The Irish Lens Peoria Notre Dame

What's in A Name

You most likely noticed our magazine has a new name! Actually, as you read on, you may realize a lot of changes are happening around the school. From a brand new website to curriculum adaptations due to COVID-19, the pandemic presented a great opportunity to assess the focus of our messaging and how we are serving our students, faculty, alums, and community.

To correlate our bi-annual publication with the school’s new tagline, “Through a different Lens,” we have changed the name of the magazine to “The Irish Lens.” The name is in keeping with our century and a half of excellent tradition while widening our field of view to encompass the past, present, and future of Catholic education in the Peoria area.

Our new website states: “At Peoria Notre Dame, we educate through a different lens — that of Jesus Christ — which allows our students to mature, flourish, and to go further to build a new civilization of love. With the guidance and intercession of Our Lady, our Patroness, we lead hearts to Christ and prepare our students to be good citizens of both Heaven and earth. We seek to develop our students holistically, through the formation of body, mind and spirit; and with this formation, we have sent out tens of thousands of students, over the years, to change the world for the better.”

Rest assured the content of our publications will remain the same as we keep our alumni, supporters, and friends always in our view finder. We will continue to showcase successful and faithfilled alums, include wonderful memories of honored traditions, and give insight into the vibrant life that remains at PND.

We hope you enjoy this first issue of “The Irish Lens.” Please keep our students, faculty, and staff ever in your prayers. God’s blessings.

Tara Shane, Director of Alumni Relations

Our Mission

  • Teaching the Catholic faith
  • Leading students to be disciples of Jesus Christ
  • Teaching the arts and sciences in a climate of Catholic academic inquiry

Our Values

  • Christ-centered
  • Excellence in all things
  • Family
  • Individual dignity of all students
  • Personal responsibility
  • Service to others
  • Pursuit of virtue
  • Tradition


“Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” This now famous quote from Charles Swindoll has become a guiding principle over the last few months. I think one of the things that makes Peoria Notre Dame truly great is that we have a school community that lives this out. We have certainly needed to make many adjustments this year, but we have done so in a way that has maintained our high standards and quality of education. PND has still kept the spiritual lives of our students as our number one priority, and that has allowed us to continue with many of the activities that make our school and students stand out.

Sister Sara Kowal, SCTJM

For example, we have transformed our learning environment into a completely synchronous one in which students in and out of the building are receiving the same instruction as before the pandemic. Each classroom has been outfitted with an iPad on wheels, which is used to livestream all classes daily. We have continued to have weekly Adoration as well, but outside on the lawn. Daily Masses are live-streamed on our Facebook page from our chapel. Campus ministry activities continue to happen in a safe way. Our annual basket drive will go on again this Christmas season so we can continue to provide for the needy families in our community - even though the drive may look a little different this year.

Despite things being “different,” they are also very much the same. The mission and purpose of our school - excellent Catholic education - continues to be lived out daily here at PND. We continue to offer in-person learning with a similar schedule as before. Clubs, athletics, and activities continue to happen in a safe and regulated way. Confessions and Mass continue to be offered for the spiritual health of our students.

But ultimately, what makes this school great is not the things we do. It is great because of the people that make it up and the Lord who is in our midst, guiding us and giving us wisdom. PND is unique because it is Catholic, and the Lord is at the center of who we are and what we do. No pandemic will change this simple fact. We are who we are regardless of what is going on in the world around us. We seek to give the young men and women of this place the spiritual and practical tools to be able to enter into that world and transform it. We desire to form the adults of the next generation into virtuous, mature, and holy witnesses, ready to face the challenges before them and be a light in the midst of the darkness.

God willing, with the prayers and support of our PND family, we will always be able to fulfill this mission entrusted to us. May God bless you, and please be assured of our prayers for you and your families.

Your legacy

The students at Peoria Notre Dame are changing the world every day! They are the future and your legacy.

Please remember Peoria Notre Dame in your estate plans to continue quality, faith-filled Catholic education in the Peoria area. For more information, contact Development Director, Cindy Dermody, or ask your legal advisor.


For the faith life of our school, COVID 19 has proven to be a detour, but not a roadblock. We have been forced to reimagine a number of our regular activities and traditions, and reimagine we have. The questions began with how to have an all-school Mass. The answer was that we cannot have all school Mass, but that we do have enough room in the gym to follow social distancing guidelines for half of the student body at a time. We elected to have a pair of “half-school Masses” three times throughout the school year. To make up for the small number of chances for everyone to attend Mass, we then have house Masses every Wednesday during the school day and rotate through the six houses over the course of six weeks. By opening up the chapel wall, we are able to use the auditorium seating to properly distance 120 people for house Masses.

Fr. Corey Krengiel

Our tradition of prayer in the chapel throughout the day on Fridays has been able to continue in a new location. As you can see on the cover of this edition of “The Irish Lens,” our students have been able to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament outside while the weather was good. This was doubly appreciated by the students because they could remove their masks for 5 or 10 minutes and get some fresh air while properly spaced outdoors. We also continue to offer reconciliation for three hours a week, with masks on at all times. The one faith opportunity that has been missing this fall is our class retreats. However, we have plans to host them for all four classes in safe and creative ways late in the spring trimester.

Despite the challenges, we continue to allow the Lord to lead us into a deeper relationship with Him. But no doubt, when Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” we never expected to have to post detour signs!

To watch daily Mass from the Peoria Notre Dame chapel

Contributed by Karen (Crowley) Metzinger/AOL’73

Paying tribute to an educator who served from 1978-2006 in Peoria’s Catholic high schools is an honor, especially when she also dedicated 74 of those years to living in and serving her religious community.

