This month marks the 50th year since my Ursuline Academy classmates and I traipsed down the convent stairs in our long white dresses holding our bouquets of red roses and received our high school diplomas.
Our school motto was “Serviam” – I will serve. It’s the motto of every Ursuline school around the world, inspired by the teachings of Saint Angela Merici, who founded the Order of Ursuline Sisters. We used to joke about it – “Serviam you a Coke,” “Serviam the tennis ball” – etc. But now that I’m old and understand service can lead to grace, it makes sense. Maybe the school shouldn’t spring Serviam on the girls until their 25th reunions, when it starts to lose its irony.
Anyway, after congratulating each other and hugging goodbye we walked off the grounds into the real world, and many of us never saw each other again. Until a few years ago, when a couple of the ladies started finding and bringing us together for summer and fall mini-reunions. (I wrote about it last year.) Then the pandemic came and we weren’t able to hold our 2020 gatherings.
Fifty years is a long time. Long enough to be past middle age for most of us. Long enough for our clothes to have gone out of fashion and come back again many times. Long enough that when you tell children you were alive when President Kennedy was assassinated, you might as well be telling them you were at Ford’s Theater the night President Lincoln was shot.
Even though I’ve been out of touch with my Ursuline classmates this past year, when a member of my extended family had a problem I decided to send them a group S.O.S. email asking for their help and ideas.
It was the first time I’ve brought up this family member’s situation with them. Even though we’ve been together several times, you go back and forth about over-sharing. On one hand, our gatherings are social and with all the catching up to do, the conversations don’t start getting into serious topics until just before we all have to go home. And you hesitate to inflict problems on people you only see once or twice a year. But on the other hand, sharing a problem can make it easier to carry.
Soon after my group email plea went out, several of the ladies called and emailed me with names of people who could possibly help, some with referrals from referrals – people they didn’t know, but they’d asked their friends, and their friends’ friends. Thanks to their digging around, my family member was able to get good help with their problem. Other ladies who weren’t able to offer ideas wrote back to send prayers and love.
It’s incredibly special and awe-inspiring to know there are people in your life who will gladly reach back to you when you reach out to them. My Ursuline sisters are living the grown-up definition of service to others the poor nuns were trying to drill into us decades ago. To them, Serviam my love and gratitude, always.