Spiritual Reflections

NativityMiguel School of Scranton: A Seed was Planted…

A dream shared, a seed planted, the earth readied, roots strengthened, the tree thriving in the energy of co-sponsorship making happen what alone would be impossible. 

A seed planted in May 1996 broke through the soil sprouting forth a sapling in September 2015 with the opening of the NativityMiguel School of Scranton, a co-sponsored ministry of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sisters of Christian Charity, Eastern Provence.

In 1996 Sister Margo McCormick wrote to Sister Terry O’Rourke, then serving as Director of Apostolic Planning for the IHM Congregation, saying, in part:

I have a dream that together we can make a difference for at risk young adults. I have a dream that the spirit of our founders/foundresses is alive and moving in our midst. I have a dream that poor, floundering students can be turned on by caring, creative teachers, who are willing to engage them in hands-on-learning. I have a dream that there are religious educators in our midst who would love the opportunity to engage their talents in this exciting adventure. I have a dream that together we can make happen what alone is impossible. Together we can build an Academy of Hope.” 

Sister Terry brought Sister Margo’s dream to the Collaborative Ministry Group, a gathering of Religious Women and Men and co-workers, who met monthly to consider ways to respond to unmet ministerial needs in the diocese. A meeting of educators from the diocese was organized where Sister Margo shared her dream. Energy and enthusiasm were evident, suggestions given, finances and possible buildings considered, yet the dream remained dormant. 

Not to be easily thwarted, Sister Margo waited and again raised her burning desire at an Assembly of the IHM Congregation in 2011 where Sister Terry, now President of the IHM Congregation, invited suggestions or questions from the group at large. Sister Margo went to the mic and questioned, “When will we open a school for the poor in Scranton? It’s who we are!” Applause and affirmation resounded from the Sisters gathered there. Remembering well the history of this dream, Sister Terry assured Sister Margo that the leadership team would sit down within the week and figure out a way to make it happen and they did. Sister Terry knew we could open a school but it would need additional co-collaborators to sustain it. She also believed, “If it comes from God, it will happen.” 

Various meetings followed, invitations to religious congregations, other educators, interested pastors, lay leaders. Interest and enthusiasm grew; various possibilities explored. The Sisters of Christian Charity expressed interest in joining with the IHM Sisters to develop this initiative. Msgr. John Jordan offered the NativityMiguel model of schools, originally designed to serve underserved immigrant children who were educationally capable, a model he recommended for the population needing to be served. A feasibility study indicated viability for the school. A sapling had finally broken through the earth. 

Locating a place to begin presented one of many challenges. The branches of the dream needed to spread wide. In a wonderful spirit of hospitality and collaboration, Rabbi Daniel Swartz and Temple Hesed opened their doors to welcome the first 5th grade class of boys and girls in fall 2015 to the NativityMiguel School, a faith-based, tuition-free middle school with Sister Josephine Cioffi, IHM, as principal and Sister Marie Angeline Weiss, SCC, fifth grade teacher. Co-sponsorship was established and evident. With an extended day and year-round program, the school was open to all faiths, providing a rich educational experience and opportunities for future pathways to high school and higher education. 

Growth & changes

Eight years have passed since the NativityMiguel School took root and began to grow. In May 2023 the first class of fifth grade students returned to the Art Show/Donor Reception where their plans for college and other educational endeavors were revealed. Eight years since they began this journey had brought them to this great milestone. Much growth and many changes had occurred during this eight year span. As the school continued to grow, initially one grade at a time, enrollment increased and the well-loved space at Temple Hesed became too small. The time there had been richly blessed with such warm and gracious hospitality, many kindnesses extended, and multiple opportunities to learn and experience the Jewish traditions. New space was offered by Marywood University, where in September 2021, NativityMiguel found a new home in the Liberal Arts Center. Again opportunities provided by the University richly enhance the educational program and in turn, the Marywood students benefit from their interactions with the NatvitiyMiguel students. The opening liturgy and picnic, work with the architecture students, or conversations with Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Marywood’s President, a frequent visitor to their classrooms, are encouraging reminders that college is an option for them, a thought initially far from their expectations. 

The 2023 school year opened with 68 students, the largest enrollment to date. True to the NativityMiguel model, the school remains a private, Catholic, co-educational, tuition-free/ all scholarship middle school proudly serving ethnically and religiously diverse students of greater economic need in grades 5-8. The students engage in a rigorous academic program with an extended school day and an extended school year with a four-week academic enrichment program in the summer. Committed to educating the students in the arts and humanities, the school provides classes in music, art, architecture, and health. A Graduate Support Program offers critical support in navigating the challenges of high school and college admissions: school and college visits, applications, workshops on financial aid along with support, encouragement, and mentoring. Often these students are the first in their families to strive for these goals. 

The NativityMiguel School flourishes as a co-sponsored ministry of the Sisters of IHM and the Sisters of Christian Charity. Mr. Ron Prislupski, President of the NativityMiguel School, explained that when the students begin 5th grade, they learn about the influence and spirit of both congregations responsible for founding the school and keeping the school focused on its mission and values. Co-sponsorship allows them to do what neither congregation could do alone. The students have opportunities to meet Sisters at various school events. The congregations join with many dedicated co-collaborators, other religious congregations, board members, scholarship providers, donors, volunteers of all kinds to nurture, sustain, and grow this tree of life and hope. 

A dream shared, a seed planted, the earth readied, roots strengthened, the tree thriving in the energy of co-sponsorship making happen what alone would be impossible. 

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