Addiction Recovery Expert James DiReda Addresses National Recovery Month



(Paxton, MA) – September 23, 2020 – James DiReda, LICSW, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work in the School of Professional Studies at Anna Maria College, and partner at Lake Ave Recovery in Worcester, MA (, discusses addiction in response to September being recognized as National Recovery Month. Dr. DiReda is the co-author of The East Side of Addiction, a story of himself and co-authors Hank Grosse and Jack Maroney, kids from Worcester’s East Side, as they struggled for two decades to confront addiction and embrace recovery.


Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has added enormous challenges for people in recovery. How are clinicians and recovery resource providers continuing to address these needs?

DiReda: Due to the restrictions, limitations, and fear around social distancing as a result of COVID-19, clinical providers that I am familiar with have opted to conduct telehealth sessions with those seeking services, or some other variation of virtual service delivery, including phone, computer, and platforms like Zoom or Go to Meeting.  The clinicians and staff at programs that I have spoken to report that the amount of people seeking services has not dropped at all, and in fact, has increased, along with improved “no-show” rates, due to cancellations or folks simply not showing up for appointments. It appears many individuals seeking treatment like the convenience of the virtual service delivery format, and many, consumers and providers, request to continue using the virtual format.


Q: Prior to COVID-19, the societal crisis that had our attention was substance abuse and addiction. That crisis hasn’t dissipated. With increased stress and isolation due to COVID-19, what’s the state of substance abuse and addiction in the region?

DiReda: Anecdotally, what I am hearing is that the rates of substance use, addiction has risen, but I don’t know the exact numbers as that data is fairly fluid at present.  As a result of the restrictions placed upon individuals and organizations due to COVID, treatment programs have had to tailor their programs regarding capacity of individuals they serve, how staff are limited in their ability and desire to be onsite and work with people in close proximity. This has impacted the number of people receiving treatment at any given time, leaving many with substance use disorders going untreated, furthering their isolation and lack of connection to treatment or mutual support groups like NA, AA, etc., thus making it harder for those addicted to seek recovery supports.


Q: Anna Maria College has several areas of study for students interested in mental health and careers related to treating those affected by substance abuse. Where are Anna Maria graduates employed and how does Anna Maria prepare students for these difficult but critically important jobs?

DiReda: Anna Maria College offers training and education to students in a variety of professions and disciplines, including social work, psychology, nursing, law enforcement, and others. When students graduate, and go on to join the workforce, regardless of discipline or profession, they are likely to encounter individuals with substance use disorders. The inclusion of courses on substance use, the Minor in Addiction Studies, and the soon to be Major in Addiction Studies is designed to teach students about substance use and substance use disorders so when they do encounter people experiencing related problems, they will be better equipped to interact with those individuals, engaging them rather than alienating or shaming them, and hopefully, assist them access the services needed.


Q: In what other ways can higher education be a part of the addiction and recovery support network?

DiReda: Anna Maria College also has a very prominent presence in the local community as an institution that is at the forefront of this issue, and has worked closely over the past four years with community members and constituencies as part of our Round Table Group, whose focus is on helping agencies, organizations, students, faculty, community members and others better understand substance use disorders, and what is being done to address them. Also, Anna Maria College works closely with treatment programs, funding sources, and providers who offer treatment and education around substance use to develop relationships. Through these relationships, Anna Maria College students have been able to secure Field Placements to intern at those agencies as part of their academic training, learning in the field about substance use disorders under direct supervision of those providing services.  We also have had students develop and host annual conferences focusing on substance use disorders and offered a speaker series of experts in the field of substance use to come to Anna Maria College and share their expertise.


Q: Back to September being National Recovery Month. What do you want people to know about addiction and recovery?

DiReda: What we want people to know is that: people with substance use disorders/addictions are first and foremost human beings. They are someone’s mother, father, sister, and brother, etc. Also, we want people to know that individuals with addictions CAN and DO recover!  They can change and get better, but they need help, which is why it is paramount that we understand this sickness, and to also know what helps and what doesn’t. We want people to take the time to learn about this illness. And lastly, to please not judge, shame, those afflicted with this illness. Although individuals make a choice to initially drink or use drugs, NO ONE ever wants to become addicted.


About Anna Maria College

Located just outside of Worcester in Paxton, MA, Anna Maria College is a private, co-educational institution inspired by the ideals of the Sisters of Saint Anne. We prepare students to become ethical leaders by combining a values-based, service-focused education with strong functional knowledge and the skills necessary to address the rapidly changing needs of their world. Anna Maria delivers undergraduate and graduate degrees along with certificate programs on campus and online. For more information, visit

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Anna Maria College’s Master of Social Work Program Granted Accreditation Through 2024



(Paxton, MA) – August 12, 2020 – The Anna Maria College Master of Social Work program received initial accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). CSWE’s Commission of Accreditation granted the accreditation through June 2024.

“We are excited about this accreditation and recognition of the Master of Social Work program at Anna Maria College,” said Christine Holmes, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The social services are critical professions in our communities and ones where caring, well-rounded advocates can truly make a difference. Our goal with this program is to help students take classes towards their degree while also placing them in a variety of social service organizations to give them real world experience with diverse and at-risk communities.”

The Master of Social Work program is designed to prepare graduate students for advanced generalist practice with diverse populations. Rooted in the vision of the Sisters of St. Anne and the professional social work tradition, the program seeks to educate and train students to become skilled advocates and agents of social change who, through ethical practice, will advance the opportunities, resources and capacities of individuals and communities both locally and globally.

Anna Maria College’s MSW program has Full-time, Part-time and Advanced Standing degree options to accommodate student’s schedules: Full-time consists of 62 credits completed full-time in two years, including summer courses; Part-time: 62 credits typically completed in four years, including summer courses; and Advanced Standing: Applicants who already have a BSW degree from a CSWE accredited program may qualify for Advanced Standing Placement of 30+ credits completed Full-time over three semesters (Summer, Fall, and Spring) or Part-time in two years.

To enroll in the Anna Maria College MSW program or to find further information visit:

CSWE is a national organization that represents social work education in the United States. The members of the organization include over 750 accredited baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs, as well as individual social work educators, practitioners and agencies devoted to advancing social work education.


About Anna Maria College

Located just outside of Worcester in Paxton, MA, Anna Maria College is a private, co-educational institution inspired by the ideals of the Sisters of Saint Anne. We prepare students to become ethical leaders by combining a values-based, service-focused education with strong functional knowledge and the skills necessary to address the rapidly changing needs of their world. Anna Maria delivers undergraduate and graduate degrees along with certificate programs on campus and online. For more information, visit

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9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

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Written by Maureen Halley

In an annual tribute, members of the Anna Maria College community gathered on September 11, 2020 to reflect on the 2,977 innocent lives lost in the devastating terror attacks 19 years ago. Held on the Campus quad at 8:30 a.m., Deacon Jack Franchi, a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant (SMS), welcomed guests with a prayer. Remarks were delivered by Dr. James Carritte, Director of Fire Science Program. The Fireman’s Prayer was recited, which was followed by the “Ringing of the Bell”. The bell, struck in three increments of three rings, symbolizes that the fallen have come home for the final time. A moment of silence was observed at 8:46 a.m. Anna Maria’s 9/11 tribute ceremony can be viewed online. The National Anthem was sung by Emily Kropo '23.


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How St. Anne Got Me a Job

How St Anne Got Me My Job

The fresco of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Virgin Mary in The Cathedral by Boccaccio Boccaccino (1466 - 1525)


Written by Melissa LaNeve, Director of Campus Ministry at Anna Maria College

This past Sunday, July 26th, marked the feast of Saints Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus. Last Thursday, July 23rd, we celebrated the feast day early with a Mass in gratitude and honor of our college’s patron saint, Anne.

Shortly before getting my job at Anna Maria, I had begun to form a relationship with St. Anne through prayer. I had been told she was a great saint to reach out to if you needed help growing in patience among many other things. At that time in my life, three years ago, I had just graduated with my Master’s degree, and with no job openings in site I was not so patiently waiting to find a job in ministry. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask for some additional patience. So, on July 17th I began to pray a nine day novena prayer to St. Anne that would end on her feast day, July 26th.

