…don’t even try to say ‘no’ to Sister Francine. It’s futile. Not because your knuckles might feel the old time wrath of a ruler…it’s ‘cause you just can’t disappoint her. What a skill! This is just who she is…kind, warm, smart, fun, committed, empathetic, thoughtful and inspiring.
We connected upon our very first encounter when Nancy and I attended a Connelly open house with our granddaughter, Katie (the artist formerly known as Kaitlin) who was considering a high school to attend while in the eight grade. As soon as Sister spoke, I leaned over to Nancy and whispered, “that woman is from Philadelphia.” Us Philadelphians do not have radar but rather ‘Phillydar’ and we hear it instantly.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Sister Francine was ‘working the room’ and no one does it better. As she approached and we introduced ourselves, Sister engaged directly with Kaitlin in a very warm and welcoming style. It was disarming as well as comforting. At the conclusion of their exchange, I then asked, “Sister, do I hear Philadelphia in your voice?” She did not answer in a way I expected but rather made a fist, tapped her heart, looked to the heavens and then responded with, “I still can’t believe Ryan Howard took that third strike in the NLCS game against the Giants.” Kaitlin then looked at her grandmother, rolled her eyes and with a smile said, “well, I guess I know where I’m going to school for the next four years.”
While choice of schools was exclusively hers, it was the Connelly ‘shadow day’ that took Kaitlin over the top. All of us agreed that Connelly was not only a best fit, but a right fit. Our Connelly girls enter the ninth grade as gawky, braces wearing, anxious, unsure 13 and 14 year olds, but leave as confident, bright, inspiring young women ready to take on the rigors and fun of college life. Few if any prepare students as well as Connelly for that next step in the pursuit of higher education and life in general. Upon graduation, Connelly girls are ready to lead, serve and inspire with both heart and heft.
Over the past seven years, we have enjoyed a close relationship with the Connelly family of students, parents, faculty, administration, staff and alums. They all reflect Sister Francine’s light. It is bright, nurturing and sustaining. Nancy and I join everyone associated with Connelly High School in wishing Sister Francine all the best in her new leadership role with the Society and subsequent return to our native Philadelphia…cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, 9th St market, Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers, Big 5 Basketball, Mummers Parade, Boat House Row, The Art Museum, Franklin Institute, The Barnes…shall I go on?
I’ll miss seeing you, Sister, but will certainly remain in touch when back ‘home,’ and if all else fails, remember…our light is always on for you as yours is for us.
Nancy and Al Marino