Lives of purpose and presence
Serviam. "I will serve." For graduates of Ursuline Academy in Dedham, this is not merely a school motto, but rather, a way of life.
Each day, Ursuline students work to model the beliefs and example set by St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline order -- to live a life of faith, love, and service. Guided by the Roman Catholic tradition of education and the school's philosophy of Serviam, Ursuline students grow to be women of integrity who engage in their communities with purpose and presence.
Ursuline students collectively provide over 24,000 hours in volunteer work each year, and all seniors participate in a focused service project during their final weeks of school. No matter their professional calling, every Ursuline graduate is shaped by her experience of Serviam, which inspires them to become change-makers who recognize the needs of others and continue their commitment to service throughout their adult lives.
This past year, Ursuline Academy celebrated its 75th anniversary, and throughout senior week, the school honored St. Angela Merici's incredible legacy by celebrating alumnae who have made service their life's work.
Although separated by 20 years, Beth Sheehan Collins '02 and Bella Matthews '22 are but two examples of alumnae who embrace the spirit of Serviam.
Collins serves as manager of In-House Programs at My Brother's Keeper Christian Ministry in southeastern Massachusetts and oversees their food assistance program. A featured speaker at Ursuline's senior parent brunch this past spring, Collins shared, "My favorite part about Ursuline -- the part that has really stuck with me and my classmates -- and the part that unites all of us, is Serviam. It is the greatest gift Ursuline has given to us."
As a senior at Ursuline, Collins began volunteering at My Brother's Keeper where she fell in love with the work, the mission, the people she served, and those with whom she served. Fast forward 20 years, and Collins partners with over 5,000 volunteers to provide food for those in need. "What I have witnessed with a devotion to service is that our lives are so much richer for it. We bring light out into the world and it fills us with joy."
Collins' challenge to the seniors? "Go light your world!"
Sitting in the audience that day, Bella Matthews heard that charge and felt a kindred spirit with Collins. Matthews has been active in her community since she was a little girl. "When I was eight years old, I was inspired by a Food Network show and began organizing my own food drive to help those in need. We continued organizing an event each year until Bella's Food Drive Boston became a 501©3 nonprofit organization when I was 14 years old." Thanks to the passion of one young girl, Bella's Food Drive Boston has flourished and continues to grow.
Hearing Collins speak at senior brunch, Matthews was inspired by a mission so similar to her own that she immediately decided to donate to My Brother's Keeper as a fitting way to celebrate her 2022 graduation.
This legacy of service also inspired the work of Maggie Burns, Class of 1976 and vice president of Philanthropy and External Affairs at St. Francis House in Boston, now the largest day shelter in New England. The keynote speaker at Ursuline's Commencement this past June, Burns shared with graduates that Serviam is essential to how she lives today. "We can serve in so many ways. We can serve ourselves and we can serve others. It's important to do both."
Burns had her start in business, but when a personal tragedy struck and she relied on help from others, she realized "my Ursuline experience -- my education, my friends, the motto of Serviam -- everything about Ursuline grounded me and called me to serve others more deeply."
She fulfilled that calling at St. Francis House, devoting herself to helping homeless and impoverished adults rebuild their lives. She shared with the graduates, "I've found my joy. I recognize it because I felt it before -- here at Ursuline." As she congratulated the Class of 2022, she challenged them to renew their own commitment to Serviam. "There is much to do and there is hope because Ursuline Academy is sending smart, courageous, thoughtful, and supportive women out into the world."
CATHY SOLOMON (CSOLOMON@URSULINEACADEMY.NET) IS THE CHIEF ENROLLMENT OFFICER AT URSULINE ACADEMY, AN INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC SCHOOL FOR YOUNG WOMEN IN GRADES SEVEN THROUGH 12. CALL 781-493-7726 TO REGISTER FOR OPEN HOUSE ON SUNDAY, NOV. 6, FROM 11 A.M. TO 2 P.M.