Around the time I began the novena, I saw a posting for the position at Anna Maria in a Facebook group... nowhere else... not even on the school’s website... just on Facebook. After looking into the school and praying over it, I decided to apply. I submitted my application on Thursday, July 20th. I got an email back that day asking me to come in for an interview on the following Monday. On Monday, July 24th I interviewed at the college. I realized during the interview that I would be the only full-time member on the Campus Ministry staff, with my boss being the Director and Chaplain but only working part time. This made me hesitant about whether I really wanted the position or not. It seemed like a lot of work and responsibility for my first full-time ministry job (little did I know that a year later I would become the Director and sole Campus Ministry employee at that time). I kept bringing it back to prayer, especially to St. Anne in the novena. Each day, I grew more and more comfortable with the idea. Then, Thursday, July 27th, one day after St. Anne’s feast day, I got the call offering me the job! I was thrilled because I had been praying to St. Anne for patience and instead she gave me my dream job in a week. Mind you, nothing ever moves this quickly when applying for a job in higher education. (God sure does have a sense of humor!)

I reflect back on this time, and having just finished praying the novena to St. Anne again last week, I can see so many instances of her caring, grandmotherly guidance and love over my life these last three years. St. Anne has truly become one of my favorite saints and greatest confidants and I do not find it ironic at all that the college she led me to work at is under her patroness and protection! My prayer for all of us is to let go of our own timelines and desires, especially during this unprecedented time of uncertainty, and put them in the hands of our Lord, whether through a trusted saint or directly. Let us prove to the Lord that we trust Him over our own limited understanding and vision. Let us allow Him to guide each of us, and this entire college community, to be exactly where He wants us to so that we may do the work of His hands and feet in the most perfect way possible. Who knows, He may just surprise us and give us our dreams sooner than we think.

Thank you, St. Anne for hearing my prayers and for so lovingly bringing them to your daughter and grandson. Please continue to pray for me and Anna Maria College!


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Anna Maria College Announces Suspension of Fall Athletic Competition

AM sport full color Athletics

July 17, 2020

Worcester, MA…Today, with the health and safety of the AMCAT student-athletes, coaches and campus community being paramount, Anna Maria College has made the difficult decision to suspend fall athletics competition. This decision impacts football, equestrian, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. In making this decision, College leadership and athletic administrators explored all options and considered campus community safety protocols, current information on the pandemic and the guidance available from federal, state and local health authorities. There has been no decision made regarding the start date of winter practices and competition.

As an institution, Anna Maria deeply values the important role that varsity athletics brings to the educational journey of our students and to the campus experience. The athletic department and college remains strongly committed to providing all student-athletes with an athletic experience during the fall semester that will include athletic activities, strength and conditioning, and additional team-based activities within NCAA, state, federal and college health guidelines for all Anna Maria fall, winter and spring athletes.

As pertinent health information becomes available and guidance from the NCAA, GNAC and ECFC. The athletic department will work with the NCAA, GNAC and the ECFC to provide additional practices and competition for fall sports during the spring semester. Even though athletics may look different this coming fall, Anna Maria College, its athletic department, entire coaching staff and athletic trainers are committed to building an academic and athletic experience for our student-athletes that is as safe and robust as possible.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and campus community is always our priority,” said Joe Brady ’96, Director of Athletics. “Although we will not be participating in the traditional sense this fall, Anna Maria College and the athletic department will work hard to provide an environment that will improve the skills, performance and leadership of our student-athletes.”

Anna Maria College is currently engaged in planning for on-campus instruction and student life for the 2020-2021 academic year. The College acknowledges that the fall semester will be different in many respects due to the pandemic. As President Mary Lou Retelle stated in her July 2 communication, “restarting the on-campus experience must prioritize the safety of our students, faculty and staff and preserve the academic integrity of our programs.” This precept is guiding fall planning for all programs and activities.

Anna Maria College continues to work with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass. DPH) and the local Board of Health to monitor the situation locally. The College and the athletic department are also following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is providing general health and safety information on the coronavirus.


This section will be updated as more information becomes available (last updated 7/17/20 10:00 am at ET).

Will there be a full season of competition for fall sports?
Unfortunately, due to health and safety concerns, Anna Maria College teams will not participate in traditional varsity athletics competition during the fall semester. Student-athletes will be able to take part in athletic-related activities relevant to College and Commonwealth guidelines, as well as those outlined in the NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport. The athletic department is working on the athletic related plans for the fall and will be providing updates in the coming weeks.

When will I return to campus? What about preseason? 
Student-athletes that are permitted to stay on campus will arrive the week of August 17, 2020. Anna Maria College Residence Life will be sending more information about the phased move-in process. There will be no fall athletics preseason. 

Will fall sports have the opportunity to compete at a different time during the year? 
Anna Maria College and the athletic department are working with the NCAA, GNAC and ECFC to allow fall semester student-athletes to compete in the spring if health and safety guidelines permit competition. No decision has been made at this time regarding an alternative playing season for fall competition and there is currently no timetable for this decision. The athletic department will provide more information as it becomes available.

Will there be different rules for contact and non-contact sports? 
All sports will follow the recommendations of NCAA Sport Science Institute (SSI) Resocialization of collegiate sport recommendations regarding a return to campus and return to athletic activity.

When will students know about the plans for winter sports?
Decisions involving the start of winter intercollegiate athletic practice and competitions will be made at an appropriate time and will be informed by an evaluation of the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with the GNAC, NCAA and the college.

What will it look like to participate/practice this fall? 
Anna Maria College will follow the NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport, and any subsequent state, college and NCAA guidelines, as we begin athletic related activities this fall.

Will winter and spring teams take part in athletic related activity in the fall?
Yes. Winter and spring teams will follow NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport, and any subsequent NCAA guidelines, as we begin athletic related activities this fall.

Does practice include Strength and Conditioning?
The strength and conditioning staff will be working on plans to hold modified Strength & Conditioning sessions for student-athletes. The schedule will be different from past years to allow for increased sanitation and social distancing procedures as well as the use of outdoor spaces. Additional safety procedures will be communicated to student-athletes by the strength and conditioning staff.

If I attend all classes remotely for the fall semester will I be able to participate in fall athletic related activity?
No. You will not be in our testing regimen and will not be permitted to use campus facilities or take part in athletic activities, campus activities or utilize resources on campus for the fall semester. Note that services such as the Student Success Center, Library, and Counseling will be available remotely as will some student activities along with virtual athletic activities.

If I attend some classes remotely for the fall and are enrolled in on-ground/hybrid classes will I be able to participate in fall athletic related activity?
Yes. Whether you are a commuter or resident, you may use campus facilities and take part in other activities on campus including athletic related activity. Please work with your academic advisor or program director to identify and finalize classes you will take remotely.

If attending classes on-ground, in person (hybrid) according to my current schedule is action needed?
No action is needed. Remember to check your class schedule before the start of the semester (August 24th) to confirm the location of your classrooms as some may have changed for the purpose of social distancing.

Once the decision to take a class remotely is made will it remain in effect for the entire semester?
Yes, so that the classroom social distancing protocol can be followed. Remember to check your class schedule before the start of the semester (August 24th) to confirm the location of your classrooms as some may have changed for the purpose of social distancing.

If I am enrolled in on-ground classes and live off-campus can I still participate in athletic activities during the fall?
Yes. Student-athletes that are enrolled and not choosing to do their coursework/classes totally remote will be allowed to participate in athletic activities in the fall.

Will fall athletes who are residents still be housed together?
Yes. The guidelines from the State of Massachusetts ask colleges to cluster cohorts in housing whenever possible, and since fall athletes will continue to work out and do other activities together, there will be cohort housing of all fall athletes.

Student-Athlete Health Screenings and COVID-19 Testing
All health screenings for on-campus student-athletes will follow the procedures and testing protocol outlined in Anna Maria's 2020 Fall Planning Guide. Students will be given a baseline test at the start of the first fall term or upon arrival to campus, and asymptomatic community members will be tested at regular intervals.

Student-Athlete Clearance 
Much of the pre-participation process will be conducted online prior to in-person screenings in an effort to meet current health and safety standards and mitigate risk by reducing group gatherings and the amount of time needed for face-to-face meetings. The Sports Medicine staff will follow the phases outlined in the NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport guidelines for return to play.

Sports Medicine Operations
The Athletic Training Room will use telehealth and in-person appointment systems for evaluation, treatments, and rehabilitation of injuries/illness for both on-campus and off-campus student-athletes throughout the 2020-21 academic year. Care standards will remain the same, but could take longer due to capacity limits, daily screenings, temperature checks, and new safety procedures. Additional safety procedures will be communicated to student-athletes by the Sports Medicine staff.

