By Irene Sorensen
On one cold morning, some years ago, I needed to take my car to a body shop for routine maintenance. As was quite normal for me, I was up at 5:30 in the morning, cramming in a list of tasks before school: morning prayer and silence, breakfast, assembling my kids’ lunch boxes, waking all five kids, making sure they were ready to leave the house on time, and dropping them off at school. After all this, I arrived at the body shop.
I really needed another cup of coffee.
I asked the owner of the shop if there was a place for coffee nearby. He said no. Then he added: “You know, I used to have a coffee maker here. I would make coffee. Everybody would get their cup, but nobody ever cleaned it or made fresh coffee. I was the only one doing it. Finally I said ‘the hell with it; no coffee for anybody from now on!’"
Fair enough—I thought to myself.
Then I drove to Brookewood. Every morning I would arrive at school quite early (that day was an exception). After my intense morning routine, I would walk into the teacher lounge carrying big bags of books for my many classes. My dear friend and colleague Tim Nauman was always there, the first to arrive after an early commute (he drove more than hour from Bowie). He would greet me with a smile. I would greet him back. In order to move to phase 2 in the morning routine—teaching—I needed a new cup of coffee. But that meant that I had to clean the coffee maker, take the carafe to the bathroom down the school corridor, fill it, then go back to the teacher room and get the coffee going.
One morning I must have said something to Tim, like,"I wish coffee would magically make itself upon my arrival at school.” Well, sure enough, starting the following day, I found the coffee maker clean and filled, and the coffee was ready to brew. From then on, the coffee was ready every morning upon my arrival. Tim had never missed one day.
So, when the owner of the car shop told me his sad story, I thought "Fair enough. But isn't Tim's way much better, more human, more corresponding to our human heart? Isn't love a greater, more joyful way to treat people than fairness? Tim had heard my desire and was happy to do the work for me. He never got the favor back from having me making coffee for him (he didn't drink coffee during the day). He was just happy to make me happy, to give me some joy.
This is our Christian way of living, by loving one another, in the details of our little lives.
Tim was great at that—always attentive, caring. Always ready to help and give.
Tim went to heaven on Aug 25, 2014. He left a great hole in my heart. I still miss him so much. And so do my daughters (3 students of Tim; they still talk about his influence in their lives). For many days, after his departure, I would enter the teacher lounge to find the coffee maker dirty and the coffee not ready. The view of that would renew the loss of him over and over again.
But Tim is still alive and he intercedes for me, for my kids, for Brookewood and Avalon. I pray for him and to him every day. His presence has changed Brookewood.
And what about coffee? One morning I said out loud that not finding the coffee ready to go in the morning was a constant reminder of him and of how much I missed him. Well, on the following day, I found the coffee maker ready to brew! It took me quite some time to figure out who did that for me! I am so grateful to my colleague for doing that. And for continuing Tim's way of caring. Those Keurig cups might make our teacher's lives easier, but they can't substitute Tim’s—and Andrea’s—love.
On Monday, four sisters from the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of Renewal from New York City gave witness to Middle School and High School students. As some students have not ever met and talked with a sister from an order before, this was a special treat, especially as the sisters spoke directly about vocations.
The sisters participate in a Franciscan order which models its work and lifestyle after St. Francis, “living the Gospel values in simplicity according to the ideals of Saint Francis as handed on by the Capuchin tradition.” (http://franciscansisterscfr.com/mission1.htm). They have recently opened a convent in Atlantic City, NJ, and have sent four of their sisters out to the mission in order to evangelize and serve the homeless population there.
The sisters’ visit to Brookewood consisted of a short film about women choosing to become nuns in different orders. The film traced the path the women took to come to their decision while documenting a typical day in the lives of various nuns.
After the film, the sisters had a Q & A session, and Brookewood students had many questions; some ranged from what their habit meant to why they had short hair to if they had anxiety over their choice.
After the meeting, many of the students were intrigued. One middle schooler said, “It was really cool to hear about the sisters’ lives because I realized that they actually have fun doing what they do!”
