28 March, 2011

Campus Ministry Students Appear on Mayor's Show

Excitement filled the air as 8 of our Campus Ministry Student Leaders prepared for their taping of Mayor Bollwage's bi-weekly cable television show. This was the action taken in follow-up to their meeting in our library with the Mayor of Elizabeth a few short weeks ago. The show was taped live (no editing) in two segments.

In the first segment of the show, Mayor Bollwage asked the girls questions pertaining to bullying in and out of schools and human trafficking. What is bullying? How common is bullying? What should a person do if they are being bullied? If you have asked these questions yourself, there is an informative website that provides simple and concise answers. http://www.stopbullying.gov/ They also discussed the growing problem of human trafficking. "What is Human Trafficking? How do people recruit their victims? Which countries are affected by Human Trafficking?" If you are interested in learning more about this growing epidemic, visit our Campus Ministry Human Trafficking website and check the United Nations Blue Heart Campaign - http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/ The last segment of the show focused on Child Slave Labor in the chocolate industries. "What exactly does child slave labor entail? How do we know if the chocolate we are eating is from a company who uses slave labor? How can people take a stand against child slave labor?" A few of our students from the SHAC SQUAD (Students Helping All Children) explained that this is a form of modern day slavery to young children between the ages of 12-16 that must be stopped. The best chocolate to buy is Fair Trade Chocolate that carries the Fair Trade Logo. Otherwise, you can go to the Green America website to check out your favorite brand of chocolate. Are there any brands that definitely do not honor the UN Protocol to use cocoa plantations that pay fair wages and do not use child slave labor? Unfortunately, we discovered Hershey Chocolate has made little effort to ensure that their product does not use child slave labor. You can speak out against these unfair practices by not buying Hershey Chocolate or writing to David West at the Hershey company. All the information may be found on Green America's website. http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/company.cfm?id=238 Join us in becoming a Voice for the Voiceless. We can do something by speaking out in the light about these grave injustices that are affecting our society, locally and globally.

25 March, 2011


Lent is my favorite time of the year. It is a time when we can listen with the ear of our hearts and hear Jesus whisper in the silence, "Come back to Me... with all your heart... can't you see... we're miles apart... long have I waited..." .

Along with more prayer, we enjoy another long time tradition of our Catholic faith. Catholic Relief Services provides every school with a most wonderful program called Operation Rice Bowl. Each of our students receive a Rice Bowl and is asked to share with those who have less than us. Where does this money go? To our brothers and sisters who are suffering across the globe.

The following Stations Of the Cross Prayers are based on CRS' relief efforts. We are grateful to Morris Catholic High School, our partner school in the Jefferson Award program, for sharing this material with us. We hope it will touch your heart as it does ours.

Stations of the Cross


These stations were developed for use in Theology classes as a part of the Lenten Social Justice Curriculum at Morris Catholic High School.

Each class will pray two to three stations each week.

Each prayer session should begin with the Sign of the Cross, followed by praying two or three stations, as noted in the curriculum. The session should end with the Sign of the Cross.

Prayers used with these stations are from Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl and the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia. Photos are from Carolyn Holmes.

First Station

Jesus is condemned

Jesus is handed over with a kissand is condemned to death. His journey with the cross begins.

In Honduras, a long history of violence, economic exploitation and inadequate infrastructure, education, and healthcare systems has condemned two-thirds of the population to live in poverty.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus stands in the most human of places. He has already experienced profound solidarity with so many on this earth, by being beaten and tortured. Now he is wrongfully condemned to punishment by death. His commitment to entering our lives completely begins its final steps. He has said "yes" to God and placed his life in God's hands. We follow him in this final surrender, and contemplate with reverence each place along the way, as he is broken and given for us.

Second Station

Jesus Carries the Cross

Jesus begins his journey toward Golgotha, the place of the skull. Jesus now has to bear the cross, which will soon become his place of death.

In Haiti, widespread deforestation has caused soil erosion, flooding and damage to the agricultural land, which reduces the number of crops that farmers can grow. As a result, the Haitian people are forced to carry the cross of food insecurity.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus is made to carry the cross on which he will die. It represents the weight of all our crosses. What he must have felt as he first took it upon his shoulders! With each step he enters more deeply into our human experience. He walks in the path of human misery and suffering, and experiences its crushing weight.

