Mount St. Joseph Academy ‘honors the spirit of St. Joseph in everything we do’
The Year of St. Joseph carries special significance for the community at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland, the only Catholic school in the Diocese of Burlington named for him.
“St. Joseph is our patron saint and the patron of the Catholic Church who stands watch over our
school. St. Joseph, the husband of Our Lady, represents honest, hard work and family. We
honor the spirit of St. Joseph in everything we do on a daily basis,” said Principal Mike Alexander.
To mark the Year of St. Joseph, the school community plans to celebrate his feast days in March and May as well as focus on St. Joseph in religion classes.
“I think MSJ honors its namesake in teaching students the importance of humility, hard work and dedication in all things,” commented Sally Hogan, a member of the Class of 2015, now the art teacher and Title 1 tutor. “These are all qualities and ideals that can be seen in and applied to the life of St. Joseph.”
According to Bill Bruso, enrollment coordinator, Mount St. Joseph Academy’s beginnings are “inextricably tied” to the founding of the Sisters of St. Joseph Rutland community. “Almost from the moment they arrived, the sisters began the task of building schools to serve the community, starting with St. Peter School and, in 1882, the all-girls Mount St. Joseph Academy.”
The core mission of MSJ — which is a coeducational high school — remains the same as the intentions of the women who began the academy more than 125 years ago: to educate the whole person in mind, body and spirit. “True to this mission is the continued belief that a Mount St. Joseph Academy education should remain accessible to all who desire a challenging Catholic educational experience,” he said. The MSJ tradition continues with award-winning drama opportunities, a burgeoning music program and a full schedule of varsity team sports.
The school also welcomes students from outside the United States. “My family has hosted almost every year since my older siblings attended MSJ, and I have made some amazing friends and learned about a lot of different perspectives that I otherwise wouldn’t have,” said junior Ellie Tracy.
The school has hosted students from Vietnam, China, South Korea, Thailand, Germany, Spain, Colombia and Brazil.
Tracy also likes the small class sizes “as it makes it easier to make friends and get to know people and easier to get academic help from teachers,” she said.
In fact, the school’s small size — 70 students — is something many consider a positive attribute.
“The environment is more like a family than a school,” Alexander said. “I have come to learn that Mount St. Joseph is a very special place for everyone — students, families, faculty, staff and alumni.”
For Hogan, the “biggest selling point” for MSJ is the small size and the close-knit community:
“It allows the students to have more attention in the classroom and with extracurricular activities and closer bonds with peers, faculty and staff. Knowing they are not just a number and have people that care makes students feel safe and comfortable, creating a positive environment they want to be part of, be engaged and succeed in.”
It was at the school that she learned the essential skills and disciplines needed to be successful upon entering higher education and the workforce, things like time management, work ethic and personal accountability. “MSJ also teaches you the importance of striving for excellence and having dedication to your community, both at school and in the surrounding community,” she said.
Indeed, community service is something Tracy too appreciates about her school. “There’s a big focus on helping the community, especially around Christmastime with Project Help (that provides food to people in need). Also this year, my religion class has been focusing on social and moral issues and having group discussions that I think are really important and beneficial,” she said.
“Mount St. Joseph Academy is well acknowledged for its rigorous academics in preparing students for postsecondary education, outstanding sports programs, spiritual enrichment and service to the community,” Bruso said. “Students at MSJ demonstrate pride, dedication and excellence in their school work, co-curricular activities and athletics, while making a real difference in their community.”
And having religion incorporated into her education “definitely strengthened” Hogan’s faith and gave her a stronger foundation in the subjects of history and literature.
But without the “unwavering support of dedicated alumni,” Mount St. Joseph Academy would not be able to provide the experience currently enjoyed by students. “It’s that simple,” alexander said. “Monetary and in-kind donations and gifts are crucial to our success and represent the foundation of our ability to support every one of our students and their families.
And without the Sisters of St. Joseph “our school would not exist,” he continued. “We continue to honor the legacy of the sisters by our commitment to the success of our students and our school. … Generations of alumni and current students owe their success to … the
Sisters of St. Joseph due to the foundation formed at Mount St. Joseph Academy.”
For more information about MSJ, go to msjvermont.org.
—Originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.