March 2021: Together with God Among the People

Michael A. Marinelli, Ed.D. '76
Dear Members of the Archmere Community, 

Holy Week has begun, and we heard the Gospel of Saint Mark recount the passion and death of Jesus on Palm Sunday. We will hear another account by Saint John on Good Friday, as part of the Easter Triduum of services, beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and concluding with Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening and Easter Sunday Masses.

In all of the Gospel accounts included in these celebrations that tell this most fantastic story of suffering, death, and resurrection, we meet a number of characters: the chief priests of the Temple, the Roman guards, Herod, Pilate, Barrabus, the “Women of Jerusalem,” Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, the apostles, including Peter, James, and John, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. All of these people were drawn into these moments in history that have changed the world. I often wonder what exactly they were thinking as these events unfolded. 

We have begun the 900th Jubilee celebration of the Norbertine Community. The Abbot General, Fr. Jos Wouters, O.Praem., in his Advent-Christmas message wrote, “The choice of Saint Norbert and his followers (to make their vows on Christmas Day) draws from the same inspiration as our motto for this Jubilee, “Together with God among the people” . . . When we are with the people, we are with God at the same time. We can search and find Him anywhere. The fullness of pastoral activity would be to find God with the people as the “God with us,” the Emmanuel. From this institution we can give meaning to the fact that the first profession of the Premonstratentians was made on Christmas Day.

The phrase in Abott Wouters message that has affected me most deeply is, “When we are with the people, we are with God at the same time.” Jesus was born to be with us in our humanity, yet he was also divine, and though his physical presence was with us for a short time on earth nearly 2000 years ago, God is with us and in us. If that is our belief, then every person is of God and a gift to one another. That is challenging when we consider all the people in the world -  those who would harm us, those who don’t believe, and those who don’t care. Yet, we probably have had people in our lives who have helped us, cared for us, and loved us, emulating God’s presence. So what were those present at Jesus’ crucifixion thinking? We know in the end what Jesus was thinking: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

As we are celebrating the 900th Jubilee, Archmere will be celebrating its 90th anniversary in the 2021-2022 academic year. I have always considered that the special sense of community we feel at Archmere is due in large part to our Norbertine charism, and the belief that “when we are with people, we are with God at the same time.” When we believe and practice that statement, we must treat each other with respect and reverence, appreciating the gifts of every member of the community. I am excited by the collaborative conversations we have been having as an administration, working together with the Board of Trustees, in refreshing the Strategic Initiatives of the Academy, reformulated in 2018, based on the Strategic Plan of 2012. Over the last several months, we have reviewed all that has been accomplished in the last eight years, have assessed where we are presently in light of the pandemic in particular, and have developed a path forward for Archmere that underscores our initial commitment to three main goals: sustaining our mission, empowering well-rounded scholars, and building on effective financial stewardship. 

Like Abraham Maslow’s classic Hierarchy of Needs, our plan builds on the fundamental notion that we must continue to articulate, live, and promote our Academy’s mission, which supports our decision-making about financial stewardship and our ability to empower students to become well-rounded scholars. Specifically, with regard to the empowering students, over the next 24 to 36 months, we will focus on our work with diversity, equity and inclusion; enhance academic enrichment and support, making modifications as necessary to address the impact of the pandemic on learning; and continue to develop partnerships that are interdepartmental and with local, regional, national, and international institutions.

With regard to financial stewardship, we need to continue to assess technology bandwidth to support programming, consider on-line learning and other methods of delivery of academic content, remain focused on admission and enrollment, continue to build resources for deferred capital maintenance and increase our fundraising efforts to support the operating budget to help remove pressure on tuition increases.

I continue to be grateful for the support of so many members of the Archmere community, which is why I am asking for your support in particular for this last initiative - increasing our fundraising efforts. This year, we were all affected in some way by the pandemic. Archmere, as an institution, has seen greater financial need expressed by our current families and those whose children are applying for admission. Additionally, the Academy has expended over $500,000 in projects this fiscal year to make in-class learning on campus a safe and viable option, while offering virtual classes as needed. Specifically, all of the air handling systems in the buildings have been enhanced, including a new HVAC system in The Manor to address air quality and circulation. High-definition cameras have been installed in classrooms for remote learning. Enhanced cleaning services and cleaning supplies were additional costs, as were the rental of outdoor lights for outdoor fall sports practices, and contracts to outsource live-streaming of athletic events. We have just invested in month-long large tent rentals to accommodate signature school events this Spring. 

On a positive note, we did receive SBA funding that supported salaries for staff, providing us the assurance that we were able to maintain our talented and committed staff to animate our academic and extracurricular programs. Collectively, the staff have also been able to manage internal budgets well. In spite of these government funds and tight budgeting, we are still anticipating a budget shortfall of $100,000 or more because of our parents’ clubs inability to hold fundraising events this year. We are grateful for the innovative ideas and efforts of the parent club leadership and volunteers who put together new and modified initiatives, but we recognize that they have not had the same fundraising capacity as our traditional events have generated. 

I recognize that, just as the Academy has been stressed by increased expenses and decreased projected income this year, many households and other businesses and organizations are feeling the pressure, as well. I am asking those who are able to give serious consideration to helping the Academy with a first-time gift or even a second gift to the Archmere Fund during our Giving Challenge Week, which will occur May 3 through 7.  In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more detail about this exciting and energizing event, which will hopefully help us close the projected budget gap. What someone can afford to donate is a personal decision, and we appreciate all gifts. 

We all receive many requests each year from many worthwhile causes. I hope that you will consider Archmere as one of them, based on the work that we accomplish together, with a vision for the future that is bright for our children.

The bystanders in the story of the Passion were all called to be there in some way, playing some role - active or passive. We each live the Passion story in our own lives; we are asked to carry crosses, to die to self, and to have faith in living lives of service for others. In our day and time, we consider what our “calvaries” might be, and know that God never leaves us through them all for - “When we are with the people, we are with God at the same time.”

May you and your family and friends have a Blessed Easter and celebrate rebirth with the beauty of Spring.


Michael A. Marinelli, Ed.D. ‘76
Archmere Academy is a private, Catholic, college preparatory co-educational academy,
grades 9-12 founded in 1932 by the Norbertine Fathers.