A Second Grade Sacrament

Spring is in the air, which often brings with it flowers blooming, weather warming, and kids and adults alike eager to shove off jackets and run around.  But for those in the second grade at PA, spring also brings white dresses, small tuxedos, and excited relatives.  In other words, the sacrament of First Communion is just around the corner. Over the winter, parishes prepare young congregants for their First Communion and typically celebrate the sacrament during the Easter season.  The PA community shares in the excitement of this commemorative moment by guiding Catholic students in their steps toward this sacrament and by helping them to receive “Second” Communion here at PA.

Parents and teachers help students form a foundation for understanding the meaning and importance of the sacrament of First Communion. Mrs. Kesney McCarthy, parent of second grader Fallon McCarthy, reflected on how she helps her children prepare to receive Holy Communion for the first time, “As a parent, I consider it my job to help my children understand what the sacraments really mean and how we can apply them to our daily lives.”

Second Grader Wells Martin poses in his First Communion suit in front of the alter in the Providence Academy Chapel. (Photo Credit: Mrs. Karen Dierberger)

Providence Academy intends to help students accomplish this very task.  Second graders learn crucial elements of the sacraments in their religion class, focusing on Reconciliation the fall curriculum, and First Communion during the spring. 

Second grade teacher Ms. Katie Bjorgaard elaborated, “We help our students prepare for their First Communion throughout the school year using our Religion curriculum, school Mass, classroom visits from Father McClellan, and in our day-to-day interactions and discussions.”

Father Michael McClellan, Chaplain at Providence, explained what is crucial to a student’s understanding about Holy Communion, “They need to understand how much Jesus loves them. I make it a habit to remind them that Jesus is always even more excited than them when they receive their First Communion.”

Father McClellan commented on how parents can guide their children in preparation for this sacrament, “Parents should model weekly reception of Holy Communion, making sure that their students go to Mass.”

Students in Mrs. Dierberger’s second grade class (Lucia Barron, Liliana Barron, Hank Polich, Roman Crow, and Wells Martin) prepare for their second Communion at school. (Photo Credit: Mrs. Karen Dierberger)

But Providence Academy goes beyond teaching the students about First Communion.  After Easter and throughout the month of May, Providence Academy invites students to take their official second communion in the chapel.  Students who receive their First Communion at their parish over the weekend celebrate at school the following Monday with all the pomp and circumstance of a First Communion.  Students are able to dress up in their First Communion outfits, partaking in the procession for the Mass, and receiving a blessing and prayer card. This year, a total of 31 students have celebrated their First Communion in this way at school.

Bjorgaard emphasized the joyful spirit that accompanies acknowledgement of First Communion at school, “We love getting to celebrate our First Communicants as a school family.  It is a chance to congratulate and uplift each other, and it allows for more discussion about the Sacrament.”

The PA community actively supports the Catholic faith life, and as a result, students are encouraged in their faith in school in addition to church. McCarthy commented on the significance of this, “I think it helps children know they are surrounded by people that support them in their faith journey at school, home, and church. It’s an opportunity to share in a hopeful, loving tradition of our faith.”

Class of 2021: A Literary Year In Review

Fall: Plato’s Republic

At the beginning of senior year, there’s a certain amount of excitement that comes with knowing that while it’s the beginning of the year, it’s also the beginning of the end. A strange equilibrium is struck between the excitement of a new year after summer break, yet at the same time, nothing can really compare to what’s coming in a few short months.

No matter how much the class of 2021–or any group of seniors–might think they know or believe they’re prepared for, there is still a lot to be learned. College application deadlines loom. In some cases, other future plans hover with uncertainty. Given the weight of these decisions, provokes some important questions: who am I? What am I working towards? What makes a just society, and what’s my place therein?

Plato’s Republic is thus aptly timed as the first senior reading assignment of the year.  This timeless work makes an effort to answer all of the above questions. Socrates dialogues with various citizens throughout the piece in an effort to discern what makes a just society and what is required to attain that justice for oneself as well as others. 

Bobby Hughes ‘21 commented on this theme of justice by saying, “I believe this is a virtue everyone needs in their life in order to truly live a good and holy life. Knowing right and wrong and being able to choose the right is a very important task every human must undertake.”

Providence opens its doors at the beginning of the fall, eager to help the class of 2021 complete their high school career (PAW photo courtesy of Mrs. Rachel Hope).

