Newton Country Day Head gives Lenten Reflection
On Ash Wednesday Sister Barbara Rogers, headmistress of Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, addressed the School in Hall. It is Roxbury Latin’s tradition to commemorate the major religions during the year. Last fall we heard from Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz during the Jewish High Holy Days. For Christians Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the penitential season leading up to Easter.
Fundamental to keeping a holy Lent is the awareness of our own mortality. “Remember, oh man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return,” the priest says while making a sooty smudge on foreheads. Sister Barbara focused her remarks on the implications of this fact—specifically how Jesus’s human experience can guide us through the desert pilgrimage of Lent’s 40 days.
“Christians believe that Jesus is true God and true man. I want to talk about Jesus as true man.” Sister Barbara explained that Jesus was attracted to the zealots and radicals who wanted to overthrow Roman rule and return Israel to self-governance. Judas Iscariot was one, John the Baptist was another. Jesus probably waited in a long line to be baptised by John, and when the moment came he heard God’s call (“my beloved son”). Anxious for what it meant, he wandered the desert for answers. It was there he faced three temptations: to make bread out of stones to relieve his own hunger; to jump from a pinnacle and rely on angels to break his fall; and to worship the devil in return for all the kingdoms of the world. Managing to resist all three, he left the desert to engage with the world—and God’s call.
Sister Barbara reminded us that we too are called to engage with the world, and listen for God’s call. “What am I going to do with this great education?” We are confronted with the temptation to power. Or we doubt God’s call: we squander the gifts we have been given; we view life as a sideshow. We are tempted to step back from engagement with life, to not be our fullest selves.
“Lent is an invitation to know how loved you are and to listen for that which you are being called to,” she said. “Jesus chose the route of being with the poor.” As true man, Jesus understood mortality: that at the end of life, all that is left is our good deeds.
As part of his welcome to Sister Barbara, Kerry Brennan noted that RL and NCDS share some common history. NCDS moved to its current location in 1925, just two years before RL moved in 1927 from Roxbury to West Roxbury. They expanded their school from four Commonwealth Avenue townhouses to the Loren D. Towle estate in Newton, which was designed by the legendary architect and Roxbury Latin graduate, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., Class of 1890. Like RL, NCDS develops the intellectual and spiritual side of students while encouraging them to dedicate their individual talents and gifts to others.”
A sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ) and an energetic, effective, and beloved school leader, Sister Barbara earned an undergraduate degree at Manhattanville College and an MBA from Yale. Over her 27 years as headmistress of NCDS, she has had a significant impact on its growth and advancement including increasing the endowment and building a new science lab and arts center.