Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Miracle Room Dedication Tuesday, November 13

On Tuesday, November 13th 2012, the Villa Academy community will dedicate the “Miracle Room” with a brief ceremony and the unveiling of a special bronze plaque to commemorate the site of the second of two miracles credited to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the foundress of Villa Academy. The program will begin in the Academy’s Parlor at 9:30 AM and will be followed by refreshments, also in the Parlor.

Mother Frances Cabrini died on December 22, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois. Since her death, at least two miracles, investigated and confirmed by the authorities of the Catholic Church in the Vatican, have been attributed to her. These miracles were the foundation for Frances Cabrini’s canonization on July 7, 1946 as the first American citizen to be proclaimed a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

The first miracle associated with Mother Cabrini occurred in 1921. On March 21st of that year, Peter Smith, a newborn infant at Columbus Hospital in New York had a solution of 50% nitrate (instead of the customary 1% solution of nitrate) applied to his eyes. Until the development and widespread adoption of antibiotics, diluted solutions of silver nitrate were dropped into the eyes of newborns at birth to prevent the contraction of certain diseases from the mother. With the application of the 50% solution to Peter’s eyes, blindness resulted.

The Sisters caring for the baby placed a relic of the late Mother Cabrini on the child and, after they prayed for a cure, Mother Cabrini interceded with the first miracle accredited to her. The next day, doctors were astounded when they found no damage whatsoever to the infant’s eyes. The baby, Peter Smith, later became a Catholic priest and  visited Villa Academy in the 1980s.

The second miracle credited to Mother Cabrini occurred at Villa Academy. The event was recorded in the May 1959 edition of St. Joseph Magazine as follows:

As Josephine Graziola, Sr. Delfina was received into the society [the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus] by Mother Cabrini in Italy in 1911. In 1914 she came to the United States and in 1916 went west to Seattle. There she was put in charge of the nurses’ quarters at old Columbus Hospital. The miracle, to which she testified at Mother Cabrini’s Cause for Canonization, happened like this:

“In 1925 I got very sick,” Sr. Delfina relates simply. “I couldn’t hold anything in my stomach. I had four major operations and finally the doctors said my only chance was another operation. I refused. I couldn’t even stand up; I was so weak. All I had, each day, was a small bit of the Host when they brought communion to me.

One day the bishop came to [Sacred Heart Villa to] confirm the orphanage girls and he came to see me too. After he gave me his blessing he told me to pray to [Mother Cabrini] our foundress. I didn’t see how there was any hope; I was a skeleton. But I prayed and so did all of my sisters. Finally one night, the 14th of December 1925, I couldn’t sleep and I looked up and Mother [Cabrini] was standing there. She shook her finger at me, just like she always did and said: ‘I’m going to send you to work.’ Then she smiled and disappeared.

I didn’t know what to think. For two days I didn’t tell anyone and just kept saying to myself, Mother told me… Mother told me… but I felt so much better that everyone could see the change. The next day I ate three meals and kept them all down. Then I told my confessor what had happened and said that I had to get up by December 22nd (the anniversary of Mother Cabrini’s death) and he told me to just get up and go to the [Villa] chapel by myself. I did.”

Sr. Delfina lived for 42 more years following her cure in 1925; she died on November 23, 1967 at the age of 76 and is buried at nearby Calvary Cemetery with many other Missionary Sisters from the Seattle community.

The room in which Sr. Delfina received her miracle is currently the Office of Admission and Community Relations, on the second floor, directly across from the Academy’s Parlor.

Villa Academy (formerly, Sacred Heart Villa Academy) remains a special place in the hearts of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus due to its rich history and the involvement of Mother Cabrini. They continue to remember Villa in their prayers – and the Villa Academy community is grateful for the dedication of the Sisters in the building of a literal and spiritual foundation for educating our young students.

