Sister Rosemaron Rynn, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Scranton, Pennsylvania, is retiring this year after serving for 24 years as the principal of Little Flower School in Bethesda. Prior to that, she was a teacher and administrator in schools in Baltimore and New York, and at St. John the Evangelist in Clinton.
While at Little Flower, Sister Rosemaron led the school as it received two Blue Ribbon Awards for academic excellence from the U.S Department of Education – one in 2008 and one in 2017. But the accomplishment that she is perhaps most proud of is seeing the people she once knew as little kids grow up to achieve their life goals.
“When they are little ones, you can’t predict what their future is gong to be, but they have great things in store for them,” she said. “…You see youngsters go through the grades and you wonder what path they will take.”
Attending Catholic school gives them “preparation for life,” she said, because in addition to the academics, the school tries to teach them life skills like how to be kind, caring, and patient individuals, who will one day “take their place in community and society.”
“There is a lot of life beyond school,” she said. “…Life is just a string of making decisions.”
When the school’s graduates are faced with those life decisions, Sister Rosemaron said she hopes their time at the school has prepared them to make good ones that incorporate Christian values.
While it takes a long time for the students who begin in Pre-K to grow up to be the adults who will make those decisions, Sister Rosemaron said teachers can also find satisfaction in the smaller markers of success along the way, like the moment when the light bulb of understanding goes off in a student’s head, when they come in with a trophy from athletics, or as they watch them perform on stage.
In the long term, Sister Rosemaron said she has the opportunity to see many of the school’s alumni around the parish after they graduate, and they sometimes return to tell her they have gone on to become doctors, work on Capitol Hill, or pursue other careers that contribute to society. When she hears about these former students achieving their goals, she said she likes to reflect back on what they were like in Pre-K, versus what they are like now.
“Lots of good people have walked through these doors and left their imprint on the hearts of those of us who worked with them,” said Sister Rosemaron.
One of these graduates that she watched grow up is five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who often mentions Little Flower School and Sister Rosemaron when asked about important influences in her life. In a recent interview with the Washingtonian, she noted how she always tries to visit her alma maters, Little Flower and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, when she is in town.
“The teachers and administrators at those schools were so great to me, and the schools were so well run – by people like Sister Rosemaron at Little Flower and Catherine Ronan Karrels, Malcolm McCluskey, and Connie Mitchell at Stone Ridge,” she said in that interview with the Washingtonian.
After competing in the Olympics, Ledecky went to visit the convent at Little Flower and Sister Rosemaron and the other sisters there had the opportunity to wear her gold medals.
“She would be a role model even if she wasn’t an Olympian,” said Sister Rosemaron.
Throughout Sister Rosemaron’s time at Little Flower, some things have developed, like updating the curriculum, while others have remained constant, like the school’s building and its identity as a parish school.
“The building itself is one thing, but what makes it vibrant is the people who come through,” she said. “The mortar, brick and cinderblock doesn’t make it a great school, it is the students, teachers and parents.”
Sister Rosemaron noted the support of the parish priests, such as Little Flower’s pastor, Msgr. Peter Vaghi, and the school’s parents, who all work together to make the school a supportive community.
“When you have people who are motivated and working in the same direction, it makes for a good experience,” she said.
Msgr. Vaghi said they will miss Sister Rosemaron’s friendship and the wisdom she brings to the school from her 24 years of experience.
“She is untiringly involved and committed to the students and to their formation,” said Msgr. Vaghi.
In addition to her academic leadership, Msgr. Vaghi said Sister Rosemaron acted as a spiritual leader for the school.
“The faith is very much an integral part of who she is,” he said. ”Part of what she has shared over the years is helping to build up faith.”
The school has been run by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since its founding in 1953, and Sister Rosemaron said she has known all of the sisters who previously served there.
“You stand on the shoulders of the people who go before you,” she said. “They laid the foundation. All we are doing is preserving it and helping it move forward.”
The school’s next principal, Loretta Favret, is not a religious sister, but the sisters will remain in the parish and continue to play a role in the school. Favret attended Catholic schools growing up and has spent most of her career working in the Montgomery County Public School System.
“She brings a lot of talent, and she’ll be welcomed warmly,” said Sister Rosemaron.
Little Flower School embodies the welcoming and caring spirit of the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious congregation, which Sister Rosemaron said she sees in the way that families at the school support each other when they are going through difficult times.
“It is something you live and breathe and permeates you as a person,” she said. “It extends to the community you try to develop and encourage.”
Sister Rosemaron said she will miss being around so many children every day and being in the school where there is always something going on.
“Each day brings its own new challenges,” she said. “God has given me the grace to have my good health to meet them…It is the rhythm of your life really, so I’ll just have to play a different tune.”
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