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Oblate Sisters at Mount Aviat raising funds for quake-damaged schools in Ecuador

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Dialog reporter

The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales in Childs, Md., are asking for assistance to help rebuild four schools run by their congregation that were damaged April 15 by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Ecuador.

The latest death toll is at least 696, although no fatalities or injuries were in those schools, which were not in session at the time.

The schools serve more than 2,800 students. The sisters in Ecuador reported that many pupils, teachers and employees lost homes and family members.

Oblate Sister John Elizabeth Callaghan, principal of Mount Aviat Academy in Childs, reported that a statue of Our Lady of Light remained untouched in the school that was completely leveled. In one of the schools, a sister left the building at 6:45 p.m. to attend Mass, and the building was destroyed 13 minutes later.

“The devastation is almost unimaginable,” Sister John Elizabeth said. “The Sisters continue to sleep on a patio area for fear of the frequent aftershocks. They are trying to get water, food and medicine to their school families who have lost homes and businesses.”

Sister John Elizabeth said the Oblate Sisters have served in Ecuador for 100 years, primarily in education and outreach to the poor. Two of their schools were destroyed, while the other two sustained serious damage, and the congregation will need to depend on the generosity of others to rebuild.

They need donations to do that. The Mount Aviat community is holding fundraisers such as a cake bake featuring homemade liqueur cakes. A Mount Aviat volunteer group called the “Friends” will be selling their homemade macaroni and cheese, and the students and staff will symbolically “walk a mile in their shoes” on the school grounds, Sister John Elizabeth said.

Students at Mount Aviat often raise money to support the Oblate Sisters’ missions. The people of Ecuador gave the school a large tapestry, artwork and Christmas Nativities as a sign of their gratitude, Sister John Elizabeth said.

In addition, the Oblate Sisters have set up a special account to receive and hold donations until their colleagues in Ecuador are ready to accept them. To donate online, go to www.oblatesisters.org. Checks payable to the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales can be sent to 399 Childs Road, Childs, MD 21916.

The Oblate community in Childs feels a connection to those elsewhere, Sister John Elizabeth said.

“The Oblate Sisters serve in nine nations, yet we are a relatively small international congregation. Perhaps that makes it easier to stay connected,” she said.

“One of the schools that was destroyed is named St. Leonie Aviat School and was founded just a year after the sisters opened a kindergarten in the U.S. that eventually became Mount Aviat Academy. We can ask, what if all we worked for in the past 60 years was destroyed in less than 60 seconds?”

On a larger scale, Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ relief and development agency, was partnering with local organizations to determine how best to respond. Water, food and emergency shelter are the biggest needs.

Damaged communications networks have made it difficult to get in touch with groups in Ecuador, CRS said.

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Mount Aviat maintenance man adds art to his tools

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Dialog reporter

 

Bruce Parlier’s work has benefited Mount Aviat and Oblate Sisters, who helped him in time of need

 

CHILDS, Md. — The atmosphere around Mount Aviat Academy has been made cheerier thanks to the talents of Elkton artist Bruce Parlier, who also happens to be the school’s part-time maintenance man.

Parlier, 57, has been working in art since he was a kid in Claymont, Del. He specializes in wall murals, having done them on buildings, a lot of restaurants and on the inside and outside walls of people’s homes. He likes to do religious images and donates pieces of his work each year to the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, who operate Mount Aviat, for their auction and Christmas bazaar. Read more »

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‘An American missionary’ : Prepared for Africa, Oblate sister instead landed in Childs

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Dialog reporter

 

CHILDS, Md. – The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales have been educating children in some form in Childs, Md., since 1954. One sister arrived in Cecil County before the first kindergarten class arrived, and she is still there today as a beloved volunteer.

Sister Mary Bertha Hennessy stopped teaching two years ago, but she remains active at the school, since, as she says, “We don’t retire. Religious don’t retire. There’s always something to do in the house.” Read more »

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Mount Aviat Academy named National Blue Ribbon School

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CHILDS, Md. – Mount Aviat Academy has been named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education, the school announced Tuesday. The Blue Ribbon program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at high levels or where significant improvements are being made in academic achievement, the school said.

The honor is bestowed on just 50 private schools nationwide.

“I’m so proud of our teachers and the curriculum we offer, not to mention our outstanding students,” said Oblate Sister John Elizabeth, the principal.

Students heard the news at an assembly on the afternoon of Sept. 30. They were surprised when they left the assembly to find ice cream trucks waiting for them in the parking lot.

Mount Aviat is operated by the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales. The school will be honored at a ceremony Nov. 11 in Washington, D.C.

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