A native Peorian who was baptized Phyllis Evelyn Houlihan in 1926, Sister Roberta entered The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Louis at eighteen, soon after her 1944 graduation from the Academy of Our Lady. Her meaningful life came full circle when she recently passed away at her Order’s retirement facility, Nazareth Living Center, on May 9, 2020, at the age of 93.

Armed with a degree in mathematics from Fontbonne University and later a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from the University of Notre Dame, Sister Roberta lived her commitment to God by educating thousands of students for decades. Her influence lives on in St. Louis, Chicago, Green Bay, Denver and most significantly at her alma mater, The Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute and its successor, Peoria Notre Dame.

Embracing her belief that “vocation for me is a God-given gift,” Sister Roberta genuinely cared about each student’s welfare. Her smile illuminated her Irish eyes as she sought to inspire students in the turbulent times of adolescence. She calmly passed on the life lessons she had learned by being present to others, helping others, and living a life filled with peace and gratitude. With persistence, she encouraged many students with four powerful words: “You can do it.”

One of my fondest memories of actually teaching with Sister Roberta was in the late 1970’s

when we began tutoring small groups of our Vietnamese students in English during our lunch break in her Academy of Our Lady guidance office. Our conscientious students were highly motivated and flourished under her maternal attention. In her gentle way, Sister would reassure our students by reminding them, “We could never learn Vietnamese as quickly as you are learning English.” Of course, she was right!


Above all, Sister Roberta was a gifted listener, according to Kathy Houlihan Kenney, one of her 51 nieces and nephews left to carry on her legacy.“

Sister Roberta’s oldest brother Bob lived his vocation as a Jesuit mathematician; my dad, her brother Bill, was our local television weatherman, and her sister Mary Merdian enjoyed a rewarding career at Caterpillar,” Kenney explained. “Sister Roberta was the youngest of four, and I was the youngest of nine, so we had a special relationship. She will forever be Aunt Phil to me.”

Kenney recounted how Sister Roberta taught by example to the very end of her life when she suffered greatly with health issues. As she was awaiting approval from a cardiologist so she could proceed with leg amputation surgery, she assured the family, “It’s in God’s hands.”

When her St. Louis cardiologist surprised her with his Spalding High School yearbook and reminded her that she had taught him, she was filled with confidence and peace that her amputation would be successful. After all, she said, “God already knows. Look who he sent me!”


"She was such an amazing woman, mentor and role model." -Kathryn Fife, PND’97

"She was very sweet and caring. Very nice lady." -Nancy Hayes, BHS’69

"Sr. Roberta was a wonderful person. She was hardworking and would do anything for the students or teachers. She was loved by all.” -Dick Kelly, SI’72 and PND Faculty

"And see... I put this right here in this folder here...and then in this folder… -Peter Nash, PND’92

“Sister Roberta quite possibly was the sweetest, nicest, kindest person I have ever met. Rest in Peace Sr. Roberta.” -Gary Callow, PND Faculty

“Always caring for all the families and kids at PND.” -Pat Matarelli, AOL’62

“Sister Roberta treated everyone with great kindness. Her optimistic view of others and enthusiasm for her ministry made her witness to Christ so impactful.” -Tim Irwin, SI’72 and Faculty

"I enjoyed working for 12 years with my good friend and colleague Sr. Roberta Houlihan at Academy/Spalding High School. I respected her for her professionalism, dedication, principles and as a credit to her order. She is sorely missed.” -Mitch Wiss, Former Faculty

“Sister Roberta was so much fun. She loved the kids and was wonderfully kind to all of us at PND. She had lots of enthusiasm for her school and her friends.” -Cathy Curtis, PND Staff

Sr. roberta Houlihan

  • Born September 5, 1926
  • Entered Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet 1944
  • Professed final vows in 1950
  • Masters degree in counseling from the University of Notre Dame in 1966
  • Began working as a counselor for AOL/SI in 1978
  • Retired from PND in 2007
  • Passed into eternal life on May 9, 2020


Due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, the 50th class reunion for the AOL/SI Class of 1970 was postponed to next year. As a result, our staff asked some of the members of the class to share their memories of their time among the hallowed halls of the two schools. Memories from Bergan High School’s class of 1970 will be featured in the next issue.

An array of memories

Grace (Theado) McCauley

There are so many memories of AOL & Spalding from my high school years that it is hard to settle on one! So here are a few:

Mr. Zarn and the pie eating incident, football games with crisp cold nights, ski pants, and mohair sweaters, pep rallies in the Spalding gym, state championship games in Champaign, mixers in The Center, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” #1 at AOL for weeks and weeks, Homecoming, theater shows like Oliver! and Romeo and Juliet at the Beverly Theater, Homecoming skits and the Hobits! Folk Masses in the gym, Vatican II, nuns changing names, and wonderinging “Is the Blessed Mother smoking?” Hunts after games, and many wonderful memories with friends.

Thoughts on the teachers:

  • Sr. Timothy – Yikes!
  • Sr. Mary Loran - Favorite
  • Sr. Nancy - Nicest
  • Mrs. Heinz - Coolest

Faculty Flashback

John Conlan

Mr. Jim Lewis was my favorite teacher, and I had him for history/social studies. He really got me intersted in history and reading, which I still love to this day. He had excellent reading assignments and went over matierials if you were stuggling. Constantly going over material was something I did in my own teaching career as well. He always seemed really worldly to me, in a good way! I pretty much was in awe during class!

Mr. Ron Haley in Business Law class taught me the value of organization with those blasted business practice sets. I used to dream of accounts payable ledger sheets. You can never have enough organization in life!

