"The Mount" Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy was much more than "just" a school.
She rests in our hearts and minds now a treasured memory. The Mount will eternally be a rare place of true grace.
Each student knew The Mount was a place to always be called home.
Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, as it stood just minutes after the religious community's last residents left the campus for their assigned move to Georgetown. It was the first time since the community was opened in 1848 there was not a member of the Order of The Visitation residing there. The school closed following the graduation of the Class of 2008. Demolition of the historic building began Monday, Nov. 7, 2011.
Sister Xavier Slater is surrounded by Mt. de Chantal students on the front porch of the school in 1892. Sr. Xavier was the aunt of Sr. Mary Xavier Slater, Mount de Chantal class of 1918, who taught at the school for many years in the mid- to late-20th century.
Many thought her dismantling would bring an end to her story of loving service to all who came to her door.
We were wrong. The Mount and her message of the undeniable power of a life built on love, patience, faith and grace has been given new life - resurrected, if you will.
Her silhouette and walls are gone. But, in truth, she - The Mount - will always be there "high atop a slope majestic" as a beacon calling the hearts of her loved ones home.
Mount de Chantal's sheltering buildings are gone. But from within each student who crossed her porch, entered through her "main door" and immediately became part of the loving family of Mount de Chantal's daughters and sons, she will never be gone from our respective hearts, minds or spirits.
"For Mind and Spirit," the recently released DVD by Walkabout Company LLC of Wheeling is a wonderful vehicle through which all who were ever connected to the school, or who want to be, can enjoy a brief, albeit virtual, trip home to The Mount.
"It will always be, for me, a place of grace." -- Kim Randolph Loccisano, Mount de Chantal Class of 1975
A heartfelt thanks is to be shared with all who had a hand in crafting The Walkabout Company's DVD released recently that focused on building a vehicle to carry the story forward.
The multi-year long project is in truth a masterfully designed time capsule built for two clear purposes: sharing a positive message of the timelessness and caliber of the overall experience and education available there; and assuring The Mount's place in the world's endlessly shifting and changing landscape.
A screening of the DVD "For Mind and Spirit" is the centerpiece of an upcoming event being hosted for the public at large this Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in Wheeling Jesuit University's Troy Theater.
A highlight of the screening and reception will be the opportunity to hear from one of the five Sisters who were last in residence at the former international boarding school convent, Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM.
Gonter is herself a graduate of The Mount, and a longtime fixture in its religious community, and her personal and professional ties to Wheeling Jesuit University are nearly as deeply rooted.
A guest of WJU President Richard A. Beyer, Sr., Gonter will share her thoughts about the film, its production during the final year of the school's operation, and her own years at the Mount as a student (class of 1952) and a Visitation Sister. She is one of the five Sisters who moved from Wheeling to Washington, D.C., in 2010 after the Mount's closing.
Sr. Joanne also has the distinction of being a co-founder of Wheeling College and a member of the first graduating class in 1959.
The University sits on grounds once part of the property held by the sisters. It was a part of the school's working farm, which helped greatly in the effort for the school to be self-sustaining until mid-20th century.
"I am looking forward to the opportunity to return to Wheeling and view this wonderful film in the company of so many Mount alumnae and friends," said Gonter.
"The history of Mount de Chantal is strongly connected with that of Wheeling Jesuit University and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, so I also am delighted to participate with them in this event."
The screening is but one part of the event, as it signals the opening of an exhibit of materials from the school's archives.
An exhibit of Mount de Chantal archival materials, developed by Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston archivist Jon-Erik Gilot, will be displayed and will be presented along with a slide show of historical Mount photographs assembled by Deb and Rick Warmuth of the Walkabout Company.
Major funding for the DVD project was secured from The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation. Additional funding for "For Mind and Spirit" was provided by the National Park Service Department of the Interior, the Schenk Charitable Trust and the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley.
Virtually anyone who walked the halls of the school in recent decades became familiar with a thought from the founder of the Visitation Order, the order to which The Mount's community of religious women belonged.
It is a message for the ages, and equally as relevant today as when she first put its words to paper.
"Be who you are, and be that well."