The meeting prompted a lot of discussion from students about how to pray about their vocations, and how to ask and listen to God’s particular call. One of the big take-aways for the Brookewood girls was how the sisters found peace and contentment when they discerned their own particular vocation, and they reminded students to continue to pray to God about where God wants them to serve.
Many schools, especially high schools, have a service hour requirement. Under the requirement, students usually need to fulfill 30-60 hours of volunteer work each year. Brookewood, on the other hand, has no such requirement; instead, it encourages students to serve others out of the charity of their own hearts. The school organizes events for students to participate in (an annual mission trip to a shelter in Jamaica, soup kitchen visits, food drives, etc.), but it doesn’t require participation in these events. The idea is that students will seek volunteer opportunities as a natural outflow of what they are learning in the classroom, and it seems to work. The vast majority of seniors have either joined a volunteer group or continue to volunteer at a local retirement home while others help serve meals at St. Martin’s Soup Kitchen.This spirit of helping others is not merely seen in the High School; students are frequently organizing their own bake sales and other charity events in the Lower and Middle School grades in order to help those in need. The school emphasizes that God gives every person specific gifts and abilities to be charitable.
This past Saturday, Mr. Tom Stroot, of Avalon school, encouraged students from Brookewood and Avalon (Brookewood’s brother school) to assemble healthy lunches in bags for at the Knights of Columbus Rosensteel Council for the Catholic Charities shelter near the RFK stadium. The total number of bags they needed to stuff and assemble was 3,000. Around 40 members from both communities came, and they assembled the bags in record time—1 hour!
According to senior Kaylor Stroot, “It was so much fun! The sense of giving was tangible, and the knowledge that we were directly helping those who were hungry motivated the group to work with cheer and efficiency.”
Brookewood’s Director of Admissions, Helen Williams, brought her son and friend, both Avalon students, and they were changed by the event. “The boys would almost never get up early on a Saturday, but after this event, they were inspired to do events like this more.”
Even kindergarteners and first graders participated in this event, and, according to Mrs. Wiliams, “They felt like they were part of the action instead of on the sidelines. For them, it was an empowering moment that showed how they can use themselves to help, even at a young age.”
Brookewood School’s Open House is this Saturday, November 11th from 1-3 p.m. There will be student tours of the school, refreshments, a chance to meet with current faculty members, and a talk from our Headmaster, Mr. Richard McPherson.
Brookewood School is an independent, 1-12, Catholic school for girls founded in 2006. The school emphasizes having a deep joy and love for learning while faculty, fellow students and parents encourage students to “be not afraid” in all of their pursuits—in faith, academics, friendships, and extracurriculars (the school’s motto in Latin is Nolite Timere).
Brookewood’s small environment means that each student gets personal attention and is more able to work to her academic capacity. Teachers at Brookewood are deeply invested in the personal growth of each student, gently guiding them towards maturity and wisdom.
There is much more to learn about our school, so please join us at 10401 Armory Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895 from 1-3 p.m. We hope to see you there!
Have questions? Contact our Director of Admissions, Helen Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Monday, October 17, Brookewood students peacefully protested the opening of an abortion clinic run by late term, abortionist, LeRoy Carhart. Headmaster Richard McPherson and Provost Joe McPherson accompanied the students in the silent and prayerful protest.
When asked about why she was there, student Kaylor Stroot said, “I know many families who have children with disabilities. I know it’s hard for them, but those children are a gift to those families.”
To read more about the event and how Brookewood students were involved, visit the following news links:
Life Site News: Abortionist cancels illegal late-term abortions after pro-lifers expose him
The Catholic Standard: Pro-life activists and students prayerfully protest late-term abortion clinic in Bethesda
Gillian Giangrande transferred at the beginning of her 11th grade year to Brookewood from a prestigious public high school in Connecticut. Read to find out what she thinks of Brookewood’s different style of education.
(1) Describe the school you went to in Connecticut. What was its emphasis?
I went to a large public school (with about 3,000 kids) and the emphasis was mostly on personal success. We had nationally ranked academics, with a couple dozen kids going to Ivies every year (and another couple dozen going to Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Tufts, and other ivy type schools). Kids succeeded in a county, state, and very commonly at a national level in sports. In addition, students were recognized at an international level for their academics. One of my closest friends who I swam with won the 2015 Google Science Fair; she created an inexpensive, temperature-independent test for the ebola virus. The public school helped me to think critically and connect my learning to the greater world.
(2) What do you find different about the education that you’re receiving at Brookewood?
Because Brookewood is a liberal arts school, it values the development of the entire person, not just as a critical-thinking student. My teachers were amazing back home, and they knew me well, challenged me, and definitely had a huge impact on the person I am now, but the school as a whole didn’t know me well. I could walk into my headmaster's office and he would have no clue if I was a student at the school. Brookewood is unique in that every teacher, even if you don’t have a certain one, knows you at a personal level.
At my other high school, there were over 200 courses I could chose from, and after you met your requirements you can chose to specialize. At Brookewood I have done the opposite. I had to stop specializing in subjects, and start developing as a whole student. I didn’t see the value in developing as a whole student because I didn’t understand why it’s important to be a well-rounded student. I started to see it when my success branched outside the math and science classrooms. I loved how I could go from having a conversation on limits, centripetal force, to talking about the summa, to the use of perspective in paintings. I realized the reason we strive to be a liberal arts school that develops the whole student is because knowledge is how you connect with one another. If you specialize in high school, it makes it harder to connect with others.
(3) How are you able to keep up with swimming at Brookewood?
Keeping up with swimming at Brookewood is challenging but it definitely makes it a lot easier that I have such an immense amount of support from teachers. I swim 6-8 times a week usually 2.5+ hours a day. Balancing morning practices, afternoon practices, dryland, and taking all the AP’s Brookewood has to offer is hard, but this past year, I’ve had more teachers support me and help me develop plans for time management. They’ve helped me achieve my goals in and out of the classroom by keeping me focused on the now, and not stressing too much about the future. They’ve instilled in me a balance that will help serve me when I go on to swim in college. Even though Brookewood doesn’t currently have a swim team, they’ve set it up so that I could swim attached to St John’s College High School and still have the opportunity to compete for brookewood.
(4)Do you think religious education is important in the school setting? Why or why not?
Before I came to Brookewood I didn’t. But once I did I realized it is the most crucial part of an education. Theology is the study of God and all of his creation. I laughed at Mr.Booz last year during the first week of Fundamentals of Christian Theology when he said this will be the most important class you are going to take in school. I said, “ahhaha--thats funny because religion classes are easy.” As time went on, I realized why he said it was the most important class; it shapes who we become. If we don’t understand the whole reason we are on this planet we lose sight of why we’re doing what we are doing. The purpose of us living is to live a life that brings out Christ's missions of ourselves,to evangelize, and lead as many people to heaven as possible. I attest a lot of my growth to my family, friends, teachers, Fr. Dan at St. Andrews, but I think mostly to what I’ve learned in Mr.Booz’s Theology class. I’ve learned what love is, and have been challenged to think selflessly and more intensely. Mr.Booz says, “to love someone is to desire the good for them, and want to bear their crosses for them--to suffer for them. It is easy to want good things to happen to someone but it’s hard to love him/her enough to want to take on his/her suffering.” I have seen my heart grow for others, and I no longer gain the most happiness from myself, but from when I view others’ success--how much more exciting that is!
(5)Do you think an all-girls education is important? Why or why not?
Yes, and no. I do think that is important to go to school with boys before college because it is different than going to all girls school. In life, you aren’t divided between boys and girls and you need to be able to work well with them. But I do see a value in single sex education. It allows us to be who we are without worrying about boys’ opinions of us. It allows us to develop confidence in ways that we can’t if we’re surrounded by boys.
(6) What do you want to study in college and what career path do you see yourself in?
After my year at Brookewood tutoring a number of girls, I’ve realized I have a special gift with that and have considered maybe majoring in math, my strongest subject, and becoming a teacher, so that I could influence kids and shape them the way teachers have shaped me.
(7)What are some of your favorite things about Brookewood School?
