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Holy Heart of Mary Girls

I had the pleasure of attending my high school reunion this week. The graduates of Holy Heart of Mary came together to talk about our "Old days" and relive our teenage years.

I literally cannot get the smile off my face. Being around these accomplished women was such an honour. I remembered some faces and not names or names and not faces but I was struck by the fact that I could remember their smiles. That says a lot about a school.

Even after all these years, we are sisters... sisters in Heart and Soul.

When Holy Heart was built it was the flagship of education in the province. What other school had a grand piano or harp? It was built because the Presentation Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy believed that if they educated women, they would gain status in the community. They believed when there was an educated woman at the head of the household, there would be educated children.

They were right. Holy Heart of Mary has educated some of the most prominent women in this province, this country, and the world.

Holy Heart of Mary was, and still is a one-of-a-kind school. It was built through the vision of His Grace, Archbishop P.J. Skinner. But it was the Presentation Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy who undertook the financial costs of building Holy Heart.

A little-known fact, when the design for the school was drawn up the total amount to build is was huge for that time. The Sisters in both Congregations were "As poor as Church mice" to quote one. If a building ever had a soul, Holy Heart had one built right in. The Sisters put their Habits together and devised a plan. Each group went to the bank and took out half the amount needed to build their school. To pay off the loan, the Sisters never took a dollar of salary for years until the loan was paid in full!

Maybe that is why their expectations for us was so high. Maybe that is why they instilled a fear of failure in us. Maybe that is why they taught us to succeed. It was all they knew.

The emphasis at Holy Heart was not just on academics but on the arts as well. Just about every success story in the provincial arts scene got their start at the Holy Heart auditorium, which holds 950 seats, 100 less than the Arts and Culture Centre. Yes, the Sisters had a vision for their girls. They would be educated like no other. They would stand out. They would be "Heart Girls."

It is an honour to call yourself a "Heart Girl."

After all these years, these women have taken that instilled sense of pride in themselves and used it to achieve their own goals and dreams.

The laughter could be heard outside the building when we sat down for our meal last night. So many stories: Sister Crotty yelling "Boots and shoes girls" in the front lobby, Mr. Byrd and his "Old Man and the 'c'" costume for Halloween, those dreamy Brother Rice boys, Holy Heart dances, Mr. Reardon - using American Pie as poetry, Mr. Kavanagh's sense of humour and of course, Bart went over the mountain.

It felt more like a family reunion. I was saddened to hear about the death of some of our classmates. Some I knew about, some I did not. I looked up their pictures in our yearbook today. It was hard not to cry. It is hard to lose a sister.

But the leadership qualities and fortitude that those nuns gave us prevailed last night. Thank you to Tonia Hutton and Sherry Gulliver, who spent the last year planning this reunion. You made our motto, "One Heart Among Us" come to life.

Thank goodness for Facebook so we can keep in touch with all these wonderful women that we had the pleasure to meet again. I believe God brings people in your life when you need them. After a hard year I needed to be reminded where I came from, what I am made of and who I am.

I remember now. I am a Heart Girl! I have sisters everywhere I go.

Thank you, Sisters of Mercy and Presentation. Your vision and dedication to us are the reasons we were able to change the world. We can never repay the debt.

To my sisters in "Heart and Soul" stay in touch. Let's do it again next year .... maybe Vegas this time?

P.S. I found this wonderful video on Holy Hearts web site. It is about 33 minutes long, but it is worth watching. So, get a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, grab a few Heart Girls and press "Play."

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