Third Station

Jesus falls for the First Time

Under the weight of the cross, Jesus falls for the first time.

He feels abandonment and pain. He walks alone.

In Senegal, 48 percent of the population has fallen beneath the burden of unemployment. This largely agricultural economy is often threatened by inconsistent rains, locust invasions, and unreceptive foreign markets.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

The weight is unbearable. Jesus falls under it. How could he enter our lives completely without surrendering to the crushing weight of the life of so many on this earth! He lays on the ground and knows the experience of weakness beneath unfair burdens. He feels the powerlessness of wondering if he will ever be able to continue. He is pulled up and made to continue.

Fourth Station

Jesus Finds His Mother

Jesus finds his mother among the crowd. As Jesus walks towards our redemption,

Mary sees how her child suffers with every step.

In Kenya, 1.6 million children have lost their mother, father or both parents to HIV-related infections. These children struggle to survive without proper medical, nutritional and educational support.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus' path takes him to a powerful source of his strength to continue. All his life, his mother had taught him the meaning of the words, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord." Now they look into each other's eyes. How pierced-through her heart must be! How pained he must be to see her tears! Now, her grace-filled smile blesses his mission and stirs his heart to its depth.

Love and trust in God bind them together.

Fifth Station

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus

The Roman soldiers picked Simon of Cyrene out of the crowd to help Jesus with the cross.

Since 1943 Catholic Relief Services has helped carry the cross for our brothers and sisters in need by providing assistance with housing, water systems, health services, agriculture, and response to emergencies.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus even experiences our struggle to receive help. He is made to experience the poverty of not being able to carry his burden alone. He enters into the experience of all who must depend upon others to survive. He is deprived of the satisfaction of carrying this burden on his own.

Sixth Station

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Along his journey, Jesus comes across Veronica. She is moved by Jesus’ pain, and she wipes his face. Veronica’s simple act inspires us to works of compassion.

There are more than 1 billion people around the world who regularly suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Most are women and children. We pray that like Veronica, our actions will provide relief to those who suffer.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus' journey is at times brutal. He has entered into the terrible experiences of rejection and injustice. He has been whipped and beaten. His face shows the signs of his solidarity with all who have ever suffered injustice and vile, abusive treatment. He encounters a compassionate, loving disciple who wipes the vulgar spit and mocking blood from his face. On her veil, she discovers the image of his face - his gift to her. And, for us to contemplate forever.

Seventh Station

Jesus Falls a Second Time

Jesus falls a second time. This time, getting up is more difficult. His journey is still not over.

In Indonesia, the villages in the province of East Flores have fallen beneath the cross of food insecurity. Limited rain, poor soil fertility, inadequate access to water, a lack of crop diversification, and a lack of access to markets are a few of the many factors that have constrained agricultural productivity in this region.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you

have redeemed the world.

Even with help, Jesus stumbles and falls to the ground. In deep exhaustion he stares at the earth beneath him. "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return." He has seen death before. Now he can feel the profound weakness of disability and disease and aging itself, there on his knees, under the weight of his cross.

Eighth Station

Jesus Consoles the Mothers of Jerusalem

Jesus comes to a group of mothers who lament his pain. Jesus offers them consolation for what they and their children will suffer. Today, too many people in our world suffer due to war and conflict. We must offer our help and consolation to mothers, families, and children whose lives are interrupted by conflict.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

The women of Jerusalem, and their children, come out to comfort and thank him. They had seen his compassion and welcomed his words of healing and freedom. He had broken all kinds of social and religious conventions to connect with them. Now they are here to support him. He feels their grief. He suffers, knowing he can't remain to help them more in this life. He knows the mystery of facing the separation of death.

Ninth Station

Jesus Falls for a Third Time

Once again, Jesus falls under the great weight of the cross.

In Senegal women often fall beneath the burden of supporting their families without a stable source of income.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

This last fall is devastating. Jesus can barely proceed to the end. Summoning all this remaining strength, supported by his inner trust in God, Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross. His executioners look at him as a broken man, pathetic yet paying a price he deserves. They help him up so he can make it up the hill of crucifixion.