Mr. Jim Sanders was my favorite coach, and I had a lot of them. He was fair and didn’t lose his temper which made a lasting impact on me. He was very innovative as a coach and let me try a lot of things as a player. But he was never successful in getting me to try out for wrestling!

Saddle Shoe Reflections

by Joan Rice

Fifty plus one years ago I was seated in Mr. Zarn’s chemistry class across the street alongside an interesting specimen – guys! Privileged and proud to be a part of AOL’s ‘70’s version of APChem. I marveled at the arcane chart catching the slant of sunlight. It held promise of test tubes, titrations, beakers and gases of mysterious origin that made up the (then) 105 elements on the Periodic Table. That chart held affirmation that women could indeed learn the hard sciences along with the male of the species. Full of wonder, I had arrived.

Leaping 50 plus years, I still view my Catholic education as a valuable element as rare as neo-dymium (used in all cell phone mics and speakers) and as durable as an oxide of aluminum and silicon (used in IPhone touch screens). My education proved to be a basic life force – much like oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen – but as malleable as the rarest of metals – pure gold.

To distill this essence further, I have learned that my Catholic education has provided 50 years of friendships with a core group of classmates. Complimenting these “rare metals,” I have been given a subset of other AOL friends, “double bonds” – ‘70’s classmates I never even knew at graduation!

What exactly 51 years later is the hallmark, the Sterling Merit Award that never tarnishes? What did the habit garbed nuns impart to me as most enduring? In a word: passion. This combustible energy going forward is the drive to help others, to elevate those with special needs to the mainstream, to learn Eastern European languages at age 68, to seize human rights for those marginalized on mental health wards, in long term care facilities and other places hidden. This passion always chooses service over comfort.

Curiously, one may wonder what secret did those fierce “ladies in black” wish to bind over to us circa 1970? Just what was buried under the dark folds of robe and kept so mysteriously inside those stiff, white, surely uncomfortable collars? It wasn’t the answers to tomorrow’s Algebra 3 exam, nor was it the Pythagoran Theorum. Not even the pack of smokes we lusted after. The “pearl of great price” allegory we had heard of, but did not have the capacity to comprehend at age 17. Transcendent in time, like a quantum mechanics photon speeding silently and begging for discovery, it was hiding. Right in front of us was Christ’s greatest gift – his love, sparkling like a geode.

What Makes a Memory?

Mary (McNally ) Lord

What makes a memory? A moment of joy? Surprise? Shock? Happiness? My life has been filled with memories but one that I keep fondly returning to happened during my junior year at AOL.

I doubt that anyone who attended Spalding or the Academy in 1969 will forget when the Spalding basketball team participated in the Illinois state basketball finals at the University of Illinois. From the moment my name was drawn for the ticket lottery, I knew I was in for quite a weekend.

I stayed with a large group of AOL girls in a sorority house (thanks to Mary Falls’ older sister). I’d never been in a sorority house, and I thought it was extremely sophisticated. On campus there was a dance to attend, movies to go to, new people to meet and college students to gawk at and try to emulate.

Then of course there was the wonder of the huge Assembly Hall and the pride in being a representative of the Fighting Irish from Spalding/AOL. I’ll never forget the wonderful post-season pep rally and parade that welcomed the returning Spalding players back to their home court. The world had turned purple in my eyes!

Class of 1970 Reunion Update

The AOL/SI Class of 1970 50+1 Reunion committee is continuing to plan a celebration in 2021. A date will be selected when we know large gatherings and travel will be allowed and safe. The 50+1 reunion date will be announced on the reunion website, www.siaol1970reunion.myevent.com. Please visit the website as we are gathering information from classmates via this site. The committee members are Jon Aitken, Cathy (Dexheimer) Bartelmay, Trish (McClarence) Bussone, Jim Maroon and Nena (Myers) Peplow. If you have questions, please reach out to one of the committee members or post your question on the reunion website.

Class of 1971 Reunion

The AOL/SI Class of 1971 50th Class Reunion will be held in Peoria IL from Thursday, September 9 – Sunday, September 12, 2021. The Organizing Committee is committed to doing everything we can to hold this event!

We have located over 200 of our classmates so far. Below is a list of classmates we have tried to reach by email or postcard and have not had a response. If you have responded and we missed it, our apologies, please reach out to us again. If you are a classmate, relative or friend of the Class of 1971, email us at aolsi71classreunion@gmail.com. Please provide the name of the classmate (including maiden name), email address and your name and class year. Classmates will then receive emailed updates on our upcoming activities and events. Thanks so much for your help!

  • Stephanie Antle Zoeller


Peoria Notre Dame was the background for the coming of age and discernment for five diocesan seminarians and three women entering religious life.

Nic Wilson, PND’13

Life is short. Death is certain. The world to come is everlasting. These truths really sank in after my freshman year at PND, when I was volunteering at a nursing home as part of the Christian Service Program. As residents that I knew began to die, I started to think about my own inevitable death, the meaning of my life: “What am I living for? What am I meant to live for?”

PND will forever hold a special place in my heart as the place where I began to ask those most important questions in life. At PND, I began to be open to the grace of God, to His presence in each moment, to hearing His voice in the circumstances of my life and the recesses of my heart. At PND, I realized that my life is not a random series of purposeless events. I am a real and active participant in God’s plan for me, just as God has a plan for all persons.

My freshman year, Fr. Geoff Horton taught Old Testament and New Testament. He invited me to come to the Cathedral of St. Mary in downtown Peoria and start serving Mass. The beauty of the Mass celebrated at the Cathedral struck me. Here, I could encounter God concretely. The whole of the Mass, the music, the chanting, the incense, the preaching, revealed the majesty, the power, the glory of God.