Winter: Crime and Punishment by: Fydor Dostoyevsky

After The Republic, most college applications are due. After a month passes by filled with only a few short literary piece, November arrives, and with it, senior speeches, thoughts of coming finals, and the next sizeable text in the English curriculum: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment takes the themes explored in Plato’s Republic and puts them into practice. In a world of cold and bitter winters not unlike Plymouth’s and Russia on the brink of a communist revolution, a young academic struggles to come to terms with his actions and the repercussions they have on those around him, friend or foe. 

Stephanie Lanterman ‘21 noted that Crime and Punishment was her favorite book in the course for the very reason that it explores just how far one is willing to go in order to pursue what one believes to be just. “It was a psychological thriller that provided advanced insights into what a murderer thinks and how he chose to execute his plan. It taught me that not everyone thinks the same and that not everyone possesses the same moral compass.”

Snow on the campus gives Providence a dream like feeling, a warm glow in winter’s chill (PAW photo courtesy of Mrs. Rachel Hope).

Spring: The Wasteland by: T.S. Eliot

“April is the cruellest month”, Eliot writes in The Wasteland, and by the time the class of 2021 read those words, they couldn’t help but agree. Most had made their decisions in regards to which college they will attend, and even those who hadn’t quite decided yet had gotten fairly close. Such decisions grossly overshadowed things like school and literature and brought out a particular indifference that isn’t unusual for the class of 2021.

However, by discussing The Wasteland, the class of 2021 was able to make sense of the apathy around them and rise above it, given that Eliot’s piece deals largely with making sense of tragedy through various perspectives presented in his poetry. By taking seemingly unrelated events and memories from a world torn by World War I, Eliot paints a picture of life at its rawest and most complicated while still holding onto the hope of rebirth and forgiveness.

Graduation: The Old Man and the Sea

The final book examined by the class of 2021 was one that actually hadn’t been on the curriculum for a while: Earnest Hemingway’s masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea. “I’ve taught the piece once before, though I don’t believe I taught it successfully,” admitted senior literature teacher and English department chair Adam Schmalzbauer, “but I believe it was worth the challenge this year.”

What makes this story such a challenge?  Schmalzbauer commented that while the plot is deceptively simple, there is a lot more to the story than, as the title suggests, an old man and the sea. Instead, it’s a story of loving until there is no more love to give, and the justice that inevitably comes from patience. 

“I’m preparing the seniors to write at the academic level of their collegiate futures to be sure, but I’m also preparing them to write on a moral level, too.” Schmalzbauer concluded.

Teachers Tell the Truth about High School: Dr. Biebs Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane

“Smug,” said PA Upper School Literature and Latin teacher Dr. Jeff Olsen Biebighauser when asked what word comes to mind when he thinks of high school.

For anyone who has encountered Biebighauser, this may come as a surprise. One would not suspect this passionate and devoted teacher to have previously portrayed a “too cool for everything” attitude.

Dr. Jeff Olsen Biebighauser proudly smiles in his high school graduation photo in 2001.

Biebighauser, more commonly known to students as Biebs, felt somewhat insecure as a high schooler. As a result of transferring halfway through high school, Biebs’ life was abruptly transformed. This interruption of his high school career and uprooting of friendships caused him to feel misunderstood. 

However, in the midst of this tumult, Biebs’ teachers were able to make a positive impact on his life. 

“I saw the value of my smart and funny teachers who reached into the awkwardness of my adolescence to connect with me,” Biebs warmly reflected.

By the time graduation arrived, Biebs knew he wanted to be a teacher. The teachers with whom he connected gave him an indication of who he wanted to be as a teacher. Even teachers whom he found unappealing impacted him positively because he was determined to be better than them.

Although the insecure undertone of his high school career was difficult to overcome at the time, it offers Biebs the opportunity to relate to students in ways that many teachers cannot. This “insider information” gives him a unique view into the lives of students. 

“My own high school experience makes me try to look out for kids whose talents haven’t been discovered yet,” Biebs wholeheartedly expressed .

Dr. Biebighauser sits contemplatively in his teenage home in St. Louis, MO, circa 2000. Although he does not recall the context of the picture, he is confident that he was “most likely thinking about a ska band.”

As the only PA instructor teaching all 9th grade students, Biebs is in an ideal position to guide teenagers on the path to who they want to become. 

