Five reasons why I never really left Notre Dame Prep

by Jeff Goethals

Next week, NDP’s holds its annual Pasta for the Philippines (rescheduled from its traditional January date due to Snowmageddon 2016). Here the founder of this event, Jeff Goethals, retired long-time teacher at NDP, shares why this event, among other things, keeps bringing him back to NDP year after year.

Reading the pages of the Bluenote Blog one can see the impact NDP has in the lives of its alumnae and present students. My little contribution here will show you what impact NDP has on the lives of teachers who stood in front of these students.

I realize that many teachers have come and gone at Notre Dame Prep. Some are leaving and never come back. Some return to celebrate a special occasion. Some are remembered when they pass into God’s eternal love like, recently Mrs. Paula Carroll.

I have five reasons for returning to NDP.

  1. jeff and feeleyWhen I retired from NDP in 2002, my wife, Felicitas, and I decided to continue the two wonderful “traditions” at Notre Dame of Stone Soup and Pasta for the Philippines. We wouldn’t miss for anything the happy faces of new generations of NDP girls during these treasured NDP events. Stone Soup – now a 35-year tradition – has provided an estimated total of $87,500 for a variety of charitable works. Pasta Day, in its 23rd year, gave $59,000 for needy students’ lunches at Saint Louis High School and the School for the Hearing Impaired in the Philippines.
  2. LatinNot a month goes by without me dropping by at the Prep to meet old friends who are still training the minds and hearts of 21st-century Blue and White girls. Sometimes, I share my insights and experience of 32 years at Notre Dame with new faculty; occasionally I substitute for Latin and religion classes. But most of the time, I just feel the need to wander the halls of my old stumping grounds to get some new blood and reconnect with the place that has given me so much during my years as a teacher, including friends for life.
  3. In my daily life, I keep being invited to a “spiritual visit” to Notre Dame Prep by nurses at local hospitals wearing NDP rings and pronouncing my name right; at the Giant where former students introduce their children and recall stories from Latin and religion classes; and when reading letters of alumnae who want to share their successes with me and tell me how a religion or philosophy class changed their lives.
  4. philosophyI often –selfishly – “check” on the World Religions, Philosophy and Latin courses I added to the curriculum during my teaching years. What a joy it is to see that these courses have survived and to meet the daughters of more than 120 alumnae mothers who were sitting in these classrooms decades ago. Although feeling like a 78-year-old relic of the past amidst the wonder of technological advances, I always feel welcome, and I don’t mind when present students only know me as “Mr. Spaghetti.”
  5. vatican IIMy greatest delight is to see that the principles of the Second Vatican Council we struggled so hard to integrate into the school philosophy in the ’70s, are still alive and well: Academic Excellence, Spiritual Growth, and the Practice of Justice.

Today, under Pope Francis, we see the Catholic Church finally moving towards a Vatican II-inspired renewal. Thanks to visionaries like Sister Ellis Denny and Sister Helen Marie Duffy, Notre Dame Prep and the SSNDs were on the frontlines of implementing the vision of Vatican II in its academic life, spirituality, and practice of justice.

Many of our graduates are successful in their chosen careers; are people of deep spiritual life; and keep caring about the communities they live in. They are just following the DNA they received at Notre Dame Prep.

How can I possible stop returning to this place that has changed my life? It is my ardent wish and hope that NDP remains faithful to the three pillars of its philosophy to shape the coming generations of strong women in the 21st century.

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