Triumph of the Cross

Kellenberg chaplain Father Thomas Cardone, S.M., leads the Triumph of the Cross prayer service.


On September 14 the whole Kellenberg Memorial family along with St. Martin de Porres Marianist School triumphantly welcomed in the 2010-2011 school year with the annual feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Every year Kellenberg celebrates this prayer service on or around the Church’s September 14 feast day for the Triumph of the Cross. This is also known as the “Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross” and “The Elevation of the Cross.”

This feast in the Church is actually commemorated as an anniversary of when St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, found the true cross in her search around Jerusalem for the holy places of Christ’s life in the early fourth century. During one excavation workers found three crosses and legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

Today the cross is the universal image of Christian belief. Generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty which is carried in procession or worn as jewelry. To the first Christians though, the cross was not seen in this way. It stood outside too many city walls ornamented with the threat of the punishment they would receive if they defied Rome’s authority. It was looked at with fear rather than admiration. Kellenberg’s chaplain, Father Thomas Cardone S.M. talked about the cross in this sense. “The cross is the central image of our faith and we celebrate this feast of what looked like defeat to the people witnessing His passion at the time but to us proves Christ’s victory for all people as He conquers sin and death on the cross with His rising from the dead.”

The prayer service took place in front of the building near the school’s crucifix which was designed in 1997 by Yan Rieger. This breathtaking depiction welcomes students, faculty, and family as they enter the building every day and serves as a reminder of one of the focuses of our school, our spiritual program. It is said that placing a crucifix in churches, homes, Catholic schools, or wearing the image is a witness of Christ’s ultimate triumph over sin and death through his suffering and dying on the Cross.

Many faculty and students work hard to make this prayer service such a success and as Father Tom wanted to point out, it is truly a “group effort,” from Mr. Basile and the Gregorian Consortium who provided the music; to Mr. Finn and the ARK staff who organized the distribution of the spiritual keepsakes everyone received (a prayer card and a wooden cross necklace); to the assistance from the moderators and members of S.A.L.T and the many other hard workers who made it a wonderful, peaceful morning.

Kellenberg’s entire student body along with the students from grades 1-8 of St. Martin de Porres were joined by a number of family members at the opening prayer service. Noreen O’Reilly, mother of Kellenberg senior Olivia Wynn, reflected on the service: “The Triumph of the Cross was a beautiful way for parents and students to begin a new school year and reaffirm our belief that our faith is at the center of our intellectual and personal development.” Sixth grader Olivia Brennan shared her first Triumph of the Cross experience: “I was moved by the fact that both Kellenberg and St. Martin celebrated the feast together as the Marianist community. It was a great way to start the school year off and for me and my friends to be welcomed into the school. I am looking forward to more prayer services like that in my future years at Kellenberg.”

This year, the memory of Kellenberg’s Triumph of the Cross prayer service will be bittersweet because it was the last school-wide event that Father Francis Keenan S.M. celebrated with his beloved school community before he passed away less than a week later on September 20. He cherished prayer services and events that got the whole student body together. Having him there at the Triumph of the Cross one last time was almost God’s way of letting him be a part of one of his favorite occasions with the people who loved him so dearly before he got to go up to heaven, where he longed to be with his siblings, mom and to ‘see the face of Jesus’ as he always spoke about.

He loved the comic ‘Ziggy’ by Tom Wilson and would always say different motivational or inspirational quotes from them. One of his favorites really sums up how much we all appreciated having him at the Triumph of the Cross: “Enjoy the here and now, because it is only here now!” He was a man of enormous faith and taught everyone who ever came into his path something. After celebrating his 59th year of consecrated life in September, and after many years of dedication to the Marianist schools, he will be greatly missed by everyone who ever knew him.

Each year the members of the Kellenberg Memorial Family come together for the Triumph of the Cross essentially bearing their own crosses to celebrate this one feast when we remember that Jesus carried His cross to ease those burdens for us. We can find hope in the fact that one day we will be with Him and can thank Him, just as Father Francis is doing for all of us now.

Juliana Restivo is a senior at Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale.