Alumni Reflections

Our alumni, students, and families reflect on how Holy Innocents has had an impact on their lives. 

JULIANA BERNAUDO 

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When I think of my time at Holy Inn, the first thought that comes to mind is how much my experiences impact my life today. I enjoyed many activities, like Altar Serving, but I especially enjoyed working with my own Pre-K teachers, and helping them with their classes during my 7th and 8th grade years. At the start of my 8th grade year, I auditioned for the newly forming Archdiocesan Girls’ Choir of Philadelphia, and became one of its founding members. After graduation, I attended Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls. Even though I technically left Holy Inn’s school, I never really left. I began working as an evening receptionist at the rectory at the end of my sophomore year. I love working there; it helps keep me connected to Holy Inn! 

I continued with the Girls’ Choir throughout my 4 years at Little Flower. Being a part of the choir changed my life, with the pinnacle of my choir career coming in 2015 when the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) and Pope Francis came to Philadelphia. The choir sang at the morning Mass, and I was honored to be chosen as the Psalmist. The choir sang to welcome Our Holy Father to our Cathedral and I was a part of the large choir at the Papal Mass on the Parkway. That following January, the choir was invited to sing as a part of the first ever Children’s Epiphany Choir Festival. We were 1 of only 6 choirs from the United States who were invited to sing with the Sistine Chapel Choir for the Epiphany Mass, celebrated by Our Holy Father. I am currently in the Archdiocesan Adult Choir, where I have the opportunity to sing at some of the major liturgies in the Archdiocese. 

I am now a senior Early/Special Education major at Holy Family University. My goal is to work in a Catholic School setting, hopefully in a resource/learning support classroom, providing special education to students with exceptionalities. When people ask me why I chose this career path, I tell them it is because of my time at Holy Inn. St. Lucy Day School for the Visually Impaired joined the Holy Inn family when I was in 2nd grade, and Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf came when I was in 7th grade. Thinking back on it now as an adult, going through school with visually impaired and deaf students gave me a different perspective on education. When I look back on some of my favorite memories, somehow, they all lead back to Holy Inn. Throughout my time when I was at the school, my time at Little Flower, my time with the choir, my Papal experiences, and even now, Holy Inn has always found a way to support me, and that means more to me than you will ever know. So I thank you for supporting Holy Innocents’ annual fund.

Juliana is a 2012 graduate of Holy Innocents, 2016 graduate of Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, and is in the class of 2020 at Holy Family University.


KIM DINH

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Being an immigrant who grew up between two different cultures, adapting to the language and customs had enhanced my understanding in how to live my life and fill it with compassion and diversity. I don't know when it happened but Holy Innocents had become a second home for me. It is the place where I root my passion in helping others and following my faith to search for a career path and, at the end of the day, to become a better person. It is Holy Innocents that had taught me the importance of unity and family values. I came to Holy Innocents School at the age of twelve with a special need because of a language barrier. Especially during my sixth and seventh grade, my teachers were so compassionate in what they do. They absolutely tried their best to help me achieve better grades, better relationships, and most of all, signifying the values of my faith.

I enjoyed my time at Holy Innocents because several people had helped me make an impact on my confidence and my self-esteem. In sixth grade, I was encouraged to be an altar server here. It was the very first step I took to be comfortable outside my comfort zone. I spent three years at this school with many opportunities to learn. I would recommend Holy Innocents to any parents, especially if their children are need of special needs and guidance, academically and socially.

Kim is a 2008 graduate of Holy Innocents, 2012 graduate of Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School, 2016 graduate of Rosemont College (B.S. in Forensic Sociology and Clinical Sociological Practice Sociology), and a 2018 graduate of Temple University (Masters in Social Work).


SHEAD AND MONTERO FAMILY

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My son, nieces and nephews have been with Holy Innocents since pre-school. The teachers and staff of Holy Innocents are truly caring and strive to achieve the best in our children. They take their jobs personally. They are ambitious to not only educate our children but to instill good manners and values in them. When I drop my child off at school I feel confident that he will be safe and that he is being well taken care of. I definitely recommend Holy Innocents to new parents. Even though it is an extra cost, it is the best investment I have made for my child. He is developing spiritually. He is learning at a higher pace than other children in his grade that are in public or charter schools. Also, not only is he learning; he is having fun with his classmates. The principal and staff are also always looking for fun activities and family events to allow the entire school community to get to know one another and have a good time.