For example, “knowing yourself” is a fundamental theme the insightful literature teacher emphasizes to 9th graders. He pushes students to think critically about themselves in relation to the works they are reading. 

Val Fish ‘21 recalled a conversation with Biebs in which he commented that he tries to emulate Abby Cadabby, a popular “Sesame Street” character. 

“‘I don’t actually think I sprinkle magic through the air and make other people magical by recognizing the magic that’s already in them,’”  Fish recalled Biebs candidly admitting. “‘But,’ he went on, ‘I find Abby inspirational in precisely those ways.’” 

Although Biebs cannot shower PA’s yellow halls with magic in a literal sense, he does something even more remarkable. Similar to Abby Cadabby, he has the exceptional ability to empower students by helping them recognize the talents they already possess.

Biebs recalled a powerful moment in his career in which, through tears, a student’s mother thanked him for connecting with her son. She expressed that Biebs had transformed her son’s perspective of high school from one of disorientation and exclusion to one of accomplishment and self-confidence.

Mrs. Amelia Hejna, Biebs’ friend and colleague in the literature department of 5 years echoed this sentiment, “He embraces teaching as his vocation, not simply his job. He sees teaching as mentoring and wants to walk with students on their personal journeys.

The dented water bottle Biebs’ carries daily exemplifies key aspects of his teaching style and outlook on life: we’re all a little bruised, but that doesn’t mean we should be discarded. The dents simply show that we’re broken in, which is beautiful.

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.”

Greeks in the House

After Houses were established in the PA Upper School in 2007, House Week quickly because an annually anticipated tradition.  This year, upper schoolers enjoyed not just one but two weeks of festivities. Girls’ House leaders took charge to organize last fall’s House Week, a welcome alternative way of celebrating school spirit in the absence of the traditional Homecoming week. Last week, Boy’s House leaders planned a week full of competitive games and lots of excitement, with the overarching theme of Greek Games Week. 

This week is different because it isn’t a full-blown House Week but more of a ‘lite’ House Week,” said Rho House Leader Eli Santelman ‘21. 

Katelyn Clements ’24 and Gracie Griep ’24 show off their team pride on Jersey Day. Paw Photo courtesy of Anika Austvold.

Though it may have been ‘lite’ by comparison to the fall festivities, students still had ample opportunity to show their competitiveness by participating in a scavenger hunt, powderpuff, and powerpuff games. 

The scavenger hunt game seemed to be a hit in bringing in student participation,” Tanner Kehl ‘21 reflected.  

The scavenger hunt wasn’t the only popular event of the week; students take the spirit day themes very seriously and go full out on all of their outfits. On Jersey Day, there were a variety of colorful jerseys accompanied by facetious arguments about rival teams and players. 

“My favorite aspect of House Week has to be seeing all the different takes on the uniform themes for the day, such as all the various types and colors of togas or jerseys people wore,” noted Kehl.

Due to COVID, the powderpuff and powerpuff games were delayed from their intended fall dates. Both became a highlight of House week 2.0.

Seniors eagerly listen to their captain Aiden Lampe ’21 during a time out at the Powderpuff game on Mithun Field Tuesday, May 11.

The powderpuff game drew an evening crowd last Tuesday night with the seniors pulling away the win. This is unsurprising, since senior cheating is a tradition.

Cheating? The seniors? Never! Maybe some flag tying but nothing too major,” said Marie Leggott ‘21 deviously. 

Anonymous junior sources report that post-game bruising indicates otherwise. The game was, nevertheless, a good time for the players and spectators.

 “The game felt very spur of the moment. We were given the date pretty close to the event itself, without the opportunity to practice, but that made it fun and spontaneous” remarked Liv Klammer ’21.

“We drew up plays on the sideline and then just did them, which made it more like a real game. The boy coaches were absorbing the game and then drawing plays up to combat the juniors game plan on the spot,”  Klammer recalled.

The Junior-Senior rivalry continued on the volleyball court Wednesday when the boys faced off during last period, enjoying the attendance and cheers of all their upper school classmates, spaced in the bleachers. The Junior boys put up a good fight, however the Seniors prevailed in each the two matches. Of the many memorable plays, Santelman noted his personal favorite highlight was JP Ludke finishing a rally with a dominating spike in the second match. 

No doubt students relished the second opportunity of the year to demonstrate school spirit and earn a few more House points before the end of the year, but will have to stay tuned to see the final tally of their efforts in the year-long House competition.