Mater Ceremony Marks Special Day for Woodlands Academy Sophomores
Parents and other guests joined the Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart community on October 20 for the Mater Admirabilis Liturgy, which celebrates the drawing of the sophomore class more deeply into the family of the Sacred Heart.
This Woodlands tradition marks a student's transition from her time as a child to her emergence as a woman of the Sacred Heart who recognizes the lasting gift of her Sacred Heart education.
During the ceremony, each sophomore received a medal depicting the image of Mater (another name for Mary, Mother of God), who is the patroness of Woodlands Academy. It symbolizes the student's transformation and calls on her to be a resilient, innovative young woman who bases her life on the values of the Sacred Heart.
Principal Rocco Gargiulo related the story behind the Mater ceremony.
“Mater came to be when a particularly passionate young nun, Pauline Perdrau, had an artistic vision,” Gargiulo explained. “In the monastery, a room was used for prayer, and Pauline thought adding a fresco would enhance the room. So she asked the nuns at Trinità dei Monti [for permission] to paint a mural of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After weeks of painting, she finally finished her work. When the Mother Superior saw it, she said the colors were too bright and bold and immediately covered it with a large piece of fabric. Pauline was heartbroken by this.
“Years later, Pope Pius IX visited the church and questioned what was behind the cloth. The Mother Superior tried to distract the Pope from it, but he demanded to see it. When he drew back the fabric, it revealed when Pauline had painted years before, the colors having faded and blended to create a much softer image. The Pope declared her Mater Admirabilis, 'Mother Most Admirable.'
“Thus, the fresco was no longer hidden and became a symbol of the Religious of the Sacred Heart,” Gargiulo concluded. “Her pink dress is an homage to the dresses Pauline would wear when she was younger. It represents that young Mary whom we see in our girls today.”
All in attendance were encouraged to view the statue of Mater that graces the vestibule of Woodlands Academy's 400 wing. Its history in this country can be traced to Society of the Sacred Heart founder St. Madeline Sophie Barat.
The statue was sent to the United States from France in 1853 as a gift from Barat to the Sacred Heart school in St. Joseph, Missouri. When that school closed, the statue was sent to Woodlands Academy in 1960 for the opening of its building in 1961.
Mater also is the patroness of Woodlands (in the Sacred Heart tradition, all schools are dedicated to a holy person). Because Mater is so special to Woodlands, school officials chose the October 20 Feast of Mater Admirabilis to bestow special recognition on its sophomores.
The program also featured spoken and musical interludes from Woodlands Academy students. Among them were thoughts from Tessa Romano ’26, who related the ways in which Mater reminds her of her aunt.
“She is kind, always has something nice to say about someone,” Tessa said, “and is there to help when you need her. She represents Mary through her and my uncle helping my aunt Cheryl with her health and caring for her. Through all of this, I have never heard her complain about anything. She does a lot for our family and always with a smile on her face. Aside from helping my family, she always makes me smile and inspires me with her kind and caring personality. Her endless capacity to love makes me think of her when I think of Mary.
“Each one of us has a special person in our lives who embodies the qualities of Mary, Tessa concluded. “We are so blessed to have them in our lives.”
Several former Woodlands faculty also stopped by to celebrate with our sophomores. Among them were Mary Parisoe, Elizabeth Kurowski, and Madonna Lee Edmunds, who served as Woodlands' principal for the majority of her 47 years with the school before her retirement in 2016.
A reception for Woodlands sophomores and their parents was held following the ceremony.