Villa Maria Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Not many schools have a 125-year history like Villa Maria Academy, and the school paid homage to that history with a dinner dance that honored two mainstays of the school.

The dinner dance, held on Saturday, March 26 at Villa Barone Manor on 737 Throgs Neck Expressway, had bestselling author and Villa graduate of the class of 1945 Mary Higgins Clark, as well as hundreds of other alumni and parents on hand to honor that Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, who founded Villa Maria Academy, and 23-year physical education teacher Michael Bernard, both for their steadfast dedication to the school.

The Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame founded the school in Manhattan in 1886 and moved it to the Bronx in 1928 as a high school for girls. The school was then recast as a co-educational elementary school in the late 1960s.

“The education of a child is a vocation in any culture and any faith,” said CND leader for the United States Sister Patricia McCarthy. “We try to instill in the child a sense of who they are, a sense of who their neighbor is, and a sense of who God is, and we do it in a very holistic way.”

The sisters empower their students and encourage the lay teachers, to instill leadership skills in the children, said Rosanne Carotenuto, Bronx Catholic Schools Superintendent and a former teacher and student at Villa Maria.

“They are such an excellent teaching order, both on the elementary and the high school level,” Carotenuto said. “When I was a teacher and a student at Villa Maria Academy they instilled great confidence in me.”

Michael Bernard said he was encouraged to become an educator by a high school teacher that he had in Southern California in the late 1960s, after most of his other teachers had written him off.

Bernard has instituted several innovative programs, including an after-school sports program and a summer program that includes sports, arts and crafts, and other activities, all of which he says he could not do without the support of the parents.

“The parents that have helped and supported me in these programs made it all possible” Bernard said. “This is an honor because they are recognizing both the 125th anniversary of the school and me at the same time, and that makes it even more special.”

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