They were dedicated. That's a fact no one would refute. They were also passionate, intelligent, loving, and strong. They educated women when it wasn't in vogue. We came from Wheeling and other parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, D.C., the Carolinas, Florida, Mexico, South America, and Europe, small towns, rural country sides, and cities.
They filled us with dreams and ideas that we could succeed and that we could, in fact, make the world a better place. They led us to believe that, yes, we needed to believe in ourselves and be the best we could be. They taught us our faith and showed us faith in action. Their principles were high, and their purpose so delineated it is written in all of our hearts.
We are the Mount; Mount De Chantal Visitation Academy, a dream that began in 1848 with a very small band of courageous and self-sacrificing sisters. The dream began its final unraveling in 2010 when the last three remaining sisters locked the heavy wood and beveled glass door behind them for the last time. The final death rattle commenced last week when the walls of that grace-filled place began their fall. My tears flow for the sisters, for those of us so blessed to be included among those 160 years, and for our daughters who cannot be in the next graduating classes.
The Mount, as we so dearly refer to that place on the hill, was a magical place. "Absolutely life-changing," as one of my classmates and friends said aloud on that last alumnae weekend, a fact others of us felt so deeply in our hearts that we had difficulty finding words to express our sentiments. How do you find the words to really describe what those sisters did for us? This place was so much more than a high school, so much more than a college preparatory. It was home for many of us, for some a place that saved our lives, for others a place that provided the foundation for the journey of saving souls, most especially our own. These sisters taught us to love God, each other, and ourselves. Along the way, they also taught us the arts, the sciences, and the ability to discern and to discover. Their noble efforts produced judges, senators, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, and community leaders; women who lead because they were taught and showed that they could.
Our world is losing something very precious. It is not entirely gone, however, as we were reminded by the bishop who gave the homily at that last mass in that so very beautiful chapel. The Mount is in us; each of us. We take with us our lessons from those wonderful sisters and we pass them on to those around us. We love them for their many gifts and we try to honor their dedicated lives of sacrifice with a life worth living, a life full with meaning.
God bless you dear sisters. God bless you Mount De Chantal. You are forever a part of us, and forever a part of a world that makes a difference.
With deep gratitude,
Charles Town, W.Va.
Mt. De Chantal class of 1974