Student-Athlete Personal Hygiene
Following reopening, student-athletes should continue to wash hands frequently and wear a mask. Student-athletes will be expected to follow all Commonwealth and College public health guidelines when entering the AMCAT Center and Fuller Activities Center

Fuller Activities Center/Fitness Center
The Anna Maria College Fuller Activities Center/Fitness Center remains closed at this time. The plan is for these facilities to reopen at the start of the academic year. The Fuller Activities Center/Fitness Center will open with new limited hours, capacity restrictions, and new entrance and exit traffic flow throughout the building. Capacity of the Fuller Activities Center/Fitness Center will be reduced and limited to on-campus students, faculty, and staff to allow for social distancing and increased sanitation efforts.

Fitness Center 
Once the Fitness Center reopens, it will open with reduced capacity and new cleaning procedures. Only on-campus students, faculty and staff will be able to utilize the fitness center during new limited hours, capacity limits and maximum time limits.    

Locker Rooms
At this time the locker rooms are not open and being evaluated as how they will be used during the fall to adhere to CDC, state, federal and college guidelines.

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Written by Kathy Menard, Assistant to Campus Ministry and Coordinator of Community Outreach


When I think of summer, many things come to mind; long lazy days at the beach, enjoying a hike, days of kids waking a little later in the morning, ice cream melting down the sides of your cone because it’s so hot outside that you can’t lick it fast enough to catch it all, car windows open to catch the breeze, day trips to state parks, roller coasters, slushies. I could go on and on. I think what I love most about the summer season though is the urge to slow down, to relax a little and enjoy the sun.

School is out so there is no mad rush in the morning. No scrambling to get lunches made and breakfasts eaten. No fighting to get homework done. I try not to schedule much at all during these two and a half months of school vacation. We all just need a break. We all just need to breathe.

In my almost 50 years of life I have learned many things. One of the most important is the need to slow down, to find some quiet time, to rest. I remember times where I was so busy that I was running from dawn to way past dark. I wore only getting three to four hours of sleep as a badge of honor. Who needs sleep?

I can’t say it was one event or one thought that caused me to rethink the way I was scheduling my life. And really, it was only recently that I discovered that I needed a little “summer” in each day. I have had others tell me many times that even God took a day of rest. My response was a running joke between myself and others that I volunteer with at church, “I’ll rest when I hit my coffin.” However, they are right! Even God desired rest.

I can’t be who or what God calls me to be unless I slow down and take time to rest, to refuel. Slowing down to connect with the Source of all life. Refueling on the energy of His love, experienced in the peace of all creation and in others by allowing myself to be held in the quiet of His embrace. Re-centering myself and my purpose on the love of God and others.

I realize that rest is not something I should look forward to only two months a year. It is now something I look for every day. It may not be a whole day off or a day to myself. It may not be a weeklong vacation. Some days I grab a few minutes here or a few minutes there. It could be when I look out the window and see the sunrise before I start my run, where I just take a deep breath and appreciate the view. This morning was one of those days. I looked out to the layers of colors and clouds in the sky as the sun was coming up. I took that deep breath and thanked God for the eyes that allowed me to see and the legs that were about to carry me outside to the beautiful morning. All a gift from God.

Sometimes my rest comes while spending time with my kids, playing games, watching a movie, going for a walk, or just sitting and talking. I need to take those times and allow them to happen more often. I have been trying to find more time each day for prayer, time for a conversation with God. Occasionally, I find myself just sitting in quiet, but I need to get better with those quiet times. I don’t usually last long in silence. Too many things to do, too many things to think about. I am still a work in progress.

I do look forward to the summer months every year. Maybe it is the longer days and the warmth of the sun that reminds me to take time to slow down. Maybe it is the kids on school vacation. What I know is that I need to find this “summer” feeling and make more time for it all year long. I need to slow down, to experience all that God has given me and find rest so I can faithfully continue on.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:1-2

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To Have and To Hold During a Pandemic

To Have and to Hold

Like many professional couples living and working through the coronavirus pandemic, class of 2011 husband and wife duo, Liz and Adam Martin have had to make some big adjustments in their daily lives.

Adam (Fire Science) and Liz Martin (Education) were taught to think on their feet and always prepare for the unexpected during their time at Anna Maria College. Adam is a Firefighter and Paramedic for the Northampton Fire Department. He has been working extra shifts throughout the pandemic to fill in for some of his colleagues who have contracted COVID-19. Liz teaches Kindergarten and First Grade at St. Michael’s School in Southern Vermont and was forced to quickly transition her entire curriculum to remote learning.

We recently had the opportunity to ask each of them a variety of questions about their experiences during COVID-19.Martin stacked pics


What has it been like working in your profession during the pandemic and how has it impacted or shifted your job duties?

Adam: As a Firefighter/Paramedic, we have had to change the way we respond to calls in different facilities. On every response I must wear a N95 or respirator mask. If the patient has a fever or difficulty breathing, I must wear a Tyvek suit. For Advanced Life Support level calls, the fire engine still responds, but responders stay in the truck unless needed in order to decrease the number of people exposed. Simple calls that have taken 15 minutes in the past now take upwards of an hour due to the decontamination that needs to be done before and after. We use a misting machine to spray the trucks with virus killing chemicals. After each call related to COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, the station is out of service until everyone can shower and put on a clean uniform, which could be anywhere from one to eight showers and laundry loads during a 24-hour shift.

Liz: After teaching for seven years, being told to switch to remote learning was both scary and very unknowing. In the beginning it was a day-by-day basis not knowing if we would return back to the classroom the next week. Eventually March 17 was our last day in the classroom. For my class, I sent a remote learning daily lesson plan every morning along with a message, conference hours on Zoom and the lesson plan for the rest of the week. As a teacher, this whole time has made me feel robotic. Teaching behind a computer is not what teaching is. It is a hands-on job, especially in the early elementary grades.

Can you share an example or story that best captures your job response during the pandemic?

Adam: On the fire side of the job, we are now wearing N95 masks on every automatic fire alarm and simply run of the mill calls because we must enter through people’s homes. We are still responding to every call, but have adjusted how we respond so that we protect both ourselves and those around us. And, we are limiting the number of responders in an emergency so there is more work with fewer hands.

Liz: During Teacher Appreciation Week our school sponsored a drive-by parade where families corralled, cheered and supported all the teachers and staff. At the end, two of my students wanted to hand me a present to say thank you and all I wanted to do was hug them. Instead, we exchanged an “air hug.” It hurts so much to not be able to be with my students every day. Seeing them blossom and grow at home is not the same as in the classroom.

In what ways did Anna Maria College prepare you for your profession?

Adam: The EMT class gave me a good base education on how to be successful on the ambulance and prepare me for paramedic school. My Fire and Management classes provided me with an understanding on the preparation that goes into all sorts of emergency planning. When I think about Anna Maria College, a couple of words that come to mind include success, preparedness and being a leader.

Liz: When I think about Anna Maria College, the words that come to mind include academics, faith and family. During my time at Anna Maria I learned that there are many types of learners in life and it is my job to teach in those ways even during this pandemic. Whether it is a cooking class for Social Studies or double-digit addition and subtraction, it’s about going the extra mile to show your students that you love them. The Catholic faith that is taught and shown throughout at Anna Maria helped me continue my faith journey in Catholicism and is why I continued my educational career at a Catholic institution. The friends, faculty, and staff that I met at Anna Maria have now become my best friends and family members and I have Anna Maria to thank for that.

Through all of the challenges you have faced, did you encounter a person or situation you found inspiring?

Adam: I was inspired by the leaders of my fire department. The Chief has made sure everyone is safe and has a surplus of PPE. Before the pandemic officially hit we were already responding to calls differently to ensure we got home safe. Because of the way they responded to acquiring PPE and implementing new standard operating procedures and guidelines, no one responding to calls in our department has gotten sick as of yet. 

Liz: This quote from Mother Theresa hit me hard during this pandemic and unknowing time: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” This is the love that I have attempted to spread to my own students. They know that the love and happiness they give me I give to them in return.

What advice would you give to future students entering your field?

