A Cloud of Witnesses: PA Gathers for 20th Anniversary Commemorative Mass

A Cloud of Witnesses:  PA Gathers for 20th Anniversary Commemorative Mass

Archbishop Hebda blesses the PA students as he processes out of the commemorative mass in the chapel this past Monday.

Pulling into the main drive at Providence Academy, the eye is naturally drawn to the architectural center of the school. The light in the cupola, as the sanctuary lamp in the chapel beneath it, stays lit year round. Monday, October 18th, Archbishop Hebda celebrated mass, marking 20 years since the consecration of that chapel, the first lighting of the sanctuary lamp, and Jesus’ presence in the Tabernacle ever since.

In 2001 when Archbishop Flynn [of blessed memory] consecrated the chapel, Mrs. Melissa Krcil, Lower School reading and learning specialist, was a 3rd grade classroom teacher in attendance. “There was a lot of anticipation and unknown because not many of us had ever been to a consecration of a chapel before so we weren’t sure what to expect,” she recalled. 

Founding faculty member and Director of Academics and Curriculum, Mr. Michael Tiffany remembered, “Excitement and joy were in the room and among us; we knew [the consecration] would be remembered in history, so it was cool to be able to witness it.”

Krcil continued, “There were a lot of firsts that inaugural year, yet this stuck out as a very memorable event because it is the focus of why we are all here.”  She noted, “ To be able to take time to center us on Jesus, on our mission, amidst all the other firsts, was very special.”

In twenty years’ time, much has changed in the aesthetics of the Chapel, the school. “When we started,” Tiffany shared, “[the Chapel] was very bare bones; nothing was painted.”  He added, “Since the consecration, the footprint of the school has changed a great deal; some parts present now weren’t even part of the school when it was founded.”

But taking the time to stay centered on Christ remains a priority for the school, as was evident by the efforts put forth to organize Monday’s mass. With just over 200 students in 2001, the whole school fit in the Chapel with room to spare. With current enrollment at over 900, accommodating the current student body, along with faculty and staff, was a challenge.

Mr. Jason Peterson in action as he sets up the cameras to livestream the mass for students in other locations and for viewing by the Providence Academy community.

The reordering of schedules across all three divisions, facilitation of participation from all students and staff, and logistics of offering Holy Communion in the Chapel, Great Room, and classrooms where the ceremony was Simulcast, were just a few considerations in preparation for the Mass and the visit from the Most Reverend Archbishop.

With his characteristic generosity of spirit, Hebda reiterated the importance of sacred spaces. “We are Incarnational,” he observed. “We believe not only that Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament, but also in the Word proclaimed, in the Altar, and among us gathered as Christians.”

Sacred spaces like our chapel, “ground us as Catholics and help keep us focused on what is important. [Here] we join ourselves in history to the founders of our faith,” added Tiffany.

Though much has changed since the Eucharist was first received in the Chapel, that groundedness, that sense of center is of timeless, indeed eternal importance.  Here, Hebda hopes students are rooted in Truth, centered on Christ, and “receiving the foundation to face challenges in the world beyond.”

Two Decades Later: PA Remembers 9/11

The beginning of this school year marks a momentous anniversary for Providence Academy.  Two decades ago, a brand new campus welcomed students for the first time. But another 20th anniversary casts a mournful shadow over an otherwise jovial occasion: September 11, 2001. Last Friday, in their yearly tribute, Providence Academy students and staff honored local first responders and remembered the 2,977 American lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Seventh graders Claire Wikenheiser, Emma Millerbernd, and Kate Hudson help to set up flags for the ceremony.

Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders added, “It is certainly an honor to hold this ceremony each year at Providence Academy. This tradition began so organically and it truly is the students that have made it the event it is.”

Students, parents, teachers and first responders stand with their hands over their hearts while saying the Pledge of Allegiance during the ceremony.

Fire trucks and police cars processed through, as has become the tradition, looking out over the silent students standing solemnly with their hands over their hearts. This year’s ceremony, however, went beyond the salute to first responders. After the procession, emergency personnel parked their vehicles and joined the students in front of the school to hear guest speakers and a performance from the Upper School band.

Providence Academy’s commemoration is unique among schools, indeed in the community at large. When Plymouth Mayor Jeffry Wosje was asked if he had several other 9/11 ceremonies to attend over the weekend, he replied “No, this is the only one. I wish more organizations would do something, but Providence is the only one, and it means so much to our first responders.”

The commemoration certainly meant a lot to Captain Robert Topp of Plymouth. He reflected, “Being a police officer is definitely a tough job. Seeing a tribute like the one held at PA is so rewarding and it truly restores my faith in humanity.”

Captain Topp continued, “…it shows the patriotism everyone at Providence Academy holds. I wish the whole country would go back to the patriotism and unification shown immediately after 9/11.”

But no student in the building today was alive to witness the tragedy or recall the kind of solidarity Captain Topp longs for. 

Flanders noted, “It is crucial we teach the younger generation to love what they ought to love; we must present young people with a recreated understanding of what it was and is…a ceremony like this instills in all of us what nobility is.”

