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Villa Maria Academy

Nelia Palma

On September 21, 2015, Villa Maria Academy students and faculty gathered to imagine peace in the school's annual commemoration of the United Nation’s International Day of Peace. For ten years now, VMA, the private Catholic elementary school administered by the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and situated in East Bronx, New York, has been joining with children and groups around the world who advocate for peace in our world.

The Congrégation de Notre-Dame was founded by Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, one of the pioneers of Montreal, whose mission to educate the children of Ville-Marie (Montreal), inspired a four centuries-long educational outreach. A fine example is, indeed, Villa Maria Academy. In January 1886, at the invitation of Father Frédérick Tétreault, three Congregation sisters left Montreal to teach the elementary school children of his New York City parish.

Started in 2006 by Sister Teresa Barton, the school’s Principal, the annual Day of Peace centers on a playful theme which also serves to make the idea of peace tangible to even the youngest students. For this year's concept – Picture Peace – the students from pre-K to grade 8 were asked to visualize what peace looks like to them. A drawing, a photo from the web – all students prepared their personal image. To culminate the morning celebrations, students hung their "peace pictures" along the shore of Long Island Sound.

An attendee expressed, "The earnestness and commitment of the students, from ages four through thirteen, was very moving. Their enthusiasm for what has been done over the years was inspiring. We each left with a renewed sense of hope and wide smiles on our faces. Liberating education is alive and well at Villa Maria Academy."

In addition to being a school with an unsurpassed academic program, life at VMA also includes outreach activities, such as, clothing and food drives, fund raisers for those in need and visits at Christmas time to local nursing homes.

An incident that shows Villa Maria Academy’s tight-knit environment occurred in August of 2000, when a four alarm fire destroyed much of the school’s third floor and caused extensive smoke and water damage on the lower floors. With only a week until school began, dedicated parents and faculty pulled together so that school could open without interruption.

In 2016, Villa Maria Academy will celebrate 130 years of academic excellence and its enduring commitment to peace and justice. Spanning three centuries, VMA has continued to advance the mission, values and traditions of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congrégation de Notre-Dame.

During the tenth annual commemoration of International Day of Peace, all those attending were asked to recite a pledge. Its opening lines unmistakably reflect Villa Maria Academy’s reverence for Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congregation’s history, its creativity and resourcefulness in current times, and its sense of hope for, and faith in the future. Together let us pledge:

Let's join together in a circle of love, to build the world we're dreaming of.

 

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