Adam: Emergency services is always changing - from responses to the way people and scenes are taken care of. Always keep up on classes and take advantage of training opportunities. I was once told by my mentor: “The day you think you know everything is the day you need to retire. Being cocky and complacent will kill you or your co-worker.” I took that to heart, and try to learn something new from every call.

Liz: Know that you are not in this career for the money. You are in this career to make a difference in a student’s life. They are not just your students, they become your children.


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Navigating Our New Normal at Anna Maria

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Welcome to The New Normal

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Written by Deacon Jack Franchi,
Campus Deacon at Anna Maria College


I am sure you are all experiencing our changing times. It seems that no matter where we go or what we do, it all stems back to either the virus, racial tensions and/or protest marches.

That said, all these socio-economic and faith-based challenges are redefining life for us, not only as Americans and part of the world community, but some will argue, as Catholics. This pandemic has given us a “Dope Slap”. Because of this monster, we are waking up to a simple word called discipline; wash your hands (often), wear a mask, and practice social distancing. Four months ago, we had never heard of social distancing or imagined wearing a mask everywhere. If you walked into a bank wearing a mask you would garner some pretty scared looks and maybe even be arrested. The latter has brought us into what some are calling “The New Normal”.

While serving in the military, the one important word and lifestyle we learned inside and out was discipline. We ate, walked, talked and practiced discipline. Later when I was a team leader, a superintendent, I would impress upon my team the word discipline. We all knew what discipline was. We were, and in many cases still are a part of the discipline community. I would impress upon them that discipline takes on many faces. First, through disciplining one's physical health by eating right, exercising, and taking care of your body. Second, through mental discipline by focusing on the core values of life, living, and not forgetting “the Mission”. Lastly, and I feel most importantly, through spiritual discipline by understanding the value of having a spiritual belief and never forgetting that we were brought into this world through the miracle of a higher being, namely God. Each one of us is a “one-of-a-kind” template of perfection created by God – and God doesn’t make mistakes. When we become Christians, we develop our faith over time and we do that through the wonderful gifts God gives us. Our faith starts out as a small flame and as practicing Catholics, that flame grows over time.

Faith is an important part of our lives. It has been around for a long time. This “New Normal” is society’s way of telling us that times are changing – monthly, daily, and by the hour. Through Gods help, we can adapt and handle those changes. But lest we forget, faith in God never changes. He is with us from “the rising of the sun to its setting” and through the evening, he watches over us.


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Community Message from President Retelle

MLR community message

July 2, 2020

Dear AMC Community,

I write with several important updates on Anna Maria College’s plans to welcome new and returning students and repopulate our campus for the fall semester. In the weeks since our academics moved entirely to virtual learning, we have been working diligently to develop a plan to restart the on-campus experience in a way that prioritizes the safety of our students, faculty and staff and preserves the academic integrity of our programs.


Our fall plan accounts for a range of scenarios and aligns with guidance provided by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal, state and municipal authorities. Throughout the planning process we received valuable insight from the Board of Trustees and our faculty experts in emergency management, first response, healthcare and mental health. We appreciate the feedback given by all our stakeholders, especially that provided by our students and families. Nothing about this is easy, but we are listening.


I’m pleased to announce that Anna Maria College will resume classroom instruction on Monday, August 24, 2020. Classes will continue until the Thanksgiving break when on-campus instruction and residence will end. In general, this may vary by program, students will complete their comprehensive or final exams before they leave for Thanksgiving break and participate in planned remotely scheduled coursework through December 4th. The academic calendars for eight-week fall term online graduate/DCE students remain unchanged. On-campus instruction and residence will again resume in February 2021 for the spring semester.


As we plan for a repopulated campus this fall, we are instituting several modifications in order to create a healthy campus environment. The following outlines key facets of the fall semester plans. We are preparing subsequent communications that will expand on these elements:

Residence Life
· Move-in for the fall semester will take place August 20-23, 2020 to allow for social distancing protocols. The Office of Residence Life will notify students of housing assignments, specific move-in dates and times, and provide additional information in the coming weeks.
· All students will be required to agree to a new code of conduct to account for the new health and safety protocols.
· Room occupancy will be limited to two students. For student athlete housing, the conferences are still determining fall sports so there will be more to follow. The Office of Residence Life will reach out to students with further details.
· Dining services will offer more “grab and go” options and will stagger eating times and locations. Our food service provider will adhere to public health protocols.
· No outside guests will be permitted on campus.


Health and Safety
· There will be new signage posted across campus to stress public health guidelines and college policies.
· The wearing of face coverings by faculty, staff and students is mandatory until further notice. Students must wear face coverings whenever they are outside of their residence hall rooms.
· Mandatory COVID-19 testing will take place twice each week until further notice. Anna Maria College along with other private higher education institutions in Massachusetts will work with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as our testing partner.
· Students testing positive or those showing symptoms of COVID-19 will follow public health guidelines to quarantine in place and/or quarantine at home when possible. We will designate appropriate space on campus for isolation and quarantine for students unable to return home.
· The College will implement contact tracing protocols that may require additional modifications such as schedule changes and more cohort housing.
· We will deploy a smartphone app to help our campus monitor and report on COVID-19.
· We have brought on additional cleaning staff to ensure that our campus will be cleaned regularly. High traffic and high touch areas will be a priority, including all restrooms, entry/exit doors, and common areas.
· There will be sanitizer stations conveniently located across the campus.


· Classes will include a blend of in-class, online instruction, and virtual participation and assignments. More specifics will be forthcoming by academic department leaders.
· We will modify our academic calendar so that fall traditional undergraduate students will participate in on-campus instruction until the Thanksgiving Day break. Residence halls will then close and students will return home and participate in planned remotely scheduled coursework through December 4th. Billing will be adjusted for the abbreviated on-campus schedule to compensate resident students. A more complete revised academic calendar will be shared in the coming weeks.
· There are no changes to academic calendars for eight-week fall term online graduate/DCE students.
· All classrooms and assembly spaces will be reconfigured to account for social distancing.
· Classrooms will have cleansing wipes available and be thoroughly cleaned daily.


· Anna Maria College leadership have been working closely with the Athletic Department to plan for the fall. Athletics at Anna Maria is seen as a vital part of our educational offerings. There are still many challenges moving forward, and guidance on how to best navigate the COVID-19 health issues associated with athletics is still evolving. Anna Maria College will continue to work to allow our student-athletes to practice and compete without compromising the safety of our student-athletes and campus community.
· We are making plans for our athletic facilities, gym, and fitness center to be open. Proper social distancing and health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced.
· GNAC and ECFC presidents, athletic directors, athletic trainers, and medical personnel continue to work diligently to establish the safest possible conditions for student-athletes to practice and compete in the coming academic year. The GNAC and ECFC continue to review many options as information unfolds including guidance from the NCAA.
· Despite the fluidity of current information, we are still preparing for student-athlete early arrival. Currently, the plan is to begin the process of move in the week of August 17th. More details about the move in process and athletics will be sent in the coming weeks.
· The decisions involving the start of winter intercollegiate athletic practices and competitions during the Winter 2020/2021 season will be made at an appropriate time and will be informed by an evaluation of the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with the GNAC, NCAA and the College.


I am sure that many students may have questions about how these modifications may impact student life, coursework, activities and athletics. This is the first of a series of communications framing of our fall plan. Expect to receive additional information soon, including updates from respective departments. We are committed to doing everything we can to make the fall semester safe and productive.


I look forward to seeing you in August. Until then, best wishes for a safe and healthy summer.



Mary Lou Retelle

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It’s Not About the Mess; It’s How You Approach the Clean-up

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Written by Fr. David Cotter, Campus Chaplain at Anna Maria College

The plan for today was pretty simple and straightforward…coffee, this blog post, then a trip to a local supermarket, then grading the papers from the graduate course at Anna Maria that just finished last Thursday. Also, on the agenda between papers, was a departmental meeting with Campus Ministry. Finally, Mass at 6 p.m. A pretty ordinary day. You may well have guessed already that it has not gone as planned. In fact, I did not even make it to the coffee. Well, I did make it and was coming back upstairs with the mug in my hand to settle into the rest of the day’s work when, on the very last step, my shoe caught on something and down I went, undamaged but embarrassed and glad that no one had seen me. The coffee mug, lucky me, was also unscathed. But the coffee? That went flying everywhere you could imagine…on the walls, the rugs, the floor, the furniture. A very unexpected, unplanned and deeply undesired mess, that now had to be cleared up. And it was, in time and doubtless inexpertly, with the help of various cleaning items.

