Sixty-five years of faces, familiar and new, filled Padua Academy on Saturday, January 11. Over two-hundred members of the Padua Community gathered together to celebrate our historic institution’s 65th Anniversary.
For over six decades, Padua has stood as a steadfast beacon, unwavering in its devotion to fulfill its mission of providing young women with a transformational college preparatory education by challenging them to live Christ-centered lives of leadership and service.
Alumnae Members from the early 1950s through current day came from far and wide to see what has changed, and what hasn’t, on North Broom Street. In addition to our graduates, current and former faculty and staff, students and their families joined in the celebration.
As with everything we do, we began our evening with prayer. We were called to worship by our Principal, Dr. McClory.
Sharing Our Faith
“Today, we gather to mark 65 years of education and community as a ‘school with a soul.’ It is only fitting that this celebration begins rooted in prayer and through the beauty of liturgy. What a gift to have present so many alumnae, so many families, so many individuals who have made an impact on this institution, and in turn, been impacted by it. Thank you for being part of this community, and for being part of our celebration today.”
Mass in the gymnasium was presided over by Father Mark Wrightson, OSFS, who gave a stirring homily about the importance of returning to places, figuratively and literally, in order to find the resources we need to tackle current and future challenges.
Father was able to relate Matthew’s Gospel about Jesus asking to be baptized again, to all of us sometimes needing to return to places to find answers and inspiration in order to move forward. For Jesus, it was about being baptized so he could expand his ministry. For Father Wrightson, it was returning to his parents’ basement where his dad kept tools and projects, while also housing his childhood toys that had been relegated there after they had reached their usefulness. He would secretly frequent those toys that his parents removed from the first floor but never disposed of.
Padua’s 65th Anniversary, in his words, was a time for us to return to our formative years to recall resources, friendships, skills and gifts we had received.
Padua Academy, as he mentioned, has never been just a building, even though we so often relate milestone achievements such as an anniversary with a location. In his words, “Padua is a place we carry in our hearts.” Liturgy was not only an opportunity for us to gather as a community of faith but also to reflect on this very idea. We can always return to Padua to find what we need.
Mass was followed by a catered reception in the cafetorium and self-guided tours through the building. It was such a blessing to have so many members of our earliest classes return to Padua.
Sharing Our Memories & Stories
Attendees were able to reminisce about their days spent in classrooms, the school library (now the Learning Commons), the cafetorium and the gymnasium. And of course, so many of our community members wanted to share their stories of our beloved Brother Mike Rosenello, OSFS, whom we lost late last year.
In a silent but striking tribute, an empty director’s chair and paper program stood from where Brother Mike used to cheer on his Pandas during Volleyball and Basketball seasons. But former and even future Pandas poured over photos of him, and it was a poignant moment to recall teacher Barbara Markham’s words from Brother’s memorial service late last year.
“While very few of you even knew him, all of you young women of Padua, owe a debt to Brother Mike. For his dream and his devotion is your inheritance.”
And what an inheritance it is. The building at 905 N. Broom Street is truly a time capsule engineered out of pure love and devotion. Brother Mike and Father Roberto believed they could build something remarkable through faith alone, and that they did.
So many of the architectural elements of Padua’s building came to be as a result of the community’s kindness and Father Roberto’s boldness to ask. Donated marble and granite continue to sparkle throughout and there is a literal story designed by Father Roberto and embedded in the hallway floors from the basement to the fourth floor.
They followed the message of St. Francis of Assisi to build a church. And to their credit, their creation still stands today, despite time having marched on around it.
A #PaduaPROUD Community
When Padua first opened its doors, Chevy Bel-Airs could be found parked on 10th and Broom. Wilmington residents would stroll down to Ma Robino’s on Union Street for a pasta dinner. And then down to Market Street, where Woolworth’s, Wilmington Dry Goods and Storm’s Shoes were shopping staples. Interstate 95 did not even exist.
As the world kept spinning for the next six decades, Padua would adapt, always cognizant of its core mission. Curriculum would change to keep our young women on the cutting edge of industry and social needs. But we would never sacrifice any of our core tenets, including service to our surrounding communities. In-fact, today, through the use of advanced analytics, we can report that our students have completed almost 10,000 hours in close to 3,000 different service activities since the beginning of just the 2019-2020 school year.
The walls that volunteer hands from Wilmington’s Italian Community built have withstood the test of time and continue to cradle the love and friendship born within. Today, the legacy of our faculty and staff, past and present, has burst at the seams and can be witnessed in the ever growing community of Padua Alumnae who serve the world with vision and hope.
Those who have passed through our doors and journeyed to life’s next adventure, carry with them the unbreakable support of the Padua Sisterhood. And for those who remain within the walls of the Big Box of Love, especially the many Padua Alumnae Members who have returned over the years to become faculty and staff members, this bond is even deeper.