by Rus VanWestervelt, dad to Maddie VW, class of 2020
Where the Gateway opens to our Lady’s Way,
There a column symbols truth by night and day.
Where the seal is woven into white and blue,
Stands a flag of beauty, Notre Dame for you.
On the morning of Wednesday, September 7, and in two very different places on the NDP campus, parents and their daughters gathered separately in preparation of the traditional Gateway Ceremony. While we — the parents —
met in the foyer, enjoying light refreshments and mingling with old and new friends, our daughters gathered in the chapel with Sister Patricia.
Soon, however, we moved to the front of the building and wrapped ourselves around the seniors and eighth graders, who lined the path between the Notre Dame Gateway to the front of the school. As parents raised their phones and jockeyed for the best location to capture the ceremony, the girls in the classes of 2023 and 2020, respectively, waited on the other side of the archway for the ceremony to begin.
After a few brief and inspiring words shared by Sister Patricia McCarron about the significance of the ceremony, the first girls from the sixth grade walked through the gate, two by two, and initiating the symbolic journey that would turn them into young women transforming the world.
As the seniors sang the school song, the girls in pairs marched into the school. Some smiled while others seemed more stoic. All, however, partook in an experience that signified the beginning of something that seemed, at its very core, spiritual.
Ever hail her alma mater,
Know her colors sign for you.
Work and play beneath her mantle
Blue be loyal, white be true.
As I watched the procession continue and listened to the older girls — their new sisters — sing the school song, I thought about the journeys of others: Jesus, Pope John Paul II, and Saint Theresa. Through their lifetimes, they experienced many trials and tribulations along journeys that were as short as a few hours, or as long as a few decades. Each of those respective journeys, however, contributed to the larger journey through life.
How fortunate we are to have our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and siblings beginning their lives with a journey that will offer them opportunities to transform the world in years and decades ahead.
As the campus greets you every tree unfolds,
And ready mother gives the gift she holds
Here is love’s pure whiteness and the blue lamp’s glow,
Thought and care of one’s heart from her two hands flow.
At the conclusion of the Gateway Ceremony, the girls and their families met in the main auditorium for a special mass, led by Father Roth from St. Issac Jogues. His sermon focused on the girls finding joy in the NDP journey, but it was one we could all relate to. Toward the end of his sermon, he assured us that the journey to seek joy is the journey that never gets old. If we are mindful that there is joy in the journey, we will always be reminded that, even in challenging times, the purpose of our journey is greater than the individual steps we are taking today.
As parents, many of us reflected during the ceremony on the metaphorical significance of walking through the gateway, while many of our daughters were overwhelmed with the attention and focus they were receiving by their peers and their loved ones. Certainly, what the parents and the girls experienced might be perceived as two different things, but they are remarkably similar.
them the space and the independence to own the journey and to find joy along the way. We know when they walk back through the gateway in white gowns holding red roses, they will have earned every step taken, every experience of joy, every triumph in the outcomes of the decisions they made themselves.
The Gateway Ceremony symbolizes the physical journey, the sisterhood journey, the academic journey, and the spiritual journey, all leading to new journeys long after they graduate from NDP. I suspect, as well, that we as parents will experience a transformation in the years ahead, too. As we entrust NDP with our daughters, we entrust our daughters with NDP. In many ways, we all walked through a Gateway of our own last Wednesday as members of the NDP family.