Not really a bad metaphor for 2020, at least so far. We have all found ourselves in a mess that none of us planned, wanted or expected. But, little by little we’re starting to clean it up, with the help of the tools we have available. Now, what I needed to clean up spilt coffee so that I could resume the tasks I’d planned is far different from what we need to do to clean up the mess left behind so far by the still-ongoing pandemic. We will wear masks because they keep us safer and for the same reason we will continue to sanitize and disinfect. Easy enough…after all, what’s a little cloth and hand washing compared to the immensely challenging work so many others are doing in venues ranging from hospitals to supermarkets.

That’s about where schools, colleges and universities find themselves now, starting to implement a clean-up of a sort that no one’s ever done before. One thing we can supply, those of us not tasked with figuring this all out, is patience: Why did someone put the sanitizer over there and not over here where it obviously should go! Why did I have to wait a few minutes to get the test, since I have other things to do today! And why did that person stand only five and a half feet away instead of the mandated six!

Patience for the fallibility of our hard-working and deeply committed fellow human beings. We are all trying. We are all stressed. Many, although they might not readily admit it even to themselves, are more than a little scared.

Paul speaks in Galatians 5:22 about the gifts of the Spirit. The New Revised Standard Version translates the sentence as “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness…” The word that is translated as “patience” here is makrothymia. It’s a bit tough to find a precise English equivalent and different translations offer a wide variety of alternatives but what’s really important here, and what will help us get through the next period of time, is the idea that all of these virtues work together as one. In other words, being loving makes life more joyful, and if you’re joyful it’s easier to put up with the inevitable difficulties of living in community, and if we’re committed to being patient then it’s a bit easier to be gentle with someone having a tough time because we’ll find we have a larger store of gentleness than we had thought and all of this will remind us of the presence of God in each other.

So, in the coming weeks as our community comes back together, let’s make a point of practicing patience with each other. 2020’s been a mess so far. Unplanned and unwanted, just like the mess my coffee made all over the place. And just like that mess, the pandemic mess and its aftermath will take some time and lots of effort to clean up. We can all contribute to that process by striving to practice Paul’s list of virtues, especially patience.

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Town Hall for Students and Families

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On behalf of President Retelle and Anna Maria College, we invite you and your family to attend our Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, July 1 at 4:00 p.m. (EST) to address the College's plans to open campus for the semester of Fall 2020.

The meeting will be live and held through Zoom. There will be time for questions from students and parents following the President's remarks. To join the Town Hall, please use this link to access the call. A reminder of the event will be sent to you up to an hour before the meeting begins with the required password. Registration is not necessary and you will be able to login up to 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting using a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Android device. If you have any questions or require the password, please email the Office of Admission at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Peace Be With You


Peace Be With You 
Written by Marc Tumeinski, Assistant Professor of Theology and Program Director of Graduate Theology at Anna Maria College


One of the profound gifts of the Mass, and one that I have especially missed during this pandemic, is the rite of peace. “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. The peace of the Lord be with you always. And with your spirit. Let us offer each other the sign of peace.” After praying together the Our Father, we ask the Lord for peace and, trusting in the Lord’s gift, we confidently exchange a sign of this peace with our sisters and brothers in Christ. I find great comfort in this rite, and also a powerful call. It is not a time for simply greeting people who happen to be in the pews around us, but instead we are earnestly reminding ourselves that we are brought together, by our shared baptism, as a family united in love. Furthermore, the rite is also a plea for peace within the whole human family. What could be more beautiful? This rite is truly a solemn moment in the Mass.

We so desperately need this gift and this reassurance. When I listen to the familiar words of the rite, I am reminded that the peace of Christ is much more than simply nice feelings or a vague sense that everything is OK. Peace means that we have good relationships: with God, with ourselves, with other people, and even with all of God’s creation. Having good relationships requires time, dedication, trust, willingness to forgive, and hard work.

Many of us, including myself, are especially hungry for true peace and good relationships at this moment: in the last few months, we have been shaken by illness and COVID-related deaths, disruptions caused by the pandemic, a recent public killing and widespread social unrest. Death and violence have torn at many of our relationships and our communities. I need God’s help–we need God’s help–to once again begin to rebuild peace and our relationships with God, self, others and creation. Where better to seek and receive this help than at Mass?

Even more than a necessary reminder, I believe that the beautiful rite of peace can help me to develop the habit of recognizing that peace is a gift from God, and to embrace that gift by sharing it with others. I hope that this can become a habit, which requires working at it each day.

During the Mass, we sing that it is the Lamb of God who grants us peace. At times, I find myself singing these words without paying a lot of attention, but then I am awakened by that final verse: “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.” This prayer brings me great consolation. The One who loved all of creation into existence offers to each one of us the gift of peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). As I go about my daily life, how can I cultivate this habit of asking the Lord for peace? What can help me to remember the gift of the Eucharist that I receive at Mass?

As Christians, when we face disorder and violence, we know in our hearts and minds that we are not alone. We have received the gift of peace from the Lord, and we are part of a community that is striving to practice peace. The Church is called to be a community of peacemakers, and how much the world needs this community right now. At times, this belief may strike us or others as naïve. Do I really believe that peace can be put into practice: beginning with prayer, the Eucharist, the rite of peace? Is the Church truly a primary instrument of peace in this stressed world? Am I ready to trust that God gives me peace when I ask? And yet … the rite of peace goes on. We hear those words, we exchange a sign of peace, we join in the supper of the Lamb, and we are sent out into the world. Yes, I do believe that we can be peacemakers.

Pope Francis reminded the Church that unity prevails over conflict. How will I let this truth change the way I live? The US Bishops taught that “we can be more than we are.” With everything going on around us in the world today, what can help us to put that vision into practice? “We can be more than we are–these words are taken from a Bishops’ document entitled ‘Confronting a Culture of Violence.’ The Bishops encouraged Catholics and all people of good will to remember that “we can turn away from violence; we can build communities of greater peace.”

To put this belief into practice, the US Bishops recommended the following:

* Pray for peace in our hearts and our world. I would add that this includes praying for peace in our College and in our local communities.

* Listen to others, particularly those who are victims of violence and those who live in fear.

* Examine our attitudes and actions. Are these consistent with the call to be more than we are, and to be peacemakers?

* Confront violence in all its forms.

* Hold institutions accountable for their actions.

* Build up peace with renewed commitment and creativity.

* Call on others to join the work of peacebuilding.

These attitudes and actions are consistent with the mission and values of Anna Maria. As we try to live up to these together, we can indeed become more than we are. “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. The peace of the Lord be with you always. And with your spirit. Let us offer each other the sign of peace.”

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Nonviolence, Peace, and Catholic Higher Education

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Nonviolence, Peace, and Catholic Higher Education 
Catholic college and university students have a special role to play in helping share the peace of Christ by carrying a message of hope into their daily lives

By Marc Tumeinski, PhD


At the Last Supper, Jesus gives the disciples a message of hope: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27). This is a blessing as well as a daily challenge, both of which we are reminded of at every Mass when we hear those words. As a witness to this message, Peter reminds Christians to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt 3:15).

Since 2016, the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) has sought ways to share this message of hope and peace by affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church. Our goal is a just peace, consisting of political cooperation for the common good, respect for the dignity of all persons and the natural world, preventing violence before it begins, and the transformation of violent conflict by nonviolent strategies. To accomplish a dynamic and generative just peace has always been the defining goal of the Catholic social vision. While peace is the comprehensive and ultimate political goal, social, economic, and ecological justice is also essential to peacemaking.

This Christian message of hope and peace is given to every generation. Consider the situation we are facing today and what this means for universities, students, faculty, and staff. “The coronavirus has upended communities around the world, threatening livelihoods and lives, forcing a previously unthinkable change in daily routines, helping everyone to recognize the fragility of life and the deep injustice that leaves too many people, communities, and countries vastly more vulnerable than others,” said CNI executive committee member Marie Dennis. “Perhaps this pandemic will help us to recognize the critical need for a transformative shift away from violence in our values and priorities… This time of crisis is urgently calling for a new understanding of security that is based on diplomacy, dialogue, reciprocity, and a multilateral, collaborative approach to solving very real and critical global problems.”

Students, particularly those at Catholic colleges and universities, have a special role to play in solving these problems, not least by carrying a message of hope into their daily encounters, thus helping share the peace of Christ.


