Whether schools are open or not, Archmere Academy is among those doing what is necessary and possible to remain together spiritually as well as academically.
Each morning this week, the students are being greeted via video by principal John Jordan, who leads the community in prayer from his living room. A Gospel reading is followed by a positive message for the day. Jordan’s weekly letter to parents also includes a spiritual element. Daily announcements include a saint of the day and an inspirational quote, along with fun stuff like student birthdays.
The school chaplain, Norbertine Father Joseph McLaughlin sends regular “mission and heritage” emails to students, faculty and staff. His messages situate the present day within the context of Archmere’s Norbertine heritage and the history of Catholicism, the school said.
Campus minister and theology teacher Jillian deFina creates virtual daily meditations and reflections for students. The meditations, called Kenosis, are three to four minutes long and focus on one of the Scriptures from the daily Mass. They usually takes place in the school oratory, but have been transformed into a virtual experience.
DeFina, in coordination with the Norbertines at Daylesford Abbey in Pennsylvania, is also planning a Stations of the Cross experience written by Father James Garvey, a Norbertine priest at the abbey. It is specifically tailored to the Covid-19 pandemic, the school said. A Facebook Live faith-based question-and-answer session with one of the Norbertines at Daylesford is also in the works.
The campus ministry department is also planning a virtual liturgy that will take place over the Easter break. Norbertine Father John Zagarella, the director of guidance, will celebrate the Mass from Daylesford Abbey.
Finally, the school is keeping connected with Archmere alumni through weekly emails from Michael Marinelli, the headmaster. His most recent letter included a link to a meditation he created, a compilation of photographs of Norbertine abbeys from around the world, meditative chants and choral music.
“One of our five core value words is ‘community,’ and it is based on the Norbertine tradition of ‘communio,’” Marinelli said. A key component of that tradition, he continued, is “contemplation on God’s word made visible in worship and service within the local church.”
Despite the shift in the presentation necessitated by the community’s physical separation, Archmere is making efforts to sustain the school’s faith-based community.