First grade teacher Mrs. Erin Lee echoed, “Patriotism is such an important value at Providence Academy.” Lee reflected that, from a young age, “we must show students the true importance of the virtue of patriotism, not just tell them. A ceremony like the one held this past Friday allows us to do so.”

First grade teacher Mrs. Robyn Steinbrueck remarked, “If students don’t leave Providence with a love of country, God, and life, they have missed the boat. Providence strives to live out these values in everyday life; the 9/11 tribute is one way we honor them.”

Flanders recalled, “In 2001, as a new institution, we had elements of our mission in place. Those core values were attacked on September 11. Articulation in defense of those things– freedom, virtue, selflessness–has been an integral part of our mission, our identity, ever since.”

Detective Alex Johnson ’05, reflecting on the tragedy of 9/11 while overlooking all in attendance of the 2021 remembrance ceremony.

The keynote speaker of the ceremony–and a highlight for many in attendance–was Detective Alex Johnson ‘05, a member of the first graduating class of PA. Now working in San Antonio, Johnson emphasized the value of these formative years for students: “It is in these classrooms and in the chapel upstairs where you learn about those truths that are worth devoting your life to. It is here you can find and grow to love those things that are worth defending with great moral, spiritual, and physical courage. It is here you don the armor used to face the dragons in this world.”

A Night Under the Stars: PA’s 2021 Gala

Parents and alumni alike look forward to the PA Gala as a fun night out with friends to support a good cause: the education and formation of current and future PA students. Many extraordinary precautions and long days of extra planning led to a beautiful night held on PA’s campus Saturday, May 1. In a year where the word “unprecedented” has largely referred to unpleasantries, this month’s “Night Under the Stars” brought unprecedented numbers to the annual event.

Gala Chair Mrs. Jillian Twaddle noted, “Everyone was eager to get together, and this year, that yearning alone created amazing success.”

Though the event was up in the air with many unknowns due to COVID restrictions, Manager of Annual Giving, Mr. Josh Anderson worked countless hours alongside Twaddle, staff, and volunteers to ensure the Gala could run as smoothly as possible.

Anderson commented, “We initially were not sure we would be able to hold the Gala due to COVID restrictions on gatherings, but we decided to move it from its usual February date to May 1st in hopes we would have a little more freedom to plan an event like this by the time May arrived.”

Mr. and Mrs. Brian Estrada pose for a picture while enjoying the drinks, games, and music in the outdoor tent at the Gala on Saturday, May 1.

Thankfully, that is exactly what happened. Once gathering restrictions were loosened in March, PA was able to hold a semi-normal event. The evening began as it traditionally has, with Mass at 4:30 celebrated by PA Chaplain Father Michael McClellan, followed by dinner, speakers, a live auction in PA’s Great Room, and an outdoor tent with fire pits, music, games, and drinks.

Anderson helped produce a virtual option for those unable to attend in-person but who still wanted to support the school. Anderson explained, “The virtual program piece was a challenge; it took a great deal of time to put together a quality virtual experience for our at-home audience, but in the end it did pay off, as we were able to reach many families who otherwise could not attend in person.”

Not only was this a fun event, but also a very successful one. Twaddle noted, “This year proved to be record-breaking; the energy and the passion of the community throughout the evening was unlike any other year.”   

Mr. and Mrs. Brian Dudley enjoy spending time with Mr. and Mrs. Dan Shore at this year’s “A Night Under the Stars” Gala, while browsing the many silent auction options.

It was truly a record-breaking evening. “This year, we had 21 alumni in attendance – a record number at the Gala,” reflected Director of College Counseling and Alumni Engagement Mrs. Sarah Hogan. As a young institution, finishing its 19th year of instruction, PA’s 1000th graduate will walk across the state in a few weeks. 

Hogan continued, “Especially as the number of alumni grows, we want to continue to find ways for alumni participation. The Gala is one place we can invite alumni to attend to reconnect with friends and help further the mission of PA.”

In addition to record breaking numbers of alumni in attendance, the evening was full of other firsts. Anderson reflected, “We had many first-time attendees, alumni, guest speakers from brand-new PA families and long-time PA families, and our first ever husband and wife event co-hosts for the evening. At the end of the night, we had raised over $300,000 – the highest grossing gala we’ve had in more than a decade, and perhaps ever.”

PA Fans Fill the Stands: Girls Basketball State Runner-Up

After an abrupt ending to the Lions’ basketball season last year with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Lions came back this season ready to roar. Though their season had a slow start with limited fans and less opportunities for games, the Lions were undeterred, finishing their season 22-2. As runner-up in the Section AA State Tournament, the Lions have created lasting memories, whether strengthening relationships with teammates or having the opportunity to play two games at Target Center.

Varsity Captain Maria Counts ‘22 reflected, “Last year, none of us had any idea that the quarterfinal game in the state tournament would be our last game of the season. We carried over the mindset this year that we should play every game like it was our last because we did not want that disappointment again. It taught us to play our hardest every single time and value the time together on the court.”

PA Lions take the floor at Target Center for the Section AA State Championship on April 9th.