Teaching Peace and Nonviolence
In 1990, St. John Paul II issued a clear message to Catholic academia, namely, that a “Catholic University … is called on to become an ever more effective instrument of cultural progress for individuals as well as for society. Included among its research activities, therefore, will be a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as … the search for peace” (Ex corde Ecclesiae). CNI has taken up this challenge to Catholic universities, by promoting efforts to further develop Catholic social teaching on nonviolence and by introducing tools and resources that advance the shared understanding of active nonviolence and just peace.

The subject has enjoyed some recent momentum. Pope Francis has called the Church to increasingly study peace and in 2018 he created a Sciences of Peace degree at the Lateran University in Rome. Last year, Ken Butigan, a member of the CNI executive committee and faculty member at DePaul University, published "The University’s Responsibility for Peace and Nonviolence" in the Vatican’s Congregation of Catholic Education journal, Educatio Catholica (vol. 4, 2019). This attention led to CNI making presentations at multiple academic conferences and universities around the world, including in the UK, the Philippines, Kenya, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, and the United States. Committee members also have published numerous books and articles.

CNI also maintains a list of peace studies programs at Catholic universities around the world. In addition, we have developed a catalog of resources for use by educators and parents, organized by student age group. This material and many other resources are available on the CNI website. We would be happy to work with your institution to create an online or in-person event or conference on these topics, as well as training in a range of skills, such as nonviolent communication, bystander intervention, restorative circles, unarmed civilian protection, or nonviolent campaign strategy. The broader CNI action guide includes further resources for universities.

In the apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium (“On ecclesiastical universities and faculties”), Pope Francis encouraged a culture of encounter, the encounter with Jesus that promotes dialogue, communication, and communion. Catholic universities are a place for such encounter and communion to be nurtured. In the Winter 2016 issue of this newsletter, Michael Galligan-Stierle wrote: “Catholic colleges have their part to play in this ‘field hospital,’ helping mend the wounds of a divided society. Now is the time for Catholic higher education to recommit itself to maintaining learning environments in which all people of good will of any political, economic, or religious persuasion can engage in civil discourse in the pursuit of truth.”

We invite your help with the mission of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. In our institutions of Catholic higher education, let us continue to work together — with faculty, staff, and students — to share the blessings of peace.


Marc Tumeinski, PhD, is assistant professor of Theology and program director of Graduate Theology at Anna Maria College.

This article appeared in the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities’ Summer 2020 Newsletter
For more information on ACCU, please visit their website.

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Community Message from President Retelle

MLR community message

June 19, 2020

Dear Members of the Anna Maria College Community:

As Anna Maria College begins the celebration of our 75th anniversary, we can look at the determination of the Sisters of St. Anne and all those along the way who supported the College’s mission, as examples of the spirit of innovation and commitment that has led to Anna Maria’s success. No greater time in our history has this collaborative effort been more evident than the recent challenge presented by COVID-19 and our dedication in serving our students with the best educational experience possible.

Since March 2020, the shift from on-ground to remote learning was unprecedented and allowed our students to continue their semester and finish the year as intended, but not without hardship. The work continues now that the spring semester is over and we plan for repopulating for the fall with the focus on delivering the educational promise all students were given when they enrolled. This involves quality academic, social, leadership, and athletic components that are all a part of the fabric of the Anna Maria education. Beginning this fall, classes will be delivered in multiple ways including face-to face, hybrid and online instruction – keeping the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and administrators at the center of decisions. We will be advised by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the state of Massachusetts, local public health officials, and higher education organizations that offer sound research and best practices for serving our students.

The uncertainty that we all face in these most difficult times does not deter us from our mission and our values that are, frankly, needed now more than ever. Facing unprecedented times makes us more determined to continue delivering the education that has always been our hallmark – serving students who serve others. It is imperative we do not lose our momentum in producing the graduates who will make the difference in our society dealing with the very issues that plague us today – whether they be natural or social challenges –while in keeping with the founding principles of the Sisters of St. Anne.

Anna Maria College will begin the fall 2020 semester on campus in August under the conditions established by CDC, the state of Massachusetts and local public health officials. The issues of testing, precautions such as facemasks and enhanced cleaning of residence halls and campus facilities, and social distancing are being planned for the return of all students, faculty, staff and administrators. The courses are being designed through a hybrid approach, combining face-to-face instruction with online methods for adaptability of small class sizes and with the understanding that as we continue monitoring the pandemic, some may not be able to attend classes in person and will still be able to join the class remotely. It is the intent to complete the fall semester prior to Thanksgiving to mitigate further outbreaks of the pandemic and disruption of the semester as we experienced this spring.

Specific details and updates will be communicated throughout the summer as we continue to complete the necessary work to ensure our students a safe and secure return to campus in August. Town Hall meetings, written communication, and the College’s website will be used throughout the summer to keep everyone informed of this ever-changing situation.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I wish you continued good health and thank you for your support and interest in making Anna Maria College “Something Greater”!



Mary Lou Retelle

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Providing Emotional Support in Difficult Times Through Therapeutic Music

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Community Spotlight:
Sonya DiPietro, Music Therapy Intern
Anna Maria College, Class of ‘20

By Hugh Drummond, O"Neill & Associates


Sonya DiPietro ‘20 interns at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA. She’s part of the team in the Child Life Department at the Children’s Medical Center and also offering services on the adult Palliative Care team. Sonya’s is completing a 900-hour internship that is required for her to become a board certified music therapist. It’s the final requirement in her music therapy degree at Anna Maria College.

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the work experience for many professions, but maybe none greater than for those working in healthcare. Sonya’s role as a music therapist is considered essential during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of change to everyone’s lives,” said Sonya. “In light of today’s circumstances, the support that myself, my supervisors, and fellow team members offer is needed more than ever.”

During the pandemic, patients facing chronic conditions who are accustomed to frequent clinic visits and hospitalizations now receive treatment under an additional layer of stress and fear of the unknown. Sonya and her site supervisor and Anna Maria alum Trish Jonason, MT-BC offer supportive therapeutic interventions to pediatric patients undergoing chemo treatment for cancer, recovering from severe illness or trauma, chronic illness, and those dealing with many other types of difficult conditions. Not only are they offering the typical levels of support, but now also addressing stressors caused by fear of medical complications due to virus or infection, disruption of comfortable routines, and a feeling of disconnect from their loved ones and support systems.

Staff members supporting patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are also operating under high levels of stress. Part of the role music therapy plays in these circumstances is offering emotional support in the form of interventions addressing relaxation, self-care, coping strategies, strengthening inner resources, and recognizing their beneficial work.

For example, Palliative Care Music Therapist Mary-Carla MacDonald, MA, MT-BC offers uplifting songs and chants to staff manning entryways and working in the ICUs. She has also developed a weekly virtual platform to offer guided music and imagery to UMass employees system-wide. Sonya has had the opportunity to participate with this project and provide support and feedback as they work on ways to make therapeutic services more convenient and accessible for the busy nursing staff.blogtile sdipietro

“I often say we see a lot of folks on the ‘worst days of their lives,’” said Sonya. “Considering the emotional difficulty that comes with many of these hospital admissions. I have seen incredible hope and perseverance in parents whose children are facing life-altering diagnoses. Sometimes I think, “even though you have no idea what tomorrow will look like, you looked me in the eye, learned my name, and thanked me for my work?” Even some of my young patients going through intensive treatments have showed me the biggest smiles, most understanding temperaments, and most beautiful music.”

COVID-19 positive patients are high priorities. In pediatrics, Sonya provided music therapy services over hospital iPads to a patient recovering from the illness under strict isolation. The team is constantly trying to be creative to think of ways in which they can safely offer supportive services to those who are battling severe illness and may be experiencing a loss of connection to their support systems. For those who are not as able to recuperate, Sonya and the other music therapists at UMass have been brainstorming ways in which they can offer care. The Palliative Care team continues to try to connect COVID patients with their loved ones in times of distress. The sad truth is that many patients are isolated from their families even in the dying process. Sonya and fellow music therapists offer heartbeat recordings to families so they can create HeartSongs. This intervention provides an avenue for humanizing a chaotic situation, commemorating the unique life of the patient, providing families with a sense of connection to their loved one, and offering a means of closure and peace for staff treating the patient.