Tenth Station

Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Jesus is stripped of his clothes and is left naked, another great humiliation.

Today in the United States, 14.3 percent of the population is living in poverty.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Part of the indignity is to be crucified naked. Jesus is completely stripped of any pride. The wounds on his back are torn open again. He experiences the ultimate vulnerability of the defenseless. No shield or security protects him. As they stare at him, his eyes turn to heaven.

Eleventh Station

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Jesus is nailed to the cross. The pain is great and he shouts in agony.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 54 percent of its people nailed to the cross of poverty. Most people support their families through farming, but land in Haiti is often ill-used and poorly cultivated.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Huge nails are hammered through his hands and feet to fix him on the cross. He is bleeding much more seriously now. As the cross is lifted up, the weight of his life hangs on those nails. Every time he struggles to pull himself up to breathe, his ability to cling to life slips away.

Twelfth Station

Jesus Dies on the Cross

In his life, Jesus showed us how to love; in his death, he shows us how to live.

Jesus died on the cross for us. In our actions we must follow Christ’s example of service to others.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Between two criminals, a mocking title above his head, with only Mary and John and Mary Magdalene to support him, Jesus surrenders his last breath: "Into your hands I commend my spirit."

Thirteenth Station

Jesus’ Body is taken off the Cross

Jesus’ body is removed from the cross. Solemn and sad, this is a painful act of love.

In Indonesia, only 11 percent of the terrain is arable land. CRS’ agriculture programs are helping farmers down from the cross of poverty by teaching them growing methods that will maximize their crop yields.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

What tender mourning! Jesus' lifeless body lays in his mother's arms. He has truly died. A profound sacrifice, complete.

Fourteenth Station

Jesus’ Body is Placed in a Tomb

Jesus’ body is placed in a simple tomb. His followers mourn.

Because the healthcare system in Honduras is unable to meet the needs of many of its poorest inhabitants, maternal and infant mortality rates are often high in rural villages.

God of all people, hear us as we join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in need.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

They take the body of Jesus to its resting place. The huge stone over the tomb is the final sign of the permanence of death. In this final act of surrender, who would have imagined this tomb would soon be empty or that Jesus would show himself alive to his disciples, or that they would recognize him in the breaking of bread? Oh, that our hearts might burn within us, as we realize how he had to suffer and die so as to enter into his glory, for us.

Fifteenth Station


Truly, Christ is Risen!

He invites us to serve Him in serving our brothers and sisters.

Let us go then, and proclaim, Christ is Risen!

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Alleluia! How beautiful is the sound of this word at this spot! Alleluia, Christ is Risen! And my heart, dear Jesus, leaps with joy. I can feel again your power and glory. "Where is death your power?"

Yes, Lord Jesus, at this site you overcame the most dreadful enemy of life, the most brutal of moments and transformed it into a glorious event. The tomb saw your glory, witnessed the light of life, testified to your overwhelming power. No stone could hold you, no bandage tie you up. No guard could stand by your everlasting power as Son of the Father Almighty.

From the tomb, dear Jesus, you made your Holy Cross the throne of your Glory. From the tomb you came back alive to fill us with the certainty that we too will participate in your glory as the redeemed ones not through the blood of goats or lambs but through the blood of the Son of Man.

Alleluia, Lord, from the tomb you filled our hearts with hope. Make it so, Lord, that we always look at this tomb in the moments when we feel ourselves closed in the confined spaces of darkness.

May the victory of your Resurrection spread its peace throughout the world. May it inspire the peoples living next to your "tomb of glory" to overcome the prejudices and hate and grow up in love and respect. Grant to the whole word the joy of your victory. Alleluia!

18 March, 2011

Lectio Divina

Close your eyes... relax your shoulders...take a deep breath... breathe in and breathe out... feel yourself being filled with the Spirit of God's love. Imagine being gifted every Friday for five consecutive weeks in the beautiful sacred chapel of the Benedictine Sisters at St. Walburga Monastery with an hour of meditative reflection. This is the spiritual sustenance for our season of Lent. With Scripture as our foundation to grow closer to Jesus, we listened with the ear of our hearts to His precious Word: "Rise and you will not be afraid."
With Jesus by our side, what is there to fear?

