Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of Sister Regina’s favorite poets, wrote in “God’s Grandeur”:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God...
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent world
broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings”
For thirty-four years, the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur was charged with the grandeur of Sister Regina Finnegan, Sister of Notre Dame, Principal, President, President emerita, teacher, mentor, friend. Sister Regina arrived on this campus in 1970 with no blueprint for the task of re-founding a school that had few students or teachers, and many debts. Re-found it she did, by building relationships with her faculty, her students and their parents.
Spiritual vitality rooted in simplicity was the hallmark of Sister Regina’s leadership. With complete confidence in the goodness of God, this woman of faith recognized, and drew forth, the inherent goodness in everyone she met. Her courage calmed fears; her Irish wit evoked joy and laughter; and her trust in the integrity and good judgment of others built community. With a generosity that knew no bounds, her heart truly was as wide as the world. The school grew and thrived under her leadership. The Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, her school, was a happy haven, a fact so many of you mentioned on facebook after Sister’s passing.
Sister Regina was in awe of the grandeur of God exquisitely experienced in the natural beauty of our campus. Her attachment to each tree caused her to grieve whenever one had to be cut down. She fed the birds, and longed for the return of the killdeer each Spring. She also fed the squirrels, and kittens born to stray cats in the mansion window wells; and she always had a canine companion.
Sister Regina was in awe of the grandeur of God mirrored in the face of every student entrusted to her care She called each one by name, and encouraged her to be undaunted in becoming the woman God gifted her to be. She fed girls snacks after school when they were waiting for a late ride, cheered for teams at almost every game (and lit a candle for victory in really important ones). She visited students in hospitals, and went to their homes with food when serious illness or death struck a family. She truly cared about, and for, her girls and their parents.
Sister Regina had a profound appreciation for Notre Dame’s Honor Code. A realist, she knew that every girl is a work in progress. She reminded the faculty that our students are ours when they make us proud with their achievements and their goodness, and also when they fail miserably. Mistakes and bad judgments can lead to growth when growth is what is expected. Her great hope was that all our students would become Notre Dame women, holy women with a strong moral compass - women who act with integrity, speak the truth, and work for justice. In her address at the Campus Ministry Installation in 1992, Sister spoke these words: “I challenge you not to achievement nor accomplishments nor acquisition. I ask you, our students, and every person in this room, to be virtuous. I call you to personal holiness”
The holiness to which Sister called our students speaks eloquently of her own holiness, her simplicity, her other-centeredness, her commitment to the service of God’s poor, and her genuine love for the whole Notre Dame community. Like the Holy Ghost brooding over the bent world in Hopkins’ poem, Sister Regina brooded over the bent ND world with a quiet grandeur, gently healing the brokenhearted, coaxing the timid, disarming the recalcitrant, inviting students, faculty and parents into her circle of goodness and grace.
With a vibrancy of the rushing wind of God’s explosive grandeur, Sister Regina, woman of vision, prophet of possibilities, fashioned a school of excellence, where, in an atmosphere of responsible freedom, young women learned what they needed to know for life. The Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in 2013 is a living testimony to Sister Regina’s wisdom, sound fiscal management, persistence and untiring hard work.
Sister Regina’s message to the school community in 1992 is her legacy to each of us today. Let us listen to her words with humble gratitude:
“My dear students,... this is where holiness begins. When we walk out of ourselves to tread the noble ways of God’s mercy, of giving time and service to others.... I ask you to be observant and compassionate. Notice other people, notice their needs, their wants, their deprivations, notice the injustices and inequities of our society. Search for your part of the solution.... Be steadfast in your prayers for others, for yourself, for God’s direction.... Holiness is not in the doing; it is in the becoming.... Your life will become a ministry; each person you meet will become God’s child, your brother and sister.... God must always be asked and always be thanked, and only God will know what changes occur with you as you become God’s channel of peace and strength and love....
Holiness is prayer and care. Holiness is seeking God’s direction. Holiness is overlooking one’s own glory and one’s own accolades. Holiness is loving not only those who love us but also those who need to be loved. Holiness begins now.... Be good, be caring, be loving, be concerned, be prayerful. Be holy.”
Thank you, Sister Regina, for continuing to inspire us.
Thank you, good and loving God, for the gift of our Sister and friend.
Ah, qu’il est bon le bon Dieu.
Nancy Bonshock, SNDdeN