Daughters of Wisdom Leaving Montfort

After more than 50 years of dedication to Montfort Academy, which they founded, the Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom will close the school and their convent, both in Fredericksburg, and leave the area. In 1948, the Daughters accepted an invitation to establish an elementary school in the city and purchased land on historic Marye’s Heights, said Sister Joan Rohan, D.W., who has been principal since 1983. The school’s namesake is taken from St. Louis Marie de Montfort, their patron, a 17th century French saint and author of the well-known devotional, "The Secret of the Rosary." On the school site, two Civil War battles raged 80 years before, and the scene of a generous and heroic deed by one of the combatants was played out. Confederate soldier, Sgt. Richard Kirkland, of the South Carolina Volunteers, risked his life during intense fighting to give water and comfort to wounded Union soldiers, thereby representing Christian love, said Sister Rohan. "On these hallowed grounds, ‘Wisdom built herself a home,’ "(Prv. 9:1), she said. The sisters subsequently needed to sell the school property, which will be purchased by the National Park Service, to meet financial needs. It is unusual for a diocesan school to close, and Montfort is only doing so due to a special situation. A new school has opened in the diocese each of the last seven years, for a total of 36 elementary institutions. Diocesan school enrollment is now more than 16,600 pupils. Upon Montfort’s closure, the newest diocesan elementary school, will be Holy Cross Academy in Stafford. It will absorb Montfort’s student population of approximately 350. The Daughters of Wisdom will return to their provincial house on Long Island. ‘Montfort memories’ will be collected in the student writings of the final edition of "The Starting Place," a school publication. A commemorative book on Montfort’s 50-year legacy was published recently: "In 1948, Montfort Academy was a ‘mustard seed’ (referencing Mt. 13:31-32 in the hearts of four Sisters and 103 students and their parents. . . .Former students are parents now, and have sent their children to school here," wrote grade 8 A of this year’s graduating class. "Alumni . . . are not afraid to stand up for what they believe . . . have absorbed Christian values taught here and brought these into their world of work." One former teacher, Sister Barbara O’Dea, is superior general of the Daughters of Wisdom in Rome, influencing 2550 sisters who minister world-wide. "As I reflect on my years at Montfort and the Daughters of Wisdom who taught me, I am thankful for the influence they had on my formative years. I was further blessed by the professional association with Sister Joan and Sister Mary Eileen," said Kathleen O’Toole Atkins, a former student and recent staff member. "Generations of children have benefited educationally and spiritually from the dedication and love of the Daughters of Wisdom. You will always have a special place in our hearts and you will be truly missed as the doors close on Montfort Academy," she said. "Although the ‘Way of Wisdom’ is counter-cultural, the staff found creative ways to lead the students to appreciate and internalize these Wisdom values," said Sister Rohan. "The faculty believes that the students’ world is complex and they are in need of the Way of Wisdom to discern the global issues of the 21st century in order to understand the implications of justice and mercy." Copyright ?1998 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016