Definitely the people. I love that I can come to school, and expect to be greeted by everyone with a glowing smile. I can talk to my teachers about anything, and they offer honest and helpful advice. I love that my friends have known me a year but love me and treat me as if we’ve known them my entire life. Teresa Petruccelli (2016 alumna) told me when I came to Brookewood that my life would never be the same because of all the people. She couldn’t have been more accurate. The people at Brookewood have changed me, and there's not a doubt that they will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Two episodes come to mind when I think about the cheerful servitude of the faculty and staff at Brookewood. Last year, when I was having car troubles, Mr. Hawley helped me and took me to get my brakes fixed. And every time my Jeep died on me, he would help! At no other school would the Executive Directory take a kid to get her car fixed and offer his help even in the summer heat!
Another time was two weeks after Mr. McPherson had a heart attack, he took 15 loud 11th & 12th grade girls up to Boston for four days. There was a LOT of singing and dancing (and, of course, we let him get in a couple Bruce Springsteen songs)! At no other school would the Headmaster of the school bring 15 teenage girls up to Boston in the van (for 8 hours) by himself after having a heart attack 2 weeks prior--what amazing commitment Mr. McPherson has!
Hannah Jensen has been a Brookewood Bengal since she was in the second grade and has been a cheerful presence at Brookewood ever since. When seeing her in the main hallway, one notices that Hannah greets students of all ages in the school with a smile and a chirpy “hello,”; Hannah comes across as a delightful, kind, and confident young woman who is interested in others. Hannah’s interactions with other students and faculty make it clear that she’s contributed to Brookewood’s sense of community. Hannah, however, acknowledges she has benefitted and learned much more from Brookewood’s community.
When asked about one of her favorite classes this year, Hannah answered it was her Theology class. She said,
“We get to comprehend our Catholic Faith in a way that is so different from others [other schools]. Mr. Booz helps us understand the difficult theological tenets of our faith, and he helps us understand to walk these out day-to-day. I have loved that at Brookewood we talk about what we’re learning before, during, and after class. We talk for hours about our faith and whatever else we’re learning because we genuinely love talking about it. The teachers treat us like adults in this way, and it’s awesome!”
This year, Hannah is applying to colleges and plans on attending a 4-yr school university. She admits it’s a scary thing to be applying to universities, but she is clear on what area she wants to study: Psychology. As a avid artist, she wants to find a way to help others with art. On the mission trip to Jamaica with the school this summer, Hannah noticed what joy the children took in creating art. Hannah wants her college education to equip her with the best skills possible to serve others in counseling.
Hannah is also the captain of the Brookewood Volleyball team and has been captain for 3 years of her 4 years of high school at Brookewood. In fact, Hannah was instrumental in getting volleyball started at Brookewood, suggesting to Mr. Joe McPherson that Brookewood needed a team and that she would be happy to be heavily involved in the team. According to Coach Clair Moriarty, "Hannah is our driving motivational, joyful force for success on and off the court. She talks with all of the players and, as captain, sees it as her job to foster team unity and spirit, even during tough practices or difficult games."
We wish Hannah the best in her college application process and that she deeply enjoys her senior year.
On Friday, Sept. 29, Brookewood celebrated its first festival day—Field Day, which was organized and supervised by Coach Jen Davern. This year, unlike some years in the past, the weather was in perfect condition—sunny and cool—for outdoor competitions. Students divided into their houses—Arundel, Bourbon, Custis and Darnall—and began the festivities with individual games such as Soccer Dribble and Potato Sack Race. After the individual games, each house captain—Francesca DeMarchi for Arundel House, Carolyn Wood for Bourbon House, Kaylor Stroot for Custis, and Andrea Preciado for Darnall House—led their teams in the House Events which included, Pass-the-Hoola-Hoop, Dodge Ball, Track Relay and the Team Cheer. Custis won both Pass-the-Hoola Hoop and the Team Cheer with a rendition of “We Will Rock You, ” while Arundel won Dodge Ball and the Track Relay. After all the points were tallied, Arundel came in first with 190 points, Darnall in second with 117, Bourbon in third with 99, and Custis in fourth with 96 points.