Two Stuart Hall Middle Form students recently attended a Network of Sacred Heart Schools conference in Saint Charles, Missouri, where they learned about Sacred Heart history while building their leadership skills.
This past November, two Stuart Hall seventh grade students attended the inaugural Roots for Middle School Students Conference, accompanied by chaperone Kristin Monfredini, Convent & Stuart Hall's K-8 Spiritual L.I.F.E. Director.
While at the conference, Cooper and Cole learned in-depth about the heritage of Sacred Heart schools in North America. A big part of the trip focused on the life and times of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, who brought the mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart from France to Saint Charles, Missouri in 1818.
During the three-day program students visited the original academy in Saint Charles, as well as St. Philippine's shrine. They also traveled 20 miles to Saint Ferdinand, the school that was established when the academy was forced to move to a more populous area. Preserved to appear as it did in 1820, Saint Ferdinand provided insight into what it was like living at the school 200 years ago.
These excursions were highlights of the conference. "I actually got to put my hand where St. Philippine received communion. That was really inspiring," Cooper says. "I enjoyed seeing where St. Philippine used to teach and live. I also liked comparing how it was back then with how it is today," Cole adds.
While teaching Sacred Heart history was one of the conference's main objectives, another goal was to empower students to develop their leadership skills. "This conference speaks to Goal Four — the building of community as a Christian value — which starts with revealing the common ground that unites us all," says Talbot Moore, Stuart Hall Middle Form Dean. "Showing students at an early age that they all share the same traditions that originated in Saint Charles — that's very powerful."
This message was well-received. "It was really cool to learn from everyone about how each school is different but also the same," Cole says. "We all have Prize Day. We all have Congé. And St. Philippine wanted that — she wanted different schools but the same traditions."
A theme at the conference was "crossing frontiers." Just as St. Philippine spent many months crossing the Atlantic Ocean to North America, students were encouraged to find ways to cross frontiers in their own schools and communities.
"It's a rare experience to walk in the footsteps of a saint," Kristin says. "Students were invited to reflect deeply on what that means."
Sacred Heart faculty and staff are familiar with the aspiration guiding this new Roots event because it is based on the Roots That Give Us Wings Conference, an annual opportunity for new employees to learn about Sacred Heart history. The new middle school conference is one of several events launched to celebrate the rich history of Sacred Heart education as the institution enters its bicentennial year.
In order to participate in the conference, students were asked to write an essay. Having received worthy essays from every student, faculty chose two at random. When Cooper and Cole returned from the trip, they gave a series of presentations to K-8 students and faculty about their experiences.
Organizers expect the event to grow next year. The inaugural conference was attended by a small group of 46 seventh and eighth graders from 24 Sacred Heart Network schools in both the U.S. and Canada.
Photo credit: Kristin Monfredini