Mater Christi School Celebrates a Milestone09/13/2022 03:47PM ● By MERYL SIEGMAN
At the time, it was unclear what would happen to the building, which is located on 20 acres of land in the heart of Burlington. Fortunately for the community, Mater Christi School, which occupies the Hill section of the land, recently purchased the entire property, including the extraordinary Chapel of the Sacred Heart, located inside the convent building.
Jason Moore, Assistant Head of School (Left), and Tim Loescher, Head of School, welcome students into the elementary school building while middle school students hold the doors for their younger friends.
We spoke with Tim Loescher, Mater Christi’s Head of School, about this momentous achievement. He told us, “The purchase of the convent is a new chapter in the life of this property that is unprecedented and filled with opportunity. It guarantees our ongoing connection to ‘Mercy,’ meaning both the Sisters of Mercy and the tradition of Mercy education here in Vermont. That we have the chance to carry on the Mercy legacy both at the school and the convent is an incredible feat. We are thankful to the members of our community who made it possible.”
ABOUT MATER CHRISTI SCHOOL
Education began on Mansfield Avenue in 1886 as Mt. Saint Mary’s Academy. The school went through a number of incarnations over the next 136 years, including an all-girls’ school and a boarding school, before becoming a co-ed institution that serves students from pre- school through eighth grade in 1963.
It was originally housed in the newly- constructed convent at 100 Mansfield Avenue in Burlington. Today, nearly a century and a half later, the school offers a first-class education that is inspired by the mission of the Sisters of Mercy and guided by the core values of MESA (Mercy Education System of the Americas):
Compelled by Mercy
Inspired by Faith
A Voice for Dignity and Respect
Today, the school is thriving under the leadership of its current administration and the influence of a gifted and dedicated faculty. Combining 21st century academics with a values-centered philosophy and vibrant spiritual life, the school has seen its enrollment increase each year for the last 5 years.
The history of the building goes back to just one year after Burlington itself was founded. First inhabited in 1886, it housed 100 Sisters and included a chapel, library and infirmary. Built in the French Second Empire style, it was known as “The Mount” due to its location on the top of Loomis Street.
“The Chapel of the Sacred Heart is unique and spectacular,” Tim explains. “There’s nothing like it in Vermont, or anywhere else. It contains the original pipe organ, and its stained-glass windows were created by an Italian artisan in the 1920s. Its value is impossible to measure. We look forward to being able to use the chapel in the coming year.”
Tim remains in awe of the old gymnasium, the vegetable and flower gardens, and an original old-growth pine grove leading to the Sisters of Mercy cemetery, where more than 100 Sisters are buried. He goes on to say, “Almost every day I read about convents and chapels throughout North America being forced to close. We are so grateful to be able to use the chapel again, and for the opportunity it pres- ents. The generosity that made this transaction possible guarantees the continuation of Mercy education at Mater Christi School.”
HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
“We have overwhelming testimony from the families of students attending MCS. They have come here seeking, and have found, two essential things: first, academic expectations that are lofty, but that students are helped to meet and rise to,” Tim says. “Parents are looking for a bar that is set high, but also want to see the support from the school that is needed to get them there.”
The second is the sense of a tight knit community that the school has created. “We have taken some very intentional ways of accomplishing this,” the Head of School continues. During the COVID pandemic, for example, a skating rink was built as part of what was aptly named the “Winter Wonderland,” where students could skate, snowshoe and cross-country ski on campus after classes. Parents were able to gather outdoors at the facility; a much-needed relief in the midst of the pandemic. “It’s indicative of a much bigger philosophy and approach,” Tim explains. He describes the special and extra- curricular activities the school offers, including informal sports such as flag football, where kids get to develop age-old, backyard skills such as making their own teams and working out their differences, all part of a rich program to bring the community together.
“There are all kinds of after-school clubs, from German and sign language to math, that meet the interests of our diverse study body,” Tim continues. “In addition to a strong core curriculum, we have made an intentional commitment to the arts.” MCS offers classes in everything from pottery to stained-glass making, and has added two music instructors to teach music theory, early instrument implementation, and rhythm and movement.
A COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY SERVICE
The school continues its commitment to serving the local community. As Tim tells us, it’s in the DNA of the Sisters of Mercy. MCS’s Mercy Community Service Team, a formal school program that partners with community organizations, enables kids to get involved with the community outside the walls of the school and carry out the school’s mission at the same time. “What people notice when they come to the campus is that the students hold doors for visitors,” Tim concludes. “The spirit of generosity is palpable throughout the halls.”