrs. Paige Von Bank explained, “The main goal [of the college fair] is to help our students become more aware of the many post-PA options and to help them start the college search discussions and process.” 

Indeed, the college fair gave students a diverse range of options to consider as they prepare to leave PA in a few short years.

James Herrera ‘23 shared, “I shouldn’t exactly narrow my search or hope for one college. Even if I did want to go to a particular school, that shouldn’t stop me from searching and looking into other schools.”

Dylan Perrill ’23 and Luke Wachholz ’23 meet with a representative for the University of Kansas to learn more about the school.

Furthermore, the college fair was a hands-on opportunity to better know what to expect for the discerning process and the college experience itself.

“I’ve got a better idea of what I actually need in a school,” Gabrielle Hippler ‘25 reflected on her first college fair. “I used to have this vague idea of ‘college’ and just figured the right school would come to me, but now I have seven schools to consider that all seem kind of ‘right’.”

Not only did the knowledgeable counselors and representatives make impressions on the students, but they also got to know PA students better.

“I heard from numerous college reps about how well behaved, polite, and inquisitive our students were,” Von Bank enthused. “This event made me proud of our students and proud to be a member of the PA community!”

After the exciting day of college searching, students returned home with pamphlets, widened perspectives, and plenty of food for thought as they get ready to embark on the next chapter of their lives.

Home For Christmas: PA’s Twentieth Anniversary Alumni Christmas Party

Christmas is a time when family and friends come from far and wide to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. So, too, has the great Providence family reunited at PA’s Twentieth Anniversary Alumni Christmas Party. On Wednesday, December 22, 2021, the school was packed with over two hundred alumni, laughter, and trips down memory lane. 

Photos of Providence history remind alumni of joy-filled moments from their times as students.

The evening was vibrant with festive Christmas music, beverages donated by alumni parent Mr. Michael Maglich, tours of the Performing Arts Center and a cigar patio with a bonfire. The party also featured various blasts from Providence’s past, including PA lunch-inspired hors d’oeuvres crafted by Chef Marshall Morris, as well as yearbooks and photographs from the past twenty years. And while there was much catching up between former classmates, many alumni also came to visit some other special people.

“I decided it was time to come back and see the teachers,” alumna Mory Jaberian ‘14 shared.

Not only were current faculty present but, for the first time, beloved former faculty members came as well. This year, PA had the honor of hosting Dr. Bernard Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. William and Beth Lasseter, Mrs. Jo Anne Wolkerstorfer, and Dr. Bill Stevenson.

Another notable first was the presence of alumni from every graduating class from 2005 to 2021. Those who graduated between 2012 and 2021 spent the evening in the Great Room while the earlier and smaller graduating classes of 2005 to 2011 started out in the more intimate lobby before joining the others in the Great Room. And there was no shortage of enjoyment for the rest of the night.

Betsy Schoenwetter ’20, Christina Priemueller ’20, Emilly Foley ’20, and Kelley Rajkowski ’20 spend the night celebrating and remembering their alma mater.

“It’s important that PA holds events like this because there are a lot of people from my graduating class that I wouldn’t have reached out to individually,” alumna Kiara Monette ‘18 explained. “It was really nice to catch up with them and see where my classmates were near the end of their college careers.”

And while much has changed over the past two decades, many alumni attested to how much Providence’s core has stayed the same.

“It seems to me Providence is growing, but not changing,” alumna and PA’s former Coordinator of Campus Ministry and Communications Katie Lahti ‘06 reflected. “New students, new facilities, new awards and art on the walls, new programs, new traditions, more alumni, and the same PA.”

Above all, the Alumni Party honored those in the Providence family for whom the yellow walls have become a foundation. 

Ryan Millis ’11, Brynn-Monet Potter ’17, Mrs. Sarah Hogan, and Ellie Raby (née Galgano) ’07 and husband David Raby enjoy a discussion in the Great Room. (PAW photo courtesy of Miss Katarina Greenwood)

Director of College Counseling and Alumni Engagement Mrs. Sarah Hogan explained, “Our alumni are critically important to the school not simply because they represent the outcomes of education and what faith, knowledge, and virtue provide for a graduate, but because they exemplify what fulfilling your vocation in life, when you have the education here, looks like.”