Also at PND, I was part of the robotics club. I enjoyed all the different challenges. We built robots that kicked soccer balls, shot foam basketballs, and launched Frisbees. I also enjoyed the team atmosphere, with all of us working to problem-solve and contribute to a good, competitive robot. When I prayed about my experience on the team, I found myself thinking about the souls of my teammates. How would their lives turn out? Who would help them to know and to live the love of God? And the thought came to my mind: “The priest.”

In the chapel at PND, I began to have what could be called a regular “prayer life.” I started going frequently to daily Mass, to Confession, to the times of silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Mondays and Fridays. Here, I personally knew the love that is stronger than death - Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Here, I realized that everything I had been taught in so many years of Catholic school was true and good and beautiful. Here, I came to know that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not abstract and distant, but more real and personal to me than I am to myself. I learned that I can trust the Lord to lead me. When I felt moved in prayer to pursue seminary and priesthood, it was that regular time spent with God that helped me to say “yes.”

Since I began seminary immediately after high school, I’ve been able to follow the journeys of Pat, Jacob, John Paul, and Nick into seminary. It has been a deep joy to watch all respond to the Lord’s call, knowing that God had been working in their hearts since they were baptized as infants to bring them to this point. They are each uniquely called and uniquely gifted. Each of them shows how God has a plan and care for every human life, and that true joy comes from surrendering one’s heart to the love of God. As I approach ordination to the priesthood in May, I am grateful to PND for being the place where I began to respond to God’s call.

John Paul Stedwill, PND’16

My years at Notre Dame were a critical time of personal formation in my life. Through many experiences and the influence of professors, religious, and coaches, two central themes emerged: the desire for Christ to be the center of my life, and the Lord’s will for me to be a leader. Just as the chapel at Notre Dame is the center of the school, daily Eucharistic Adoration became the center of my days in high school during the advisory period. Christ’s True Presence was a constant source of strength and love to help me though high school, and this practice of daily Adoration carried me through college with my eyes set on Christ as the center of my life. Eventually, this devotion to Eucharistic Adoration is where Christ revealed his plan for me to discern being one of His priests. Another key part of my formation at Peoria Notre Dame was the opportunity to develop as a leader in various school activities. Serving as a student ambassador was a particularly memorable experience, as I found a great joy in sharing the school’s faith and community with new students and parents. As I continued to grow in my devotion to Eucharistic Adoration and develop as a leader in college, I began to hear Christ calling me to give my life as a priest, as an ambassador to Him. As St. Paul says, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

Pat Wille, PND’13

St. Paul exhorted the Philippians to “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Peoria Notre Dame offered countless opportunities to learn the value of service and to enact this plea of the great apostle. The Christmas Basket Drive stands out as a specific example. The entire PND community, year after year, comes together to serve others during the Christmas season. This virtue taught to me by PND led me to get involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society while I was working full-time in St. Louis after graduating from the University of Illinois. My time spent visiting these parishioners and praying with them gave me a new perspective on the life of discipleship. At the foundation of these acts of service was always a spirit of prayer. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service on behalf of the poor.” The spirit of prayer at PND and the SVdP Society enabled me to develop a living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, in silent prayer and in these interactions with the poor. Through these experiences and numerous others, I realized that the seeds of a vocation to the priesthood had been placed in me at PND and were sown over the years of college and full-time work. The harvest is indeed abundant, and I am grateful to God for the gift of this vocation. Please pray for us that we may be faithful to the Lord’s gracious will for our lives.

Nick Conner, PND’14

There are two experiences that stand out from my time at Peoria Notre Dame and are indicative of the appreciation I have for my high school. The first is exposure to missionary work through the Miami Mission Trip. Although the mission was to benefit the children we were serving, I was benefited by witnessing the immense joy these children possessed despite their material poverty. I recognized that my anxieties about the world and myself stemmed from my own spiritual poverty. I was dismayed in realizing I had been trying to fill the desires of my heart with things of the world, which never fully satisfied me.

The second memory is Mr. Irwin taking our class to the chapel for a few minutes one day during my Senior year. While there, I read in Scripture where Jesus says, “Whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). It was a moment of conviction for me. I understood this: if I was not “all-in” for the Lord, I was not for Him at all. I began to desire a life spent in service to the will of God because I knew this is where I would ultimately find happiness. Simply stated, while at PND I encountered Jesus and recognized my need for Him to be at the center of my life.

jACOB hOPPER, pnd'15

I grew immensely in my 4 years at Peoria Notre Dame. The ability to have access to the Sacraments on a daily basis was by far the greatest gift that I have received. But at the time I was unaware as to how blessed we were. The PND community bands together and supports one another. So in trying to discern the Lord’s will for me, having that family I could lean on was irreplaceable.

I was able to serve Mass and to be involved in my faith as much as I wanted and this allowed me to dive deeper into the truths and beauties of the faith. The support I was given and the encouragement I received from everyone, especially my brothers on the football team who trusted me to lead them in prayer daily. Sr. Sara and Joe Walters allowed me to not be afraid to chase after Christ and to find Him. The inherent Catholic identity that is truly alive and that is focused on the Eucharist, the central aspect of our faith, is not to be disregarded.

If I hadn’t been able to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament regularly, then I would not have been able to get to know Him. All of these set the framework for my college years and my continual striving for God’s will. Please continue to keep us in your prayers and be assured that you are all in ours.