May this Lent be a holy time filled with faith and hope in the love of Jesus for each one of us. Peace be with you!

16 March, 2011

Good Shepherd Academy

A professor of Columbia University recently asked, "Would you be interested in learning what a small group of powerful women are capable of?" If you answered "yes", then you want to know more about Benedictine Academy's Students In Action Leadership Team.

Today, the SHAC Squad visited with the 7th & 8th grade students at Good Shepherd Academy. Their mission was to share an action-oriented anti-slavery campaign on the chocolate industry. Our Sophomore students were remarkable as they challenged these young students to be leaders of change in protecting the dignity and rights of young children. It was an hour packed with lessons about effective activism and "hi five tips" for protecting children against Human Trafficking.

It is a global epidemic that is even occurring in our own backyards. "In the United States, almost 75% of Traffickers meet their victims on the Internet", warned our BA Students. They shared about the dangers of chat rooms and talking to strangers on the Internet. The session concluded with the promise that together, we would continue our work to spread the message to help stop child slave labor.
At Benedictine Academy, we believe we have a shared responsibility to build a culture of peace within our local and global communities.

Career Day: Women Speaking to Women

Today the auditorium was filled with 16 powerful women, ready to share this wisdom and rich experience with the entire school community. Mary Young, our Public Relations Director, worked diligently to gather the interests and dreams of the student body several months ago. She then reached out to great women and contacted Directors, Entrepreneurs, Lawyers, Medical Supervisors, and Olympic Silver Medalist, many of whom are Benedictine alumnae, to join us in this amazing day of career workshops for our students.

The day was an overwhelming success as our students learned professional tips and acute business acumen in the various teaching sessions. They concluded with a question and answer panel discussion. What was one of the most important advices shared? Your integrity is your greatest asset. Honesty, respect and having a responsible attitude are unequalled attributes not only in the workplace, but in life. It is what it means to be a good human being.
Benedictine Academy is an A+ college-preparatory high school for young women. Leadership and academic success are two of the cornerstones of our School Mission.

March Celebration

Today we celebrated the young women who have worked unceasingly to help stop child slave labor, and a true Unsung Hero who has been with us and the entire City of Elizabeth blessing people and building peace over the years.

The winners of the Jefferson Volunteer Community Service Awards for the month of March are the SHAC Squad, "Students Helping All Children": Kai Alexander, Kelly Amorim, Michelle Colonia, Norky Diaz, Samantha Frejuste, Shervonne Gittens, Samantha Herrejon, Heidy Isabel, Shana Lugay, Crismeldy Segura, and Anglin Thevarajah. These students have united their hearts with the hearts of children being trafficked for slave labor in the chocolate industry. They have organized an aggressive awareness campaign to advocate for these children who do not have a voice. On behalf of all children, we thank the SHAC Squad for answering the call and taking a stand to make our world a better place.

The second honoree of the Jefferson Award was our beloved Police Officer, Sergeant Mike Jones. Not only is Mike the City of Elizabeth's Peace Pacifist, he is the quiet unseen presence in our school and on the streets reaching out, helping people young and old, touching lives and bringing light and hope into their darkness. Whether it is giving someone a hot meal on a cold winter night, providing an opportunity for a young child to play sports with that new pair of sneakers, helping the elderly get the heat turned back on, or mentoring our students in Peer Mediation, Sergeant Mike Jones is ready to serve with his huge heart! He once shared how he saw every distressed person as Jesus in disguise, in need of a compassionate heart and kindness.

Feast of St. Benedict

It is a beautiful tradition at Benedictine Academy to gather as a family with our Benedictine Sisters and celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict. Each year, our school community raises up and honors a Benedictine Sister who has blessed us with the gift of her loving presence. This year, we remembered Sr. Lucy Hernandez, our teacher of the Spanish curriculum. The students created an awesome powerpoint presentation on "This is Your Life" and shared their poetry writings. Krystal reflected,
"Sr. Hermana Lucy,
A woman who cares,
A woman who loves,
A woman who shares,
A woman whom I will never forget,
A woman who will never be forgotten."
And Fatima shares, "Our very own Sister Lucy Hernandez, she glows every time she sees her students succeeding. One of a kind. A teacher and a friend who is always there for you. Your smile fills our hearts like a balloon filled with air. "

The wonderful morning ended with everyone proudly and affectionately singing our Benedictine Alma Mater.

