Catherine Bennett, Megan Rai and Athena Rodrigues in front of
Academy of the Holy Names’ sister school, St. Mary’s in Winnipeg,
Manitoba. (Photo provided)
Catherine Bennett, Megan Rai and Athena Rodrigues in front of Academy of the Holy Names’ sister school, St. Mary’s in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo provided)

During the week of Oct. 5, the three of us, Katie Bennett, Megan Rai and Athena Rodrigues, along with our theology teacher, Dr. Cyndi Herman, embarked on a weeklong journey to Saint Mary’s Academy (SMA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for the 150th anniversary celebration of the school’s founding. During this week, we conversed, prayed and learned with fellow students and faculty from the network of schools sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM).  The three of us have attended the Academy of the Holy Names here in Albany for more than six years. Throughout these years, we have learned about the charism of the Sisters along with the teachings of Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, their foundress.

Blessed Mother Marie Rose saw the importance of education in the faith in children’s lives. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have dedicated themselves to teaching all children regardless of their circumstances. Right now, the Sisters are focused on the issue of access to clean drinking water for all and are spreading awareness of this issue.

The SMA welcome team greeted us at the airport along with our host families and welcome bags full of Winnipeg-themed goodies, demonstrating the SNJM core value of hospitality. Soon after, we were off to spend the first night with our host families and another student from an SNJM school from somewhere around the country. All three of us agreed we were a little nervous. However, after being so warmly welcomed by both the school and our hospitable host families, we knew we were in good hands.

Sunday, Oct. 6, was the Feast of Blessed Mother Marie Rose. We were fortunate enough to be present for the Sisters’ and associates’ renewal of vows at Résidence Despins. It was heartwarming to be invited to witness such a special ceremony.  

On Oct. 9, each of us embarked on a different service project. This allowed us to give back to the Winnipeg community and learn about the issues that are prevalent in Manitoba. Megan went to ArtBeat Studio, an art and music studio that promotes mental health. Katie got the chance to visit the Holy Names House of Peace which provides housing and resources for women escaping domestic abuse and human trafficking.  Athena went to the Welcome House which offers help to families, providing a place for them to connect with others and receive resources. We are very thankful for the service and learning opportunities which we participated in.

Throughout the week the three of us were able to make lasting connections with our fellow SNJM students and faculty. We discovered that although we may live in different places throughout the continent, we are all virtually experiencing the same education in the faith and the same commitment to community. On our last night, we gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner with our host families and reflected about the past week. The connections and friendships made, as well as the service that we participated in, made the experience one we shall never forget.

Katie Bennett, Megan Rai and Athena Rodrigues are juniors at the Academy of the Holy Names.