(Reposted from February 2009)
Though my final two years of high school were spent at a fantastic boarding school in Canada, the majority of my schooling was at a local Catholic all-girl school. As a child, my parents taught me the golden rule. My church reaffirmed my parents' teachings on Christianity and morality in general. In addition to the obvious (reading, writing, arithmetic), the Mount taught me some of the most transforming lessons of my childhood and early youth.
The Mount taught me intellectual independence and instilled in me a sense of pride in the limitless possibilities available to me as a woman. It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I was able to comprehend how Catholic nuns (I had lay teachers too, of course) who had surrendered their independence to join a monastery were able to instill in their students such a strong sense of unlimited feminine capability. There was nothing that was out of our grasp - we just had to work hard enough for it. I've always found it ironic that this powerhouse of female empowerment is located in the heart of Appalachia, a region where even today (and even in Christian circles) women are frequently viewed as possessions rather than equals.
After 160 years, Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy graduated its final class in May of 2008. The upkeep of the old (and gorgeous!) buildings became cost prohibitive. It saddens me to know that when I visit her (as I did this past weekend), she stands as an edifice to the past and now only limited future. No more girls will walk her halls dreaming of their future, and what difference they'll make in the world - and not just as the housewife and mother of crying snot-nosed babies. No more doctors, surgeons, scientists, politicians, members of famous orchestras, teachers, or even stay-at-home moms (like myself at this stage of my life) will be molded by her demands of excellence.