The NICU has also been touched by this pandemic. For the safety of those patients, visiting restrictions have been further locked down. In some situations, infants in critical conditions are missing the opportunity to meet one of their parents because only one is allowed at their side at a time. Parents are missing out on the opportunity to bond with their young children and offer comfort in order to reduce their risk of exposure to illness. In collaboration with a certified Child Life Specialist and a Developmental Specialist who work in the NICU, Sonya has begun to pioneer a project alongside her that enables recordings of parents’ voices to be played at bedside. She is producing sing-along tracks to be shared with parents so that they can contribute lullabies and children’s stories for NICU staff to deliver to the infant pods. This project is in the beginning stages, but will hopefully provide a way for parents to feel connected to their children, and expose infants to important auditory stimulation for bonding and development until they are able to be together again. HeartSongs are also offered to families facing poor prognoses for their children. “It provides a way for us to capture the life and beauty of that patient for the family, in the hopes that we can offer comfort,” said Sonya.

The idea for HeartSongs at UMass started with a music therapist working in Ohio, who began to think of creative ways to use the recording of a patient’s heartbeat in clinical work. Brian Schreck, MA, MT-BC is a music therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He came up with a way to record heartbeats by inserting a lapel mic into the tubing of a stethoscope, and began mixing those recordings with live music to create “HeartSongs.” Trish Jonason, MT-BC, noticed his sudden boom on social media and reached out to ask for advice as to how to bring this to patients at UMass. Schreck responded with helpful support and feedback that allowed Jonason to adapt a similar technological process at the Children’s Medical Center in Worcester.

The basic process of a HeartSong involves the following steps. First, the family and/or patient is consulted on the idea. If they are receptive, the patient’s heartbeat is recorded at bedside with a recordable stethoscope. This only takes about a minute or so. Then, the music therapist imports the audio to editing software and cleans up the sound to produce an audible heart sound. The heartbeat is trimmed and looped, creating some sort of metronome or “percussion.” The music therapist then records a requested or generally appropriate song live along with the heartbeat and mixes the two together. In some cases, they mix pre-recorded music with the heartbeat if that is more appropriate for the music selection made by the family. The finished song is then shared with the family by mailing a CD or presenting them with a postcard that has a QR code linking them to their file. Sometimes the song is also played at staff meetings for members of the team who have cared for the patient, if they have passed. This gives the care providers room to process grief and appreciate the connection they had with that person.

Over the course of her internship, Sonya’s had the opportunity to produce many HeartSongs and due to the rising demand of technical support and clinical application of HeartSongs, Sonya’s site supervisor and academic advisor Lisa Summer, PhD, LMHC, MT-BC helped her pioneer a HeartSong “class” to present to the rising class of junior music therapy majors at Anna Maria College. Sonya presented a unit on the “Clinical Considerations and Technical Tutorial” involved in HeartSongs to this class in collaboration with their professor for “Introduction to MIDI.” They presented them with a de-identified recording of a NICU patient’s heartbeat, and have walked them through the process of creating something beautiful for their family. Sonya’s aim in this project was not only to share her learning with upcoming students so that they can develop these skills for their own clinical work, but also to enlist more support from folks who are willing to help us produce this content on a larger scale.

Tension is high at the hospital, and staff is facing a great deal of additional stress and exhaustion. Sonya often feels a sense of pressure to provide meaningful intervention to every patient experiencing some form of isolation as a result of this pandemic. As this is physically impossible, she’s appreciated the collaborative efforts of her two teams on site and their creative ideas.

Sonya’s music therapy education at Anna Maria College helped her to develop a clinical perspective that made this work possible. Dr. Summer’s guidance in preparing Sonya’s class for her internships was incredibly helpful. As music therapy seniors, they also received a lot of focused training on self-care. This is vital to the development of a healthy therapist working in a “typical” environment, but especially to one facing disruption as a result of a pandemic.

“Anna Maria students shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and ask about the things that interest you! I was able to be a part of all these beautiful experiences because I spoke up about my passion and expertise for using music technology,” said Sonya. “As you go through your studies, be patient. Early on some of music classes are designed to be general but you will be surprised what aspects of those classes will come back to you in your clinical work. For example, my Ear Training, Clinical Guitar, and MIDI classes offered me a lot of tools for my tool box that enabled me to produce HeartSongs that were minimally time consuming and of high quality.”

In closing, Sonya reminded students and practitioners alike to take care of themselves. “Your health and wellness is important, and will only help you be a better clinician at the end of the day.”

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86,400: The Michael Gorman Story

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86,400: The Michael Gorman Story ApplyBlue

Written by Maureen Halley


For the entire time that Michael Gorman ’15 was a student at Anna Maria College, he would wake up each morning to a text message from his father that began with the number 86,400 – the number of seconds in a day. His dad would always ask him the same thing, which was “what are you going to do to make a difference today?”

For Michael, it was never a question whether he would make a difference in the lives of others; it was in how many different ways. Even before Michael arrived on the Anna Maria campus as a freshman in 2011, he had already founded a service program called The Movement Family (TMF) for the less fortunate in his hometown of Lawrence, MA.

“I am grateful that I grew up in a very loving and supportive family, but there are a lot of people suffering from addiction and homelessness who don’t have that in their lives anymore – or never did in the first place. I wanted to build a community that would provide a safe, supportive ‘second family’ for those people who needed it the very most,” said Michael. He explained that the TMF members began as strangers but now “look amongst each other as brothers and sisters and provide hope to the world.”

When TMF first launched, the program had six members but through its positive reputation for creating a welcoming and supportive place to connect, the number of people served now tops 400. The program centers on a weekly family dinner where members come together as a community; in addition to the meal itself, Michael, a social worker, provides information about addiction and recovery programs, creates a fun social environment with games, and makes donated clothing and books available to members. The weekly dinners are possible through the generosity of restaurants within the Lawrence area.

Because of TMF Family Dinners and the connections made as a result, Michael has helped get 30 people off the streets and into detox programs. In addition, local high schools have sent teams of students to volunteer at the dinners. “St. John’s Prep brought their hockey team; Central Catholic had their basketball team volunteer; and the varsity basketball team from Lawrence High School came out in support of the dinner, too. There was one night in particular that a student from St. John’s sat down with a homeless man and talked for 30 minutes and it was clear that this kid could see the person behind the problem; it was something I’ll never forget and I hope that once the pandemic is over, more connections like that will be made.”


TMF stacked horz


While the pandemic has provided challenges in serving large groups, it has not stopped his service or his continued advocacy for the people of his TMF community. “The dinner is still happening, but we’ve had to switch the delivery from sit-down to grab and go and encourage people to respect social distancing. We have had some amazing support for TMF; people have been making masks for distribution and have continued donating food for our members. Before COVID-19, we were providing dinner to an average of 60 people, and would spend the evening together. We would play board games, have rap battles, use poetry to express pain, and have a lot of meaningful conversation. Now, the number is lower – it has to be.”

In addition to running TMF, Michael works full time as a clinician at a methadone clinic that serves 1300 clients. Habit OPCO Lowell Treatment Center provides medically supervised methadone and suboxone maintenance treatment to individuals who are attempting to overcome an addiction. Michael’s caseload consists of 80 clients that he currently supports via telehealth in either individual or group sessions.

When asked what it has been like working on the front line during the pandemic, Michael expressed concern—not for himself, but for those he works with. “Many of my clients are homeless and working on getting their lives back together, but they are struggling immensely in this time. Clients were in a dark place already, suffering from depression and/or anxiety prior to the pandemic but the isolation has taken a really big toll on them. People are nervous that the clinic is going to shut down during their journey to recovery. I’m working hard to keep my clients feeling connected and supported by providing as much consistency in treatment during a time of complete unknown. People chasing the high haven’t spoken with family in years but they will talk to me – and for that, I’m grateful. I have learned so much from them; people experience life in so many different ways.”

Michael credits the Anna Maria College social work program and its faculty for preparing him to work within many different circumstances and settings. “As a career, social work is so broad and there are many different opportunities to help individuals. The faculty took me under their collective wings and guided me every step of the way – from clinical work, handling tense situations, and the aspects of working with the community including the elderly, the youth, addiction recovery, hospital settings, and the homeless. The faculty wanted YOU to be successful and the relationships built then, are still very important to me today.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by increased demand for healthcare and social services, but will vary by specialization.

