Does Ursuline Academy still matter?  The school closed in 2007.

I’ve heard various schools of thought:

From “How sad…Ursuline’s closing. Oh well. Time to move on. Gotta let it go. People need to get over it. It happened, it was a great place, and now it’s over.”

To “Thank goodness there are still people who care and are working to keep the legacy of Ursuline alive.”

I am proud to be among the second school of thought, and here’s why:

Ursuline Academy means far more to me than the place of which I attended high school.  It was home.  A place of comfort.  A place to be yourself.  A place where you didn’t have to worry about anything other than showing up and bringing with you your very own gifts.  I brought with me gifts of friendship, hope and excitement, gifts of musical talent (yet to be discovered).  I brought with me fear and anxiety of my future and respect for the legacy of over 130+ years of education, sisterhood, community and service.

Service?  Yes, “Serviam” was/*is* the theme for UA (Ursuline Academy).  It is Latin for “I will serve”, and it was the cry of Michael the Archangel upon Satan’s “I will not serve”.  So maybe I should speak a little history before quoting ancient biblical terms…(ha).  UA was established in 1857.  That’s right.  EIGHTEEN FIFTY SEVEN.  Over 150 YEARS of education and “Serviam”.  That *means* something.  It means generation upon generation of love and laughter and respect and learning and fears and growth and community and caring. The historical buildings of Ursuline are hauntingly beautiful and enchanting and mysterious and smelly and AMAZING. They are not on the national register of historical preservation, which is beyond me. #needtolearnmore

It cannot hurt to strengthen our community, grow awareness, and share love/memories/gifts of what Ursuline meant/means to us. Why does a community exist when the school is closed?  Because it obviously transcended a physical building.  It transcends an operating high school.  It’s a community of Alumni of over 100 years.  Can we pass on its rich history to our children?  Absolutely.  But only if we come together to preserve its importance.  If people give up, lose hope, feel embarrassed about caring so much, turn their heads, watch the buildings crumble in silence…well…then I guess it wasn’t as important as I thought.  But I do not believe that.

This is why I joined the board, UAAF (the Ursuline Academy Alumni Foundation) This is why I chose to stand up and be a voice about this community.  The community exists.  People don’t always talk about it because it *is* sad. They feel helpless.  Benedictine has taken over.  People feel helpless/hopeless/”oh well”.  But it’s still here among us.  No, it doesn’t exist in our everyday lives, nor should it.  Does it still matter?  I don’t know.  To me, it DOES.  The UAAF was established in 2007 (upon the school’s closing) to preserve the meaning of what the Ursuline sisters began in 1857 and what manifested over 150 years of education/community/service.  They raise money to offer scholarships for Catholic education…(definitely awesome), but in my mind, it’s even more important that they (UAAF) united to carry on the rich tradition of UA.

My Grandma, God rest her soul, went to Ursuline and graduated in 1947.  My Mother, Norma Kinsel, graduated in 1971.  I graduated in 1995 and recently had my 20 year reunion (which was a blast!).

We all have different memories, but my highlights include Mrs. Marystone… “write like the wind!” and coming by and putting her hands on our shoulders while we were able to let our creative writing flow :), and Ms. Walk with her calming voice and excitement for youth and learning.  She played “forever young” for us, by Rod Stewart, on our senior year before graduation, and singing on stage in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with Miss C., and sneaking up to the tower…the wind hit your face and you looked out over the city… “God, if I get expelled, it might be worth it for this view!!”, and getting angry with Principal Karen Anderson because she believed Mrs. Johnstone over me that I actually DID memorize all of those dumb 12 tribe names without cheating, and walking up the creeky stairs in the old building thinking “omgosh, when is the last time this building was checked for safety?!”

And walk-a-thon, and chicken dinner, and senior porch, and madrigal dinner.  My WORD…MADRIGAL DINNER.  Are you kidding me?  No one in this city has ever come close to the amazingness of what an Ursuline Academy Madrigal Dinner offered.

And forgetting the words to The Star Spangled Banner at “pack the place” night at the basketball game at the old SCI Gym. I sang that song a capella what seemed 100 times, and this one time…I forgot the words: “Ohhh say can you SEEEE…by the twilight’s first dawn…”  Hmmm.  Wait a minute.  After I cried into the microphone “I can’t do this.”  Dan Tavine, emcee, raised his arms and insisted everyone sing along since I could not come up with the words!  That next Monday at school, my friends teased me and laughed…but WITH me.  And here, in this place, I learned to laugh at myself.  I learned humility and friendship and how to let go and laugh at the uncertainty of life.  These are just some of my own precious memories.

Our fragile, breaking, historical buildings are in question.  Does anyone really KNOW the answers??  I don’t.  I want to find out, and I *will* find out.  I will be submitting this blog post to the SJR, Bishop Paprocki, and Benedictine University.  I will also be following up to request face to face meetings between the UAAF board and those with knowledge of the future of our historical buildings.  Here is the last information the UAAF was given upon an FB status from Susan Jones Gallagher, class of 1975, (and thank you for your service, Susan!)

June 29, 2015

“I received a letter from the Bishop today.  After letting me know he received my letter, he went on to say: “I am currently in conversations with officials at Benedictine University regarding the future of the buildings in question.  Unfortunately, the future is unclear at this point. I share your hope that something can be done to preserve these historic buildings which are, as you wrote in your letter, ‘a testament to Springfield’s Ursuline tradition and the history of the Ursuline Sisters in the Midwest.’ Please be assured of my prayers for a favorable outcome in this situation.”

I would appreciate your help.  We need a strengthened community.  I hope to take advantage of the power of social media to spread information of our Chicken Dinner in May and other gatherings in the name of UA.  If you went to Ursuline (well, and you care…I don’t expect everyone to care),  the Ursuline Academy Alumni Foundation page (which we will be working to improve, thanks to my friend, Derrick Jones ’96) after you’ve LIKED the page, click on “invite friends to like”, and scroll through to invite any UA alum to LIKE the page.  I was so excited!  We went from 581 likes to 610 in a matter of hours after the UA Homecoming honoring Midge Langfelder.

Thanks for your support,