Sr. Gianna Grace, SCTJM Shares her Vocation story

(formerly Jennifer Perino, PND’92)

I was fortunate to be in the class of ’92, the first four-year graduating class of PND. At times, it was difficult financially for my parents to send my brother and me to PND, but it was a sacrifice that changed all of our lives. While I was a student at PND, I learned how to think and reason through different academic climates. I was extremely well-prepared academically compared to my other college classmates.

When we were upperclassmen at PND, we could attend the “Antioch” retreats. On one of those retreats, the Lord really touched my heart, and I began to understand more about what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him. Shortly after, a friend invited me to attend a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreat. I grew so much in my faith by living it boldly with other friends who also desired to serve, and PND offered us many service opportunities. I was also very drawn in by the daily witness of faith lived by my PND teachers…they lived what they taught: God is Love, and He loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.

Through many prayer experiences, I have learned that the Lord is not trying to hide His will from us – He wants us to figure it out. As I deepened my devotion to praying the Holy Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I came to know the unique way that the Lord speaks to my heart. These prayers are a journey on which the Lord and Our Lady take us – “come and see” for yourself (John 1: 39). Our beloved St. John Paul II tells us that “life with Christ is a wonderful adventure….Be not afraid to open wide the doors of your heart to Christ!” So I did – I allowed the Lord to change my mind; He invited me to a life of oblative love and service as a Religious Sister, and I accepted His proposal.

PND is a family. I came to understand this reality much more during my 18 years as a PND teacher than in my four short years as a student. I grew to learn that our faith is deeply rooted in our identity. It is the core of who we are. Family is first at PND. After serving in the diocese of Peoria, I became a Religious Sister as a Servant of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Currently, I am the Associate Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Orlando on the campus of the University of Central Florida.

Rachel Kottoor, PND’18

Since I had the undeserved honor and grace to respond to my vocation at the age of eighteen, most of my formative years came from my high school experiences. That being said, Peoria Notre Dame was a home and school for me to learn to have an open heart and to listen to the Lord’s invitations of love for me. It gave me the space and opportunities to learn to strengthen and fortify all areas of my being, especially my spiritual life. From daily Masses, regular hours of Adoration, and the presence of Religious Sisters, Christ formed my heart to cooperate with His will and live a life of virtue and holiness. At PND, I encountered Christ’s love, allowed Him to transform my life, and transmitted His graces and love to my classmates and teammates. The Lord generously poured out graces during those years, and He continues His work of love!

Anna Lefante, PND’20

I think something that was such a great gift to me at PND was the great availability of the sacraments! Our schedule of daily Mass, weekly Adoration, and regular confession made it so simple for me to love the Lord. I also attribute much of my spiritual growth to the total availability of our sisters and campus ministers for spiritual direction and their disarming humanity, which allowed me to be comfortable in seeking answers to fundamental questions. I enjoyed my experiences on our pilgrimages and mission trips which allowed me to discover the gift of my charism and a home in my religious community. But ultimately, it was the fact that Christ was made available and accessible to students in the day-to-day moments which truly impacted me and for which I am unendingly grateful.

Almighty and eternal God, in your unfailing love you provide ministers for your Church. We pray for those whom you call to serve the Church as priests and religious. Inspire in them a generous response. Grant them courage and vision to serve your people. May their lives and service call your people to respond to the presence of your Spirit among us that, faithful to the Gospel and hope of Jesus the Christ, we may: announce glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, set prisoners free, and renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Imagine spending your senior year watching YouTube or TikTok videos and coding them for their effectiveness in teaching personal finance or trigonometry. Or studying ballerina posts on Instagram to determine ways ballerinas with non-traditional body types can get accepted into the companies of their choice. Or determining whether new chess rules increase enjoyment for novice chess players.

Seniors at Peoria Notre Dame are currently researching these topics and more as part of their AP Research class, a course in which they conduct dissertation-like research by finding a gap in a chosen field, posing a research question to fill that gap, and conducting their own analyses and experiments. AP Research is the final course of the AP Capstone program, which is designed to help students think critically about real-world issues and solutions to them.

While the class sounds like a fun way for seniors to pursue their passions, students readily admit that the course challenges them in ways they’ve never been challenged. The course takes place in the fall and spring trimesters, bookending 12 weeks in the winter in which students conduct research on their own through surveys, experiments, narrative inquiries, and content analyses. The class culminates in a final paper, presentation, and oral defense in April.

“Research has empowered me to address a gap in research within a field of discipline and determine the best way to contribute new information to that field,” says senior AP Research student Juan Sanchez. “I feel prepared for college because I am now able to think critically about problems and the best ways to solve them with high-level research.”

Here are a few examples of student projects as described in their own words:

Gianna Vitale

My research examines new technologies that could be used to teach medical students to suture on synthetic skin. Through this research, I am developing an app that could be used in the future to lead hands-on experiences for potential medical students, introducing them to the medical field and granting them access to new information. I will be giving suturing lessons to students using different instructional materials and will then analyze those sutures to determine if students interested in medicine learn best when taught in an in-person environment, virtual setting, or via an app. I am interested in this topic as I am applying to college as a Biomedical Engineering/Chemical Engineering major and would love to develop new technologies for medicine in the future.