For students who are studying and/or entering social work as a career, Michael offers this advice. “If you’re thinking about Anna Maria for social work, do it. Get your feet wet. The professors have so much experience that will help you grow! Keep learning – but not just by the book… with your eyes. There are many community opportunities available to you including service trips and volunteer work – the type of things that help you experience the community along with the book smarts. And finally, cherish the journey. You will remember the talks, the classroom moments – and the people that helped you. Cherish it – it goes by fast. College is all about the moments that help shape your life.”

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor

20jun10 conquer evil

By Kathy Menard 
Assistant to Campus Ministry and Coordinator of Community Outreach


I do not recall how old I was when I began to watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I would suspect it was around the age of three or four, which was just about in line with the target audience. As a child, I was not permitted to watch very many shows, most of them being deemed inappropriate or just simply a waste of time. In addition to Saturday morning cartoons, I remember Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Romper Room (where I waited with bated breath to hear my name called through the “magic mirror”, to no avail), and, of course, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The Brady Bunch might have been squeezed in there to. However, Fred Rogers’ and his zip up, cardigan sweater, is what I remember the most.

Mr. Rogers made me feel safe. He had a way of making everyone feel special. He treated everyone as if they were all unique, special, and appreciated, and to him they all were. I remember the “speedy delivery” man, the handyman, the neighborhood baker, and Officer Clemmons. Oh, and Lady Aberlin, the friendly, soft spoken, neighbor and all the puppets from the Neighborhood of Make Believe!

Looking back now, what stands out the most though were his guests. The carpenters, musicians, writers, bus drivers, plumbers, electricians, teachers, the list goes on and on. Each one from a different culture and/or race. All were introduced as someone we, as a society, could not live without. And, one was not deemed more important than the other, nor were any deemed of less importance. Fred Rogers loved them all and his goal was to teach his audience to love them all as well.  

What brings up all these memories some 45 years later? As I watch the tragic events of the past few weeks unfold, I feel such sadness and my heart is broken by the hatred and violence that is so evident. The racism, indifference, disrespect, and ignorance that existed 45 years ago still exists today. I just turn on the television, the radio, or the computer to see the evidence. I can sign into any of my social media accounts, it does not matter which one because it is everywhere.  

How is it, that in the year 2020, we are still dealing with these issues? As Christians, we are called by God, in one of the two greatest commandments, to love our neighbor.  And not just our neighbor, but even our enemies.  Jesus’ life was an example of love. He taught us that we are called to stand up to violence and hatred with love and mercy.  

After going back and looking through some of the old episodes, I ran across one that was a little before my time. It was a hot day in the Neighborhood and Mr. Rogers had taken out a kiddie pool and filled it with water to cool his feet. His guest that day was Officer Clemmons, an African American police officer. Mr. Rogers invited Officer Clemmons to take off his socks and shoes and join him in the kiddie pool to cool his feet. The year was 1969 and like public water fountains, public transportation, and public schools, African Americans were segregated from public pools. Not only did they cool their feet side by side, in the same water, but then Mr. Rogers took it a step further and proceeded to dry Officer Clemmons’ feet with a towel. This immediately reminded me of another event in history.

That’s right, at the last supper Jesus washed and dried the feet of the twelve apostles, including those of Judas who was about to betray him.  Jesus was showing us that love is sacrifice and service- that to love means understanding that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and that no one is more important than the other.  On November 30th, 1986, Pope John Paul II addressed a crowd of people in Australia for the first time in his pontificate. “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song,” the Pope began. He continued, “We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith, that grows through unselfish love, that respects the “fundamental duty of love of neighbor, without which it would be unbecoming to speak of Joy.”  How can we speak of joy when so many of our brothers and sisters still suffer injustices.

As I reflect, I am reminded of many examples of people who have stood up to hatred, violence, and injustice with peaceful, non-violent action. People like Mr. Rogers, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus all understood that confronting violence with violence results in more violence. Instead they willingly stood up in the face of injustice in a loving, peaceful, and non-violent way, and the results of their efforts and their examples have changed the world.

We are also called by Jesus, and by the examples of these great people, to love God and our neighbor through our example of respect for the dignity of all, those who are facing injustice… and their enemies.


“Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”
Romans 12:21




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In Pursuit of Racial Justice

InPursuitOfRacialJustice 3jun20


By Briana-Allyn Amissah
Director of Diversity & Inclusion
Anna Maria College


At this point, you have most likely viewed the videos of George Floyd being restrained, beaten and murdered by an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, while other officers stood by on watch. I’m sure you’ve heard about Breonna Taylor being murdered in her home by police. You’ve probably seen the video of Ahmaud Arbery being chased down on a neighbor jog and shot dead by Gregory and Travis McMichael. These killings are not rare occurrences, rather they are reminders of the reality of how the systems created to establish a country where all people are to be treated equally, has failed to treat and protect all humans equally. Instead, the Black body continues to be undervalued and made out to be subhuman.

As faculty and staff, we are the gatekeepers to the next generation of leaders. Our teaching, service and conversations, impact and frame for many of our students, how they in turn perceive and engage the world and particularly minorities. The responsibility that we hold is great; how we respond/or not respond to acts of racism matter.

As a Catholic college, we emphasize love for our fellow humans. True love is uncomfortable. It is not selfish, it calls for us to constantly hold in our hearts and thoughts other people’s well-being; that we may love like God, the Creator and Lover of ALL people. Anna Maria College was founded with a hope to raise morally bound professionals and leaders, committed to transforming their world. Our college holds values of Faith and Reason, Justice and Peace, and the Cultivation of Personal Moral Responsibility. As members of this community, we are called to first practice and impart these values to our students.

Many of us have had the privilege to live through the Civil Rights Movement. Riots and protests for equity and social change are not new to us, and neither is the KKK, racism and lynching of black people. A large part of the reason why racism is still prevalent in America is because too many people with the ability to hold their communities accountable did not educate themselves about the truth of this country and/or speak up when it mattered most. Our society is still reeling from the actions of the wicked among us because too many good people have stayed silent for too long.

Just as I’ve asked our student community, I am asking you to help realize the democracy of this country. One that ensures every citizen’s voice is heard, and every soul feels welcome and shares equitable access to the benefits and responsibilities of our society.  The idea of democracy does not sustain itself.  So as a leader on campus and in your field, allow this moment to awaken the leader in you. So that if you are not already doing so, you will start to engage the politics of your community, you will do your part to speak up against racism, vote and hold political leaders accountable.  

Ultimately, I have hope for this country and the next generation because of institutions like Anna Maria College and people like us. I hope we will do everything in our power to right the wrongs of history and hand over to the next generation a better society than the one we were born in.

Kindly refer to the resources below, for a starter on how you can contribute to promoting diversity and equity on campus. Many more resources are available to you, please ask and I will share them with you: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Office of Diversity & Inclusion is starting an Inclusion Task Force compromised of faculty and staff. ODI would also like to reconvene the Faculty Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

Articles and Resources:

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice:

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh:

White Fragility & the Rules of Engagement:

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh:

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A Message to the Anna Maria Community from President Retelle

A message to the AM Community from President Retelle


Like you, I am dismayed and disheartened at the horrible circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As a Catholic higher education institution committed to service to community and civic engagement, we denounce all acts of racism, discrimination and violence. This most recent tragedy and the violence in our cities that has ensued are tragic reminders there is so much more work to be done to make the United States a more inclusive and just country.

At Anna Maria College, we are inspired by the ideals of the Sisters of Saint Anne to build a more just and caring world. Our Foundresses turned their attention to the marginalized in society. Today Anna Maria’s students and alumni are driven to search out injustices and advance the public good in their careers of service to their communities. I am continuously inspired by all that you do.

In his letter from a Birmingham jail, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We understand this quote because so much of what we do at Anna Maria academically, athletically, and spiritually is designed to connect us to our outside world. We are reminded to listen and respect one another. We see the dignity in our fellow human beings. We are accountable to each other and to our mission as a college. We also know that we often fall short and must commit to doing more both on and off campus.

My hope is that we can join together peacefully to bring a positive and substantial change to the unsettled racial divide in our country. We live in a very challenging time and COVID19 prevents us from finding solace by gathering in person. However, we are united in spirit and in that unity let us pray for justice and peace. On behalf of the entire Anna Maria College community, I want to assure you that we will work harder as an institution to do more to help heal our country and communities.


President Mary Lou Retelle

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