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"Doves in Flight" Spreads Gratitude and Joy

In conjunction with their unit on the Sacrament of Confirmation, freshman theology students in the Sacramental Journeys class of Rev. James Ackerman, SJ, delivered handmade origami doves to deserving members of the Loyola community before Thanksgiving break. Students wrote messages of affirmation on each dove and shared them as symbols of gratitude, peace and joy.
“This project is a gesture of goodwill and helps students put their faith into action,” explains Fr. Ackerman. “It’s a hands-on experience that deepens their understanding of the meaning of the Sacrament of Confirmation.”
 
In the weeks leading up to the project, Fr. Ackerman discussed with his students the centrality of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. “At Confirmation, individuals gain an awareness of the importance of the Holy Spirit and its gifts,” he says. “We become mature members of the faith and begin to use our gifts and act on our call to service.”  
 
Students wrote short notes to their recipients on the paper doves. Messages included: I appreciate your efforts. Have a nice day! And, simply: Thank you. As students wrote, Fr. Ackerman reminded his them about the meaning behind the project. “This activity is a great exercise in bridge building—building a connection to someone else,” he said. “This is about paying it forward, spreading joy and sharing your gifts.”
 
In small groups, students set out around the school to make their surprise deliveries.
 
“I was completely blown away by such a thoughtful gesture,” says physical education teacher Caroline Gajzler, who was in the middle of teaching a health lesson when Aiden Jurcenko ’20 presented her with a dove. “I was very humbled by this and am so thankful for my students and the rest of the LA community.”
 
Dillon Khanna ’20 gave his dove to Assistant Director of Admissions Nick Bridich, who was working in his office when the small group arrived. “It was such a pleasant surprise to have someone come into the office with words of gratitude!” he reflects. “The dove is perched on my desk and serves as a reminder to me that everyone needs to feel loved and appreciated, and I can do a better job of spreading those feelings daily as well.”
 
For Sophie Streeter, director of special events, receiving the dove was the highlight of her week. “It was so touching to see the smiling face of a student saying, ‘We appreciate what you do to help us,’” she says. “Doves are free and beautiful creatures. I placed it in my car to remind me to keep a light and free approach to life.”
 
John Wilson ’20 and David Giampietro ’20 chose to surprise physical education teacher Gilbert Bailey II with their doves. “When I received the origami doves from Mr. Wilson and Mr. Giampietro I was very honored,” he says. “This project embodies the spirit and culture of Loyola Academy, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”   
 
Many students selected individuals whose hard work happens behind the scenes and doesn’t often receive expressed affirmations: security officer Martin Denten, plant services maintenance staff Alfonso Lopez, security aide Soula Manis, cafeteria staff member Cynthia Lappas, receptionist Kathleen Fitzgerald, counseling office administrative assistant Beth Stanton, attendance officers Reni Arreguin and Maria LaTorraca, teachers Jeannine Wilk, Valerie Galloway, Mary Just and Erin O’Sullivan and school counselor Sarah Bennett. 
 
“Hopefully, the project helped students become more aware of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” says Fr. Ackerman. “The goal of the project is for students to take more responsibility as mature members of the Church in building the Kingdom of God through positive communication, collaboration and compassion.” 
 
For freshman Francesca Hill, this message was loud and clear. “It is really important to share our gifts with others,” she says. “By showing our appreciation, we are showing that we care.”
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