The Academy of Mount St. Ursula is a tight-knit school community in the Bronx where faith, hope and relationships have grown since a Virtual Rosary began in October each Friday after school.
“Before, I always prayed,” said Lauren Contreras, president of the junior class at Mount St. Ursula and one of the Virtual Rosary organizers. “With Rosary, my belief has grown and spirits have been brighter. Every Friday reminds me God is amazing and through all the bad things that may happen to us, there is going to be a rainbow at the end of every rain.
“My school community is awesome in how we support each other mentally, physically and how we all search for the same thing in healing and hope. It reassures us we’re going to get through this, and our faith is so powerful. We’re going to get through this together.”
On Jan. 29, about 100 students, faculty and school staff and administers participated in the Virtual Rosary. Leo Soliman, religious studies teacher at the academy, opened the Virtual Rosary with a welcome recognizing the Feast Day of St. Angela Merici two days earlier. St. Angela Merici is the founder of the Ursuline Sisters, who administer Mount St. Ursula.
Tiffany Lee, also a religious studies teacher, followed with an introduction and prayer before students took over for the opening part of the Rosary and each succeeding decade. The decades began with words of wisdom from St. Angela Merici and an introduction.
The Virtual Rosary concluded with a blessing from Principal Sister Jean Marie Humphries, O.S.U., a graduate of the academy, and a prayer to Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy.
Soliman, who serves as an organizer, said the idea for the Virtual Rosary came as a practical solution to the students being unable to perform their 10 required hours of annual service at soup kitchens or academic tutoring due to the threat posed by Covid-19. Students are being educated in person at the academy as well as virtually during the pandemic.
“So last October, Month of Mary, we planned for Virtual Rosary every Friday afternoon,” Soliman said. “It caught fire, and since the first Friday of October 2020 at 2:30 p.m., we would have the Virtual Rosary.”
Krisna Rivera, a junior, said the Virtual Rosary has deepened her faith.
“Now that I’ve done this for all these months, I feel more in touch with my religion and I feel I'm doing something good. I’m involving myself in my community at school,” she said. “Everyone who has joined the Rosary, I’ve gotten to know all of them. Even though we don’t see each other in person, we’ve grown a connection. Even with the freshmen and sophomores who I really didn’t know, we’ve grown that bond.
“I think I’ve become more confident talking around my sisters. I also sign up to do morning prayers. I put myself out there about my faith and religion.”
Mount St. Ursula was founded by the Ursuline Sisters in 1855, chartered in 1868 and has been at its current location of Bedford Park Boulevard and Bainbridge Avenue since 1892. The school serves students from the Bronx, Manhattan and Westchester County.
Mount St. Ursula, with 323 students in grades nine through 12, is the longest continuously operating Catholic girls high school in New York state. The community is growing in faith and hope with the Virtual Rosary each week, and students believe this growth will continue when they return to school full time following the pandemic.
“More people will attend because before four or five girls would go during a lunch period to do the Rosary (before the pandemic) and now that they’ve seen the growth and involvement (with the Virtual Rosary), more people will join and it will be in high demand,” Krisna said.