Luke Heberer

My research is examining ways to extend the shelf-life of Saj bread, a single-layered flatbread that is commonly eaten in the Middle East, and on which no research has been done. In my research, I will be adding the enzyme a-amylase and sourdough starter to loaves in an attempt to preserve shelf-life. Alpha-amylase breaks down long chains of starches, which are commonly thought to be the major cause of bread staling, into simple sugars. Sourdough starter contains lactic acid bacteria which produces chemicals, such as lactic acid, that lowers the pH of food products. The lower pH makes foods inhospitable environments for mold growth. Additionally, I will be packaging some breads with oxygen scavengers, which will decrease the oxygen content of the packaging and slow mold growth. I have partnered with a local company to use its machinery for bread tensile tests. Data acquired through tensile tests will allow me to quantify the changes in firmness the bread experiences over time and, hence, track its staling over time. I will also be watching each loaf for mold growth in order to determine the bread’s rate of mold growth.

John Finch

My research question asks, “To what extent do credible investing and retirement planning YouTube videos affect high school seniors’ financial literacy?” Ever since I came across personal finance YouTube videos, I have been obsessed with increasing my financial literacy to benefit my future. I anticipate my research will benefit the average American — who may be unaware of how to plan for retirement — and potentially the entire American economy. If YouTube proves to provide valuable advice for retirement planning, millions of Americans will have access to free, crucial information, ultimately leading to financial stability for individuals and the economy. I will initially perform a content analysis on the 20 most popular retirement planning YouTube videos and then test students’ financial literacy knowledge before and after watching the videos to determine if students learn from the financial advice given in the videos.

The mention of Homecoming Week may stir up memories of football games, pep rallies, or all-school Masses. But this year’s Homecoming Week looked a little different due to COVID-19. Despite the changes, the school’s heart was still happy that the tradition of a Homecoming Mass took place, along with honoring a few individuals who have served PND and the community in extraordinary ways.

A private Homecoming Mass for three award recipients and their immediate families took place in our Chapel on Sunday, October 4. Fr. Corey Krengiel, our school chaplain, presided at the Mass, and afteward, Sister Sara Kowal presented the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Distinguished Alumni Award, the Pillar Award, and the newly established General Wayne A Downing Public Service Award.

George J. Rothan, Jr., or “JJ,” has remained loyal to Catholic education throughout his life. JJ attended St. Philomena’s school in his early years, graduating in 1980. He then attended Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute where he earned the Mike McLaughlin Award which honors student athletes who display self-discipline, excellence in academics, and good citizenship.

After graduating from AOL/SI in 1984, JJ went on to attend St. Ambrose University where he met his wife, Marie. While a student there, JJ participated in numerous campus sports and activities, and he was the Student Government President his senior year.

JJ and Marie were married in November of 1989 and have two children, Maggie and George, who both attended Peoria Notre Dame. For 29 years JJ has been an assistant coach for the PND football program. For roughly 25 of those years he worked with the underclassman football program, either as an assistant or as head coach. JJ’s family members are long-time supporters of the Peoria Notre Dame Boosters Club.

It is not only Peoria Notre Dame, however, that has benefited from JJ Rothan’s volunteer efforts. He and his wife, Marie, have been members at St. Philomena for almost 31 years and JJ has been an active member of the parish’s Men’s Club and Building Club. JJ is also a Third-Degree Knight and a long-time member of the Knights of Columbus Spalding Council. He is also the president of Geo. J Rothan Co. which has been operational in Peoria for more than 147 years.

The Pillar Award, formally known as the Foundation Award, was presented to Dr. Phillip M. Adams for his outstanding leadership and support for the mission of PND. Hailing from Chicago, Dr. Adams received his medical degree at Loyola University and anesthesia training at Northwestern University. He moved to Peoria in 1978 and worked for Associated Anesthesiologists for 27 years caring for patients in all of the area hospitals and clinics. He served as president of Associated Anesthesiologists, chairman of the Anesthesia Department at St. Francis Medical Center, and on the Board of Directors of the Peoria Medical Society. He was also Medical Staff President of St. Francis Medical Center from 1990-1991, and served on the OSF Community Advisory Board.

He is a team member of the St. Francis Medical Center “No One Dies Alone” program, and a volunteer for OSF Hospice. Dr. Adams’ wife of 36 years, Barbara, passed away two years ago. Their daughters, Julia and Mary, graduated from Peoria Notre Dame in 2001 and 2002.

Dr. Adams has humbly beautified the school campus landscape planting new flowers and greenery and regularly tutored students after school for five years.

The first recipient of the General Wayne A. Downing Public Service Award is Colonel Joanne E. (Bousky) MacGregor. COL MacGregor graduated from the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute in 1986.

MacGregor holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Eastern Illinois University, a Master of Arts in Military Strategic Studies from the Air Force Senior Service College, and a Master of Science in Business Administration from the University of the Incarnate Word.

In 2000, MacGregor entered active duty in the Texas Army National Guard. She served as the 1st female Commander for the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 36th Infantry Division. Throughout her career, she also served in various roles for the Texas Military Department including Chief of Staff, Director of Public Affairs, and Deputy Director of Government Affairs. She was the 1st Female UH-60 Blackhawk Instructor Pilot in Texas, a Bronze Star recipient for leadership in combat, and a Legion of Merit award recipient for leadership and service.

Colonel MacGregor has two sons, Miles (18) and Evan (15). She recently retired from active service and is spending her time volunteering for an organization which assists the homeless and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.

Instead of dwelling on which initiatives we could not implement in the last few months, I am thankful for what we were able to accomplish for the sake of our students at Peoria Notre Dame. As a result, PND has continued to fulfill its mission of educating high school students in a Catholic environment.

What a joy it was to work with Patti (Lavin) Simmons, BHS’79, and announce the first recipient of the Randy Simmons Tuition Assistance Scholarship. Emery Ribordy, a member of St. Philomena Parish and School was thrilled and humbled when she learned of the honor while on a Zoom call with the Simmons family, Fr. David Richardson, pastor of St. Philomena, Mr. Jack Dippold, principal of St. Philomena, and Sister Sara Kowal, SCTJM, our principal.