The Lions did just that: working as a team, cherishing every game, and once again making it to the state tournament. Coach Connor Goetz commented on the successful season, “Some of our greatest memories as a team were created during this years’ state tournament. Winning our first state game against Duluth Marshall where one player alone scored 67 points and winning a game at Target Center were definitely highlights of the season.”

The Lions were thrilled at the opportunity to play in Target Center. Mrs. Jean Miller, mother of two Lady Lions, added, “Seeing the girls achieve their goal of going to the State tournament and seeing the support the school brought was so rewarding.”

Miller noted, “School support is key, from a simple, “you got this!”, to lining the hallways to send them off in style, to actually going to every game and cheering for the Lions.” School spirit wear day, a sold-out fan section at the championship game, and a decorated team bus were just a few ways community members showed their Lion pride in the girls’ run for the state title last week.  

PA community members cheer as the Lions process down the walkway to get on the team bus to head to the Section AA State Championship game at Target Center last week.

Guard Brooke Hohenecker ‘24 said, “The school always supports us in every way possible, whether it’s them putting something out on social media or preparing a send off for us! It makes the whole team feel so loved.”

Point-guard Maddyn Greenway ‘26 echoed Hohenecker’s sentiment, “I love how all of the students and staff are invested into our games and how we do. It was great, especially during the state tournament, to have their support.”

Despite a hard loss for the Lions, the team dedication is still there. Miller remarked, “These women are the hardest working, motivated and tenacious teammates I’ve met. And, thanks to Coach Goetz, they are hungry for a W.”

Goetz asserted, “Something I told the girls in the team huddle was that I want them to “remember this feeling”. I told them that we need to work incredibly hard this off-season to make sure that we don’t have to feel this way again. It’s my hope that the girls can reflect on the amazing accomplishment that it was to get to the state championship game, but let that pain of losing fuel them to get back there next year.”

The end of the 2020-2021 season does not mean basketball is over until the fall. The team has high hopes for bringing the trophy home next year, which will not happen without practice.

Greenway concluded, “Of course we wanted to finish the season with a win but that makes us even more determined for next year and it will push us during the off-season. I look forward to hopefully making it back to the state championship next year!”

Bunches of Baskets: PA’s Annual Easter Basket Drive

Even within the walls of Providence Academy, it is no secret that Spring is on its way. From Upper School students working hard to complete assignments before Spring Break to newly energized Lower Schoolers enjoying recess outside, all are excited that Spring is near. With Spring comes the promise of new life, Easter, and PA’s annual Basket Drive for Sharing and Caring Hands. 

Many in the PA community are familiar with the local faith-based organization, founded by Mary Jo Copeland in 1985, that strives to help families in need.  As the website states, “Sharing and Caring Hands provides [help] with dignity, while affirming God’s love for all his people regardless of their circumstances.”

Founder of Sharing and Caring Hands, Mary Jo Copeland (PAW Photo courtesy of Sharing & Caring Hands website)

Providence wants to help fulfill their mission and ensure that every child, no matter their family’s financial situation, is able to celebrate Easter. 

One donor, Emma Boeing ‘22, reflected, “As a kid, you always look forward to holidays. Each and every kid should feel that same joy and celebration leading up to Easter.”

Typically, the Lower School leads this event as a weekend activity for families, but due to COVID restrictions and health concerns, this was not possible. Knowing how much Sharing and Caring Hands appreciates the baskets, however, Lower School Director Mrs. Nancy Galgano did not want to skip the event altogether.  

Emma Boeing ’22 in action as she places her donations for the drive in the collection box.

Galgano shared, “At Providence Academy, we are very blessed and we have a responsibility to share our blessings with others.”

She continued, “We have been very consistent with Sharing and Caring Hands in previous years and we wanted to support them this year, despite the circumstances. I was thrilled when PACMAN stepped up to take on the event.”

PACMAN is an Upper School student-led volunteer organization.  Typically, the clubs travels to other locations to volunteer, but this year, opportunities to do so have been limited due to safety precautions.

PACMAN Advisor Ms. Anne McCulloch said, “This year has been a different year for everyone. I think PACMAN has adjusted well and has done a great job holding service events that are accessible to students and are also enjoyable, while still benefiting others within the community.”

PACMAN posters hang around the school, advertising for donations to the Easter Basket Drive.

Club co-leader Gianna Hippler ‘21 added, “I am glad that we were able to take over the event this year. I think this year especially, COVID has impacted people in many different ways and children may not be able to enjoy Easter due to financial situations. By creating baskets, we can spread a little happiness and make it possible for a child to have a great Easter that they may not have been able to have.”

There is still time for Upper Schoolers to contribute to the basket drive! Students can bring joy to a child’s Easter morning by donating items such as–but not limited to–candy, small art projects, stuffed animals, books, and coloring supplies.  Items will be accepted through the end of the day Wednesday

Upper Schoolers are asked to bring the items to their House location to be counted for House points, a prized possession among Upper School students, as the House with the most points at the end of the year gets many bragging rights, along with a House Feast. Upper Schoolers, the competition is ON!