Besides being a wonderfully fun-filled night, the annual Alumni Party is proof that, upon graduation, Providence students leave with much more than a diploma. 

Return to Tradition: PA Gets an Altar Rail

Thus far, Providence Academy’s 2021-2022 school year has largely enjoyed a return to [near] normalcy after a year of intense COVID-19 protocol for in-school learning. This summer, PA also brought back a normality that’s been gone for over half a century: an altar rail.

The Western Church traditionally used altar rails for the distribution of Holy Communion while the faithful knelt and received on the tongue. Previously, priests would use a large cloth held under the communicants’ chins to prevent the Body and Blood of Christ from falling on the ground. The stationary rail later replaced the cloth and became a commodity in Catholic churches. Since the 1960s and 1970s, however, most Catholic churches in America no longer utilize them, making Providence’s chapel rather unique. 

The chapel’s altar rail allows students the opportunity to reflect before the reception of Holy Communion.

“The Communion rail provides us with an opportunity to take a moment when you receive Communion, to not be as rushed,” PA Chaplain Fr. Michael McClellan explained. “For those who wish to kneel, it gives them the opportunity to do so.”

It is not the only recent addition to the chapel, however. The school has also added to the altar in order to house relics, brought back the organ, and installed a confessional. Each of these additions, along with the altar rail, are not merely aesthetic upgrades, but thoughtful ways to provided opportunities for spiritual growth.

The installation of the altar rail in the chapel took two weeks over the summer. (PAW photo courtesy of Fr. Michael McClellan)

“I was excited when I saw the rail,” Marie Heyda ‘23 reflected. “It slows Communion down so that you have more time to dwell on it.”  

When so many Catholics have forgotten their roots, PA’s altar rail further exposes students to the true beauty of the liturgy in this return to tradition. 

Altar server Paul Hogan ‘22 recalled, “At first I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of marble!’”

Hogan later commented, “We’re going back to tradition. It’s a nice upgrade from standing in line to receive. It brings you closer to God.”

Mid-Year Move

The beginning of March usually heralds the fast-approaching Spring Break, a time when many PA students pack and prepare for upcoming trips. However, when upper schoolers loaded up their backpacks earlier this month, they were embarking on a different voyage: moving to their new lockers. 

Sidney Borland ‘22, Mae Monette ‘21 and Val Fish ‘21 sort through old materials as they prepare to move to their new lockers.

In previous years, PA students have been randomly assigned lockers in the hallways corresponding to their grade level. This year, students were allocated lockers all over the Upper School, regardless of their graduation year, in order to prevent unnecessary gatherings and the possible spread of COVID-19. 

However, as the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health continued to learn more about what constitutes a “close contact”, PA administration looked for ways to adjust while maintaining proper COVID protocol. And so, on March 3, the entire Upper School emptied their lockers and migrated to their brand new locker assignments in the traditional grade level hallways.

“We saw this as an opportunity to give something back and to make something a little more normal,” PA Upper School Director Mrs. Kelly Harrington explained. “Just from a student life aspect, that whole sense of community and class pride was missing.”

Many found it refreshing to return to some form of normalcy during the school day as students hadn’t been able to socialize like years past.

With smaller lunch tables and the COVID hallway setup, I felt like I hardly got to see anyone,” Samantha Mahoney ‘21 expressed. “Although my locker is now farther away from almost everything, it’s nice to see my friends more.”

Nina Von Dohlen ‘22 moves into her new locker in the Junior hallway last Wednesday.

One factor, however, that made the transition difficult for some was the elimination of backpack use during the school day.

“I like being with all my friends, but having the backpack system was very useful,” Sophia Gable ‘22 reflected. “We never had to go back to our lockers because our things were already with us.”

Before the Great Locker Migration–as some have called it–students had to bring all their books with them to each class to minimize time spent at lockers throughout the day. Returning to normal travel paths between classes has eliminated the need to carry backpacks from class to class, and at least gives students’ shoulders a break from the heavy load.

As spring is in sight, despite this wintery day, PA remains hopeful that more restrictions will be lifted. Though COVID-19 presents an ongoing health threat, these small normalcies provide a glimmer of hope for a normal and healthy future.