Antonio will be a 2020 graduate of Holy Innocents School.


PETER HOANG

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Education is an undeniably important stepping stone on the road to success, and it isn’t difficult to see why we would only want to accept the highest quality of education possible. I couldn’t have been happier with my decision to accept Holy Innocents. The nine years I have spent attending Holy Innocents were some of the most unforgettable years of my life, as they were also the most rewarding. From the quality of the teachers, lessons, and overall learning environment, Holy Innocents had provided me with all that I needed to make the most out of my education. The teachers and staff were absolutely dedicated to our education, and the result of their hard work and nearly endless patience couldn't have been more apparent. The lessons felt genuinely rewarding to learn, and even though classes were never short on comical moments, I left school each day knowing that my time there was well spent. On top of a high quality curriculum, Holy Innocents instilled in each of its students an ever important understanding and love of the Catholic faith. The important lessons and values taught by Christ were always present in class, and only served to further enhance our education. Having been a member of Holy Innocents Parish for a great part of my life, I have nothing but praise and fond memories of my time at Holy Innocents. As I begin my sophomore year at Roman Catholic High School, I begin knowing that I have nine years of quality Catholic education behind me.

Peter is a 2015 graduate of Holy Innocents and a 2019 graduate of Roman Catholic High School.


LORENZO RIVERA

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If I were to phrase my experience at Holy Innocents I would say it was a “horizon sun”. As the sun rises calmly beginning with an orangey red color, then its rays broadening until it reaches its climax; throughout my years at Holy Inn I have grown stronger in my faith and have had the opportunity to have been taught by many great teachers and staff that supported me and guided me making me who I am today. I’ve had plenty of great memories like when I danced with my older sister Liz in the school’s talent show, “Putting on the Hits” to the song Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry, when I was only in 4th grade and she was in 8th grade. 

What I have always enjoyed about Holy Inn was when the entire school would go to mass together as a family and sing to God and receive the Eucharist. I have always been willing to help many people in our community with the many events and privileges that Holy Inn offers year round. While at Holy Inn, I’ve enjoyed being part of the school events like the Santa Secret Shop and Mardi Gras, and also becoming a member of the Peer Helper program. I helped the kids in kindergarten and 1st grade. Every year at Holy Inn was great because there was much more to learn and become more involved as I grew older.

Some of the most impacting experiences I had took place at church and I laugh with joy every time I think about it. One of them being the day of my Confirmation, I remember how nervous I was and how my classmates were too seeing the Archbishop Fitzgerald at the altar. Another, of my favorite experiences was when I was in 8th grade and everyone was looking forward to the Live Nativity. It was such a special moment to me because I’ve had the privilege to take the role as the Archangel Gabriel and it was personally remarkable because that was the Confirmation name I chose. In my final year at Holy Inn it was just marvelous. I had a bunch of friends and made four new friends that are very special to me because I have learned so much from them and they always made me smile whenever I spotted them and they intrigued me to learn ASL. My friends; Michael, Nishima, Sophie, and Thuy from the Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf. 

Though I graduated from Holy Inn and entered Archbishop Ryan high school, I was still involved with the church as an altar server and in the end of my freshman year I started to work as an evening receptionist. When I became an altar server I was in sixth grade and my pastor, Fr. Tom Higgins had asked me if I was interested in becoming an altar server. I wasn’t too sure at first but; I had thought about it. I later asked my grandmother about the idea and she immediately insisted. In search of a solution, I decided one night to pray to God and ask whether I should or shouldn’t. The next day at school during lunch, I was with one of my best friends. My memory of our conversation is vague but; we started to talk about altar serving and how he also wasn’t certain. At that moment I had a flashback of my prayer. 

We both agree upon asking the pastor and doing so we were lucky enough to find out that there was an altar server meeting for new and returning altar servers that same day. In about a week or two we finally became altar servers. I had thought that my altar serving experience would be simple, but little did I know that God had something greater for me to be part of one day. 

On September 23, 2015 during the World Meeting of Families of Pope Francis arrival to Philadelphia, I had served mass downtown at the Convention Center. That experience was holy