As a result of the leadership of chair Tim Cassidy, BHS’73, and the hard-working committee, our 24th Golf Classic took place on September 10 at WeaverRidge Golf Club. And not only did it take place, but we broke records for the number of golfers and money raised. We appreciate all of the sponsors, donors, and participants and appreciate everyone’s understanding as we needed to make some adaptations due to COVID prevention protocols. The outing concluded with dinner and a program. On behalf of our current students, President of Student Government, Olivia Ludolph, thanked all of the participants. Our men’s golf coach Ryan Julius also said a few words and brought Peoria Notre Dame’s state golf championship trophy with him. And, our special guest was Bishop Lou Tylka, our new co-adjutor bishop. Can we top this year’s Golf Classic? You bet! We look forward to next year’s Golf Classic on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 when we will host our event for the 25th consecutive year.

We also recently offered a meeting via Zoom for tax preparers and individuals wanting to learn more about the Empower Illinois

Tax Credit Scholarship Program. If you pay IL state income tax, you qualify for this program which allows you a 75% credit on your state income tax when you donate funds to be used for scholarships by K-12 students in IL private schools. We have 80+ students on our current waiting list for Empower Illinois scholarships. If you would like more information on providing assistance to these students, please reach out to the Empower Illinois Donor Helpline (800-616-7606 or donors@empowerillinois.org), or visit their website at Empowerillinois.org. You can also contact me at c.dermody@pndhs.org or 309-691-8741 x 248.

There are also additional charitable gift giving incentives through the CARES Act for 2020. These involve qualified charitable distributions from an IRA, an “above the line” adjustment to income which will reduce your Adjusted Gross Income and consequently, your taxable income, and a new 100 percent AGI limit for cash gifts to public charities by those who itemize. Ask your accountant for more details.

We look forward to drawing daily winners from our 12 Days of Christmas Cash & Car Raffle. If you are on Facebook, you can follow us each day at Peoria Notre Dame when we will announce the lucky winners live from our school Commons. Will we draw your name for a cash prize? Will you be given the keys to a new car? You will only know if you buy a ticket. Remember, your support is key to PND!

At this point, we do not know the format of our Blue & Green Gala, but save the date of the first day of spring, March 20, 2021. We are making plans to allow more people to participate by providing virtual options. Whether you live in Central Illinois or elsewhere, please contact Tara Shane, our Alumni and Events Coordinator, (t.shane@pndhs.org or 309-691-8741 x 225 ) if you would like to help.

With hope and prayer, we look forward to the day when we can host in-person events. In the meantime, know that you have our prayers for your health and happiness.

Cindy Dermody, Director of Development

Now more than ever, your support of Peoria Notre Dame is essential to keeping Catholic secondary education available to students in the Peoria area. And now it’s even easier for you to become a part of the important mission of educating students through a Catholic lens.

Become a Twelve Star Supporter of PND by signing up for our monthly giving program! Instead of writng a check, finding an envelope, adding a stamp, and taking it to the mailbox, you will enjoy the convenience of giving on a monthly basis through your guarded credit or debit card or EFT.

Whether you can give $5 per month, $20 per month, or $50 per month, your dollars will easily and conveniently come to the school to directly impact the students at Peoria Notre Dame. Those who contribute at a level of $83 or more per month ($1,000+ annually) will be deemed a Grand Star Supporter, meaning that you are helping Peoria Notre Dame grow in a grand way!

Why did we choose the names Twelve Star Supporter and Grand Star Supporter? First, because the 12 stars remind us of the 12 stars in Mary’s heavenly crown. With Our Lady as the patroness of our school, we want to honor her in a special way through this program. Second, because there are 12 months in a year, and we hope you will consider a monthly donation to PND.

More information about becoming a Twelve Star Supporter will be provided in our Annual Appeal mailing. You can join now by visiting PeoriaNotreDame.com/support-our-school/ or by completing the enclosed envelope. If you have any questions about this convenient way to support Catholic secondary education in Central Illinois, please contact Tara Shane, our Alumni Director at t.shane@pndhs.org or 309-691-8741.

