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Summer is a time of cultivation, growing and prayerful reflection. As I reflect on our school year, two major themes come to mind: faith and country. Whether it be our school day, concerts, field trips, etc., we focus on our pride in being an American and the role of religion in the founding of our country and everyday life. In the 17th and 18th centuries (and for centuries before), religion and politics were intertwined to a degree that we can hardly imagine. Religion figured in life much more broadly, and when it came to serious questions of authority, legitimacy, law, obedience, order, power, justice, freedom and happiness, the voice of religious tradition was always there.

In the summer of 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies met in Philadelphia to decide the case for liberty. The goal was to convince the states that the time had come for the united colonies to declare their independence from England. Congress appointed a committee of five, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman, to draft a declaration that was presented to Congress on June 28. Independence was declared on July 2 and on July 4, the Second Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence that was ultimately signed on Aug. 2, 1776. Independence day, July 4, 1776, marks a special day in history for all Americans, the birth of American independence: “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our loves, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

This past May, we organized our first overnight field trip to Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine and the state Capitol. It was a beautiful representation of our mission. Beth Lynch, pilgrimage coordinator and museum manager, kicked things off with a tour of the breathtaking Shrine of the North American Martyrs and birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Once the 17th century Mohawk village of Ossernenon, it is now a Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to three Jesuit missionaries, Father Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil and John Lalande, who were killed there in the 1640s for their faith. Beth made the history come alive as we overlooked the Mohawk River valley and imagined the Indians awaiting the arrival of the missionaries. We also attended a beautiful Mass in the coliseum church, which seats 6,500 people, with standing room for another 3,500. I strongly encourage a visit to this very historic and inspiring shrine.

Next, we enjoyed a lovely stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Schenectady. The children and parents had the opportunity to bond and create memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you to Subhash and all of the staff for your hospitality and kindness. In the morning, we set out for the state Capitol in Albany, which began with a tour of the building, and us relishing all of its stunning artwork and architecture. Sen. Pam Helming welcomed us into her office and into the Senate chambers for a photo shoot and a talk on her role and responsibilities as the Senate representative of the 54th District. Pam is an exemplary model of a Catholic, conservative woman serving her district with tenacity and grace. In the afternoon, the assemblyman of the 130th District, Brian Manktelow, introduced us on the assembly floor and congratulated us on a successful school year. Thank you, assemblyman, for your dedication and community leadership. We are proud to call Sen. Helming and Assemblyman Manktelow representatives of the district our school resides in! May God bless your efforts.

As the school year comes to a close, St. John Paul II Academy is overwhelmed with gratitude. We are especially thankful to Pastor Grish and the Cayuga United Methodist Church for welcoming us into their church home and providing the perfect space for our schoolhouse. We would also like to thank the village of Cayuga, Marilyn Mann and Patti Nunno from the Genoa Historical Association, Sapphire Lonsky, Erin Johnson and Jeff Hanno from the Auburn YMCA, Julie and Jon Patterson from Patterson Farms, Kris King (animal rehabilitator), DEC Officer Scott Angotti, Suzi DaVia and all of our friends who helped make the school year one of the best! You are virtuous examples of fortitude, purposefulness, humility and industriousness.

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favor.” — George Washington

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Jennifer T. Furnia is principal at St. John Paul II Academy and the mother of two boys at the school. For more information, or to schedule a visit, visit jp2la.org, call (315) 252-4393, email furniajp2@gmail.com or write to St. John Paul II Academy, 6201 Center St., Cayuga, NY 13034 or P.O. Box 1318, Auburn, NY 13021.

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