Mother Most Admirable inspires Mater Society inductees


13 of the 14 Sacred Heart seniors at the Mater Society Dinner April 21. Courtesy of Grace Isford ’15

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Mater Admirabilis, or Mother Mary, is the patroness of Convent of the Sacred Heart students. However, for 14 seniors recently inducted into the Mater Society, the word “Mater” connotes not only the Virgin Mother but also their lifelong dedication to Sacred Heart.
The Mater Society comprises all Sacred Heart “lifers,” or those who have attended the school or another of the Sacred Heart network since preschool, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or first grade.
Seniors are inducted annually and commemorated at a dinner in April with school administrators, faculty, and family members.

13 of the 14 Sacred Heart seniors at the Mater Society Dinner April 21. Courtesy of Grace Isford '15
13 of the 14 Sacred Heart senior lifers at the Mater Society Dinner April 21.
Courtesy of Grace Isford ’15

“It was really unique attending the Lifer dinner with girls I have known my entire life. Being part of the Mater Society is a tangible way to capture all of our (and our families’) commitment to Sacred Heart for twelve or more years,” senior lifer Emily Hirshorn said. “Sacred Heart was my first and only school these past fifteen years, but I really could not imagine myself anywhere else.”
Mater, the Latin word for mother, holds a special significance for Sacred Heart students. Every year, students celebrate the Feast of Mater October 20. The day honors Mary and celebrates her portrayal in the painting, Mater Admirabilis. 
Finished in 1844 by young Pauline Perdrau at the Trinita dei Monti in Rome, the fresco portrays Mary as a young woman.
Clothed in an uncharacteristic rose-colored dress, Mary appears serene and pensive. The painting also includes a white lily symbolizing her purity, a book representing her passion for knowledge, and a distaff and spindle symbolizing her dedication to work.
Although nuns at the Church initially condemned the work and covered it because of its bold and bright colors, Pope Pius IX rediscovered the fresco on a visit in 1846. Upon viewing the painting, the Pope proclaimed, “Mater Admirabilis” or “Mother Most Admirable,” which it has been called ever since.
For senior lifers, Mater’s depiction is the perfect embodiment of their enduring Sacred Heart educations. These students have learned and practiced Sacred Heart’s Goals and Criteria for over 12 years and aspire to emulate Mater’s commitment to faith, academia, and hard work.
“My countless experiences have doubtlessly helped shape the young woman I am today, and their potency and worth is evident in my respect for this school and the love I have for many of its community members,” senior lifer Emily Davenport said.
The iconic painting hangs adjacent to the Chapel and can be found in every Sacred Heart school across the country and the globe. Fittingly, each Mater Society inductee received a small silver frame with the iconic Mater Admirabilis painting and a prayer card.
Among many years spent at Sacred Heart, members of the Mater Society recall fond memories of forming friendships, building community, and deepening their relationships with God.
“Some of my favorite memories are from Middle School, I thought it was a very happy time–I feel like our class was always having fun and laughing,” senior lifer Claren Hesburgh said. “I also loved the trip to Washington D.C. and the annual retreats because they were opportunities for us as a grade to bond with each other and connect with God.”
Even though many aspects of Sacred Heart have changed, signature school traditions have remained the same.
“Every Congé is among my favorite memories,” senior lifer Priscilla Valdez said. “I think my favorite experiences at Sacred Heart are the little traditions like it that are unique to the school and that I know I won’t experience anywhere else.”
This year, five of the 14 lifers started at Sacred Heart in preschool. The remaining nine joined the community in kindergarten.
Over a decade after members of the Mater Society first enrolled at Sacred Heart Greenwich, their Sacred Heart careers are coming to a close. However, graduation provides an opportunity for students to take what they have learned and apply it in the world beyond.
“Everything is so very interwoven I can’t quite pick out a favorite moment,” senior Miranda Falk said. “Everything, the whole shebang, was a favorite moment.”
– Grace Isford, Editor-in-Chief