A gentle whir filled the front lawn of Mount St. Mary Academy, as over 300 pinwheels spun gleefully in the breeze. It was September 21 and a normally hectic school day had slowed down for a moment of peaceful reflection.
Students at Mount St. Mary Academy celebrated International Peace Day by participating in the Pinwheels for Peace Project, an international art and literacy project. Each student made a pinwheel that she decorated with drawings or thoughts inspired by their image of peace. At the center of each pinwheel, a peace sticker anchored the wind-catching flaps.
At the beginning of the school day on Thursday, students learned about the work of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur and how they strive to demonstrate peace in their words and deeds. Teachers read students a short story of the Sisters’ mission in Rwanda during the genocide.
The Sisters’ province in Rwanda is made up of both Hutu and Tutsi sisters. They decided that they would continue to live together during the political upheaval to show that they were at peace with one another. When the Hutu men would arrive at the convent door with their weapons ready, the Hutu sisters would answer the door and somehow convince them to leave. In the meantime, the Tutsi sisters tried to hide their relatives in the church because it had always been considered a place of safety and sanctuary. One day, the church was attacked and their relatives were all killed. All the sisters survived, but many of them lost their entire families.
“The sisters continue to live together, pray together, and work together as a sign of reconciliation and as a witness to the peace that can exist if the will is there,” says Sr. Elizabeth Buchala, teacher at Mount St. Mary.
After sharing the story and reflecting on the effort required to keep peace in their lives, students walked to the school’s grotto and placed their pinwheels at the feet of Mary.
“The Sisters have a long history of being involved and mindful of peace-keeping activities,” says Marissa Dauria, Assistant Principal for Student Life. “As we celebrate our anniversary, it is important that we stay dedicated to the same values and ideals that the sisters cherished 90 years ago when MSM opened.”
Mount St. Mary Academy will continue to explore their connection with Rwanda. The students have recently sponsored a computer lab for their sister school run by the Sisters in Kibuye, Rwanda. 

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