Cathedral High School hosted a royal visit Sept. 25 that will provide a lifetime of memories for students, faculty and administrators.
Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium met with 12 students, as well as Cardinal Dolan and principal Maria Spagnuolo in a classroom. She listened to students’ concerns, answered their questions and discussed what she’s doing to help make the world a better place.
“You are the future, the next generation. We have to listen to you and speak with you,” said Queen Mathilde at the beginning of her conversation with students at the girls’ school in Manhattan.
Queen Mathilde was in New York for meetings at the United Nations as an advocate of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the General Assembly to achieve a more sustainable and better future for everyone. These goals, such as good health and well-being, quality education, no poverty, zero hunger and gender equality, were discussed in the classroom meeting at Cathedral.
“She mentioned giving a voice to children, and it’s what she was doing with us,” said Cathedral freshman Adhanna Labora, a parishioner of Our Lady of Assumption in the Bronx.
“She was giving us a voice and inspiring us to speak. She’s a very easy person to talk to.
“I never felt so honored and empowered in my life, sitting there with the Queen of Belgium and my peers to have this conversation. It was a beautiful experience hearing what she talked about and how she talked about it was inspiring. We had an intimate and powerful conversation.”
Freshman Yanari Rodriguez admitted that she was nervous, but agreed that Queen Mathilde made conversing easy.
“The experience of meeting the queen was absolutely amazing. I will never forget that,” said Yanari, a parishioner of St. Lucy’s in the Bronx. “I will remember her compassion for what she does and how nice she was.”
Yanari listened to the issues discussed, knowing their importance, and offered her opinion on one of the topics.
“I think (bullying) should stop in this world,” she said. “All types of bullying in general are unacceptable and not tolerable. It should not be happening in this world because it causes people to take their lives away and hurt themselves. It’s not OK.”
Cardinal Dolan greeted Queen Mathilde outside the school. She entered the gymnasium where Cathedral’s 500 students, faculty and administrators were waiting. The cardinal and Ms. Spagnuolo welcomed her.
“We just welcome you and are so proud to have you with us,” Cardinal Dolan said to the esteemed guest in front of the school community.
Cardinal Dolan said Queen Mathilde asked to visit a school in the archdiocese on her visit at dinner three months ago. Three weeks ago, Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, called Ms. Spagnuolo to say Cathedral was selected to host the visit.
“These girls are not going to forget it. It was humbling, invigorating, exciting and fantastic,” said Ms. Spagnuolo, now principal at Cathedral for an eighth year.
“The interaction with the girls was the most valuable experience. It was nice with all the girls downstairs in the gym to see her, but I think the one-on-one up here made a huge difference. Talking to them about what she does at the U.N. and a lot of the issues the girls can relate to personally made a big difference in their lives, and they’re going to take it with them for the rest of the lives.”