All members of the Villa Academy community are invited to join Board Chair Mark Grey (Villa Academy Class of 1984), Fr. Stephen Okumu (pastor of St. Bridget Parish), Fr. Tim Saur (former pastor of St. Bridget Parish), Sr. Renee Kittelson, MSC (Resource Coordinator, Cabrini Senior Housing, Seattle) and me in this important celebration of Villa Academy’s spirit and heritage!

John Milroy

Head of School


8th Grade Mock Trial

On February 9, 2012, the Villa Academy 8th Grade U.S. History students traveled to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle to try former president Andrew Jackson for his alleged crimes against humanity, which occurred in the 1830’s as Americans moved west. The specific charges stated that “President Andrew Jackson, with premeditated intent, did conduct or authorize a widespread or systemic attack against a civilian population (herein, the Cherokee Nation), where the following methods were employed: murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and other similar inhuman acts that caused great suffering and serious injury.”

Students spent almost six weeks preparing for this trial. Prep included learning the historical context of Native American removal, specifically, the idea of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. Then, students digested almost thirty pages of primary source material, which ranged from speeches to letters, and from first-hand accounts to Supreme Court decisions. Students selected witnesses, and were given roles; they had to write an essay about how their role fit into the context of the trial, and what evidence from the source material packet would assist them. Once the students were familiar with the historical context, the source material, and their roles, they had to get ready for the trial. This involved drafting opening and closing statements and examination questions, learning about courtroom protocol, questioning techniques, and objection rules, and practicing their testimonies.

Judge John C. Coughenour presided over the opening and closing statements. Unfortunately, he was still presiding over another trial and could not stay for the whole morning. Chris P. Reilly, colleague of Mr. Guadagno, presided over the rest of the trial.

The trial lasted for almost two hours, though a few jurors were in tears within minutes of the Prosecution’s opening statement. Students battled back and forth between direct and cross examinations, showcasing both their exhaustive preparation and their abilities to think on their feet. 8B, the prosecution, focused on Jackson’s threat of “utter annihilation” during their opening and closing statements, while 8A rested their defense on the choices given to the Cherokees, and the consequences of those choices. Ultimately, the jury returned a GUILTY verdict after debating the charges and testimony for almost an hour.

The students impressed everyone: the judge(s), court clerks, visiting parents, jurors, Mr. Guadagno, and Ms. Brooks. In fact, the court staff said that the kids were incredibly professional, poised, and confident.

One parent-spectator said, “What a huge success today!  It was so much fun to see the mock trial.  All the kids were amazing. The enthusiasm and hard work by all was more than apparent. An event to be remembered forever!”

Judge Coughenour invited the students to ask questions about his career, including his appointment by President Reagan and his most well-known cases. The students were able to tour Judge Coughenour’s office, library, and jury room as well.

We are so grateful to Michael Guadagno for all of the ways he supported the 8th Graders during this experience. He put forth an incredible amount of effort and time, and his guidance was invaluable.

Historic Marquee Clean-Up Project


Marquee Clean Up

Today, in rainy 40 degree weather, Mrs. O’Neil and the 2nd grade tackled a forest of overgrown rhododendrons with hand-held pruners and work gloves.

Their mission: to reveal the historic Sacred Heart Villa Academy marquee at the original main entrance.

Each year Mrs. O’Neil  finds a project that highlights Villa’s history.  Computer lab studies  are integrated with community curriculum in the classroom, and students have the opportunity to examine elements of the school that are original to Villa from 1924.

This year students were excited to uncover a buried treasure beneath years of overgrowth!

Look for the display of this project in progress on the main bulletin board outside the computer lab!

Picture 3

Home Sweet Home

Villa Academy is lucky to call the Laurelhurst neighborhood its home. We have enjoyed the treasures of this favorable location since Mother Cabrini’s decision to move the school here in 1914.  She definitely understood the importance of location. To read more about Laurelhurst in the The Seattle Times “neighborhood of the week” article click here.