10 March, 2011

"Jesus, Remember Me!"

As one sacred community, the entire school walked to St. Walburga Monastery Chapel where our brother Benedictine, Father Augustine,OSB, celebrated a most inspiring liturgy this past Ash Wednesday. "Jesus, Remember Me" , a personal favorite of our Principal Mr. Jennings, was on the lips and hearts of every student throughout the day. The Senior Class concluded the Mass with a surprise gift to Sister Germaine. Seniors Geraline and Alicia were filled with the Spirit as they presented and spoke the following words to Sister Germaine on behalf of the Class of 2011:

Dear Sister Germaine,

On behalf of the Senior Class, we would like to present you with this bowl from the Potter. It is the bowl that you helped make at the beginning of the school year with the rest of the Staff at the Staff Retreat. We thank you, all the Benedictine Sisters, and the entire Staff for the gift of our education at Benedictine Academy. As the clay needed to be worked and reworked, so too did you shape our lives over the past four years into the beautiful young women we are today. This bowl contains a message from each of us, one for every day in Lent. We pray that you know how much we love and appreciate you, Mr. Jennings and Benedictine Academy. May God Bless you all.

Class of 2011

09 March, 2011

United Nations and Benedictine Academy Global Initiative

BA's SHAC SQUAD (Students Helping All Children) headed to New York City yesterday to meet with the UNODC (United Nations Office of Drug and Crime) on the pressing issue of Human Trafficking in the United States and across the globe.
It was a truly amazing day as they met around the Conference table with Mr. Shashi Kara and three other lawyers. We learned about the inner workings of the UN General Assembly and Security Council to help protect the rights of the human person, through Resolutions, Proclamations and Protocols. "The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the Charter,for the maintenance of international peace and security," shared Mr. Kara.

Our students then presented the UNODC Team with their Human Trafficking Banner and pledge signed by the school community. They shared their commitment to do something to stop human trafficking by raising awareness with other schools and businesses in the local communities, and their advocacy campaign in the chocolate industry against child slave labor.

The United Nations meeting was both empowering and inspiring for everyone who attended the meeting. Our Students In Action Leadership Team united their hearts to the UNODC and will continue their hard work to combat trafficking of children and young women. H.U.H.! (Hearts Uniting Hearts is the mantra of the SHAC SQUAD)

Mayor Bollwage In Action!

Mayor Bollwage is a Mayor who is dedicated to making Elizabeth a better place. When the Peace & Justice Club invited the Mayor to meet regarding the pressing issues of bullying and human trafficking confronting our society, he immediately responded, "YES"! The meeting took place yesterday in the library at Benedictine Academy. It was an awesome meeting as the Student Leadership Club shared their concerns regarding the protection of the human dignity of their brothers and sisters across the globe.

Thinking globally and acting locally, they shared a phenomenal program in New Jersey available for all ages published by HRSA, STOP BULLYING NOW. Check out their great website for information for parents, students and educators. http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/

They also spoke about the growing epidemic of Human Trafficking in the United States. As Americans and members of the Benedictine Academy community, we have a shared responsibility to become educated on this shameful crime. We can do something by advocating for fair trade in the chocolate industry and by wearing the Blue Heart on your facebook and websites. http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/

part one & two:

They concluded their meeting with a visit to our new state-of-the-art science lab and the agreement to have a follow-up meeting to work together to take action to prevent further hurt in our local communities.

Together we can and are making a difference in our world.

06 March, 2011


The Arts are a critical component of the Benedictine Tradition and educational experience at Benedictine Academy. Approximately 2 dozen students participated in a twelve week Dance and Music Program at the school. They gave outstanding performances on Friday before the school community, family and friends, ranging from Traditional Jazz to African Dance. Dance, similar to public speaking, is another form of expression that requires hard work and self-discipline. Keyna reflected, "You could feel the drum beat and be filled with the Spirit, and then amazingly give it to your audience." It was a great experience for all... take a peak.