  • Pamela (Arnett) Tompkins, BHS’87, died 12/9/2019
  • Doris (Van Pelt) Hoerdemann, AOL’49, died 12/21/2019
  • Monica Vogel, BHS’74, died 12/21/2019
  • Duane Thomas Maloney, SI’57, died 12/22/19
  • Joseph Dolan, SI’52, died 12/28/2019
  • Patricia (Whalen) Terrini, AOL’51, died 1/1/2020
  • Donna (Harding) Miller, AOL’60, died 1/6/2020
  • Mary Suzanne “Molly” Menefee-Donner, AOLSI’83, died 1/14/2020
  • David Pickerill, SI’63, died 1/18/2020
  • John “Jack” Pio, SI’59, died 2/1/2020
  • Elizabeth “Betty” Zorzi, AOL’44, died 2/5/2020
  • Kathleen (Nader) Dixon, BHS’70, died 2/7/2020
  • Dr. Lee Hammond, SI’50, died 2/12/2020
  • Patricia (Debbout) White, AOL’60, died 2/12/2020
  • Mary (Fortune) Ringness Sherwood, AOL’58, died 2/16/20
  • Mary Kay (Murray) Crocker, AOL’61, died 2/17/2020
  • Dr. John F. Shea, SI’59, died 2/19/2020
  • Margret “Mary” (McGann) Irwin, AOL’43, died 2/28/2020
  • Randall Kilmer, SI’62, died 3/15/20
  • James D. Uhll, Jr., SI’57, died 4/10/20
  • Sister Mechtild (Nora Jean) Swearingen O.S.B., AOL’41, died 4/23/20
  • James D. Kelly, SI’48, died 4/29/20
  • James F. Faley, BHS’67, died 4/30/20
  • Joyce (Litterst) Cashman, AOL’58, died 5/1/20
  • Carol (Hadank) Volpe, AOL’60, died 5/4/20
  • Hylee F. Kemp, SI’55, died 5/9/20
  • Margaret (Bour) Fulton, AOL’66, died 5/10/20
  • Sr. Anne Newcomer, O.S.B., AOL’47, died 5/15/20
  • Matthew J. Ryan, III, BHS’74, died 5/27/20
  • Jean M. Schultz Weed, AOL’53, died 5/29/20
  • Jacqueline Curley Chasco, AOL’50, died 5/31/20
  • Will Charles Flynn, PND’23, died 6/16/20
  • Marlene (Stephens) Kelly, AOL’60 6/18/20
  • Paul Mitsules, SI’56, died 6/24/20
  • Valerie J. Kratzert Franks, AOL’47, died 6/27/20
  • Fr. Thomas F. Kelly, SI’48, died 6/30/20
  • Robert Poppen Jr., SI’52, died 7/3/20
  • Edward T. O’Connor Jr., SI’51, died 7/4/20
  • Gerald “Jerry” T. Wombacher, SI’47, died 7/8/20
  • Mary Helen Oktanski Runkle, AOL’46, died 7/9/20
  • Barbara Mae Callahan Reilly, AOL’48, died 7/12/20
  • Julie Rogy Linne, AOL’68, died 7/16/20
  • David A. DeBoeuf, BHS’80, died 7/20/20
  • Dane C. Borho, BHS’67, died 7/20/20
  • Joan Miller, AOL’75, died 7/31/20
  • Donan “Don” J. Faulkner, SI’55, died 8/3/20
  • Lynn (Marilyn) Crilly Lee, AOL’54, died 8/17/20
  • Bette Grimm, AOL’59, died 8/21/10
  • Richard Scheirer, SI’63, died 8/24/20
  • Ronald Carter, SI’63, died 9/6/20
  • Dianna Perry Bailey, AOL’65, died 9/10/20
  • Elias “Alvin” O’Neal, SI’69, died 9/2/20
  • Sr. Mary Ann (Wilberta) Heyd, O.P., AOL’49, died 9/6/20
  • Charles Leucht, SI’47, died 9/17/20
  • Nancy L. Kitlan Kerker, AOL’58, died 9/26/20
  • Carol A. Langenberg Booth, AOL’57, died 9/27/20
  • Elizabeth A. Waugh Lehnhausen, AOL’38, died 10/7/20
  • Denise R. Marliere Dunphy, BHS’84, died 10/9/20

Nicholas Root (PND’14) & Johnnie Eagan wed July 11, 2020 at Saint Anne’s Catholic Church in Seal Beach, CA.

Carl Genzel (PND’03) & Meghan Brignadello (PND‘08) wed on July 25, 2020 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

Tim (PND’97) and Rebecca Speck welcomed John Paul Fulton Speck on July 7, 2020.

David (PND’07) & Kayla Rudolph welcomed Stephen James Rudolph on March 7, 2020.

Brian & Kathryn (Skender) Lavin (both PND’05) welcomed Owen Joseph Lavin July 21, 2020.

Kaleb and Amanda (Cicciarelli) Campbell (PND’07) welcomed Logan Joseph Campbell on April 23, 2020.

After a successful Fund-a-Need campaign in the spring, PND was able to raise nearly $60,000 to put towards a sorely needed new school bus. The new bus includes seating for a maximum of 72 passengers and offeres undercarriage storage for sports equipment and band instruments. Thank you to all of the donors who donated to the bus Fund-a-Need! Approximately $16,000 more is needed to cover the cost of the bus. If you would like to contribute to the bus fund, please contact Cindy Dermody at c.dermody@pndhs.org.

A renovation of the outdoor concession stand was spearheaded by Pat Smarjesse and the St. Phil’s Mens Club in memory of Rick Schuler, Dean Hirstein, Sean Gillen, and Randy Simmons...all members of St Phil’s who were special to the PND family. The outdated building was completely gutted and outfitted with new walls, stainless steel countertops, wash bins, and lighting. Service windows were placed on each side of the concession building to serve both the football and track fields as well as the baseball fields. Bathrooms attached to the adjacent shed were also updated during the project. Thank you to the St Phil’s Mens Club and businesses who gave in-kind donations to make the renovation possible. We are hoping to utilize the updated building for spring sports!

Now PND has a dedicated hall just to honor our alumni. Alumni Hall houses all of the composite pictures dating back to AOL’s class of 1895.

In addition, one wall in the school is now devoted to our most distinguished alumni, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. With photos and a timeline of his life, students are able to learn more about Ven. Sheen and remember to ask for his intercession.

We hope to be able to invite you into the building again soon to see these exciting new changes.

In addition to taking care of all the increased computer and technology needs that came with the challenges of educating students during a pandemic, our tech department managed to design and publish a brand new website which features the news and events happending around the school, offers ways to get involved, and even showcases a virtual tour of the school.

Stay Connected!

Just as Tim Speck (PND’97) stays connected with PND, we want to hear about YOUR important life events! Please send wedding or baby announcements, or changes in jobs or addresses to Tara Shane at t.shane@pndhs.org.


Cover by Daryl Wilson