Heavenly Deal: Sisters Sell Villa campus for $7.1M

Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) – by Jeanne Lang Jones Staff Writer

Correction at bottom of article

Villa Academy has paid just over $7 million to purchase its eight-acre Laurelhurst campus from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The school, located at 5001 N.E. 50th in Seattle, lies within a 26-acre tract purchased a century ago by the order’s founder, Mother Cabrini, who built a convent, an orphanage and an elementary school on the property. The tract stretches from 50th Avenue Northeast near Children’s Hospital and Medical Center all the way down to Lake Washington.

Under its agreement with the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Villa Academy will own its campus and continue leasing the remainder of the property for the use of its students, staff and faculty.

The deal is deeply rooted in Seattle’s past. It starts with Frances Xavier Cabrini, a young Italian nun sent to America by the pope to minister to Italian immigrants.

The woman who would become America’s first Catholic saint first visited Seattle in 1903, returning several times to establish an orphanage and school on Beacon Hill, before relocating them to the Laurelhurst/Windermere neighborhood.

Cabrini bought the Laurelhurst property in 1908 with the help of prominent real estate broker Henry Broderick. He declined payment for his work, accepting instead Cabrini’s rosary beads. Broderick is the namesake for both Seattle developer Gregory Broderick Smith and Bellevue’s Broderick Group commercial real estate brokerage. In 1924, John Graham Sr., the architect behind many of downtown Seattle’s historic buildings, designed the two buildings that would later become Villa Academy. A gymnasium was added in the late 1950s.

The city also played a role in Cabrini’s life. It was here that she became a U.S. citizen in 1909. Additionally, one of the miracles that led to her canonization was performed in what is now the school’s admissions office. After her death in 1917, it’s believed that Cabrini appeared in a vision to a seriously ill young nun. The nun, who had not been expected to live through the night, awoke the next morning saying that Cabrini told her, “Now is not your time. There is too much work to be done.” The young nun worked at the school until she died in 1969. Cabrini was canonized as a saint in 1946.

These days, Villa Academy serves about 400 students ranging in age from preschool through middle school. It accepts students from a variety of faiths and follows Cabrini’s precept that a school should provide an education of the heart as well as the mind.

Villa Academy has been leasing its campus ever since the late ’70s, when the nuns stopped running the school to concentrate their missionary efforts in other parts of the world.

Recently, with the aging buildings needing substantial maintenance, the school decided it should own the property and began negotiating to purchase it from the sisters five years ago.

“It’s built like a fortress and has been well cared for but the exterior only has a certain lifetime,” said Head of School Polly Skinner.

The transaction was made more complex by the need to obtain Vatican approval for the sale, Singer said.

To make the purchase and needed repairs, Villa Academy raised $4.7 million in a two-year capital campaign. The school also obtained $7.1 million in low-interest bonds through the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, which has helped finance a number of school-related projects locally.

Later this summer, the school plans to begin renovating its campus by replacing roofs and building a new covered play area for students.

Contact: / 206-876-5426

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Polly Skinner, whose title is Head of School.

The Catholic NW Progress article on purchase of the Villa Campus

Around The Archdiocese

Villa Academy purchases campus
Villa Academy has purchased its historic buildings and eight acres of the 26-acre property from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the school announced this week.
The 400-student, independent Catholic school, which offers preschool through eighth grade, has been leasing the site from the sisters since 1977.
Five years in the making, the purchase agreement included securing approval from the Vatican in 2005, said school spokeswoman Nicole Chism Griffin.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, first American saint, founded what is now Villa Academy in 1903 when she and her sisters opened an orphanage and school in 1903 on Beacon Hill, moving it to its current site on a hill in Laurelhurst in 1914 after the future saint envisioned a “villa on a hill.”
The two historic, brick-clad buildings now used by the academy were designed by noted architect John Graham, Sr. and built in 1924.
The sisters closed the orphanage in 1951 but continued operating the school as Sacred Heart Villa until the mid-1970s when it was turned over to an independent lay board of trustees.
With this week’s purchase agreement, the sisters will continue to own the remaining 18 acres, leasing it to the academy.