“The years I spent there have marked everything I have done since becoming a consecrated woman.”
Recognizing the consecrated women who served at the Woodlands over the last 40 years.
These are the words of Denise Funke talking about her fond memories of working at the Woodlands Academy in Wicklow, Ireland near Dublin. The academy for girls is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “Going to the celebration and finding my former students holding their babies and introducing me to their husbands, I was deeply moved,” said Denise, who served as director and principal of Woodlands from 1997 to 2003.
Consecrated women and students who were part of the Woodlands “family” gathered at the Anahuac University in Mexico City on Saturday, September 7, 2013, to share lunch, watch videos of the academy over the years and hear from some of the past pupils and teachers. The women took pictures and shared stories, and laughed about the display of every Woodlands student’s favorite snack – digestive cookies (biscuits) and Nutella.
“Each girl or young woman that arrived and saw the stand with the cookies had a big smile and a look of nostalgia in her eyes,” said Denise.
The anniversary event culminated with a thanksgiving Mass celebrated by Fr. Sergio Rosiles LC, who also worked in Ireland. He invited the students to remain faithful to the good resolutions they made for their lives, while attending the Academy.
Woodlands Academy currently serves about 100 students in 6th through 8th grade. The academy was opened in response to requests from families in Mexico who wanted to send their daughters
to Ireland to learn the English language.
The consecrated women at the formation center in Dublin, at that time, frequently helped find host families for the girls to live with while attending Irish schools.
“In 1976, families requested that we offer the academic courses ourselves, to help the girls in their integral formation and so we founded the Academy as a boarding school,” said Celine Kelly. “We began with 12 students that year. Now the Academy has its own beautiful property and can host 130 students.”
As Regnum Christi began opening boarding academies in the US, the Oak International program was formed to oversee them all.
“That began the larger number of students coming,” said Denise. She explained how growth continued as the academic program became well respected and the formation solidified.
“Families were pleased to be able to send their sons and daughters to live with people they could trust, assured of their learning English while studying their respective school year and experiencing formation that gave them a solid foundation for the future, building independence, determination, responsibility, friendships, and critical thinking.”
“It has been very enriching to see the progress of this institution,” said Margarita Martinez, former director of the school from 2005 through 2009. “The development of the academy is noticeable and it is such an honor to see that many girls can benefit from our formation.”
Reminiscent of the experience of the school’s boarding students, the entire anniversary event, though it took place in Mexico, was held
Gathering to remember Woodlands Academy are (from left to right) Denise Funke, Beatriz Domenzain, Poly Saenger and Luly Clariond.
in English. Margarita called the gathering “a beautiful experience….All generations were invited and also the consecrated women who have worked there. It was a moment to give thanks to the staff, the consecrated women and the families who have supported the formation at Woodlands.”
“It did not matter how long ago you attended, you felt the bond,” said Denise. “Woodlands deeply blessed my life. This was where I understood what spiritual maternity is. There I realized that Christ fulfilled His promise to me that I would not have to give up being a mother, but that I would be a mother to the children entrusted to me.”
“The years I spent in Ireland taught me so much about teamwork and family with my consecrated sisters,” she said. “Together we were responsible for the lives of these young girls. I learned so much from each of them. The teamwork, trust and friends I experience there helped me to then build that in the teams I have lived with since then.”
“Everyone there, the consecrated women, the chaplain, the missionaries, students, teachers, and staff, become a better version of themselves. For the students it is a year away from the usual rush and social pressures and gives them such a chance to discover and develop the gifts God has given them. They are able to see themselves as they really are and work hard on their spiritual life, character growth, academic development and reaching out to others.
“For the consecrated women, it gave them a
(From left to right) Larissa Nader, Amy Galicia, Margarita Martinez and Gabriela Heredia.
chance to take to heart those girls God gave them and collaborate with Him and their parents in their growth. It is not easy. Many tears are shed by both girls and the consecrated women. But at the end of each year, the same thing is said – ‘This was the most memorable year of my life.’”
According to Celine, Woodlands Academy alumni are living the virtues they learned, active in their own local areas, reaching out to those in need and sharing their faith in everyday life.
“I am so proud of our past pupils who are helping those affected by the floods this month in Mexico, organizing collections of food and clothing and taking them to those in need,” she said. “This Christ-like charity is something Pope Francis wants to see multiplied in our needy world. I’m sure he would be proud of them too.”
Source: Regnum Christi