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At first school-wide Mass since pandemic shutdown, Stone Ridge students encouraged to reflect their faith in the world

A student from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart receives Communion during a Sept. 17, 2021 Mass for the school community at its campus in Bethesda, Maryland. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

During a school-wide Mass at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, students, faculty, administrators and staff joined in prayer, invoking the Holy Spirit to bless the 2021-22 academic year and the school’s newly opened Mater Center, a recently constructed, state-of-the-art campus facility.

“Today we will also say a blessing on our new Mater Center – this beautiful student life center which is bringing great energy and fabulous space for learning, building community, and nourishing our bodies and souls,” said Catherine Ronan Karrels, Stone Ridge’s Head of School, in welcoming remarks before the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Sept. 17.

For the first time since the global pandemic coronavirus shutdown in March 2020, the entire 760-member student body, faculty and staff came together for a campus liturgy, which was celebrated outdoors on Shelter Hill, a new campus quad space next to the Mater Center.  Jesuit Father James Van Dyke, president of Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, was the celebrant and homilist.

In his homily, Father Van Dyke encouraged the students in pre-K through 12th grade to be as Jesus Christ’s apostles, who after receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost immediately began preaching the Gospel. The priest noted how the next day and every day thereafter, those early disciples continued to make that same choice to evangelize and build up the Church in every corner of the world.

That same zeal, he said, is needed now to rebuild a sense of community that suffered setbacks after the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is there to remind us if we pay attention. We’ll know when that other person needs a shoulder to cry on, a voice to encourage...” he said. 

Jesuit Father James Van Dyke, the president of Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, celebrates a Sept. 17 Mass opening the new school year at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Following the Mass, Father Van Dyke blessed the Mater Center, named in honor of the Blessed Mother, praying the new space will always be a place to “nourish and build a spirit of community.” The priest also asked for God’s blessings on all those who helped bring Mater Center to fruition.

The approximately 54,000-square-foot Mater Center provides room to celebrate future school-wide Masses, as well as offers sacred space for private prayer and reflection. The two-story, red brick facility complements the traditional architecture of the existing campus buildings and includes an all-school dining hall, and a 420-seat theater for musical, dance and theatrical productions and lectures, assemblies and classes. The second floor will house classrooms for choral, orchestra and band classes and practice rooms. In addition to a photography lab and dark room, the second floor will be home to a formal Visual Art Gallery.

“We are called upon to make Stone Ridge a place where every person will thrive – where every community member will feel a deep sense of belonging and the freedom to live an authentic and full life, knowing that we are each a beloved child of God,” said Karrels. “We pray for the grace to be present to one another; to love one another, and to be united in one spirit as a Stone Ridge community.”

The Sept. 17 Mass for students, faculty and staff at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart was held outside the school’s new Mater Center, a student life center that includes a theater, a dining hall, music classrooms and an art gallery. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Stone Ridge will host an all-alumnae reunion on the Shelter Hill Campus Walk, outside of the Mater Center on Saturday, October 2. The school will also host an outdoor event for current parents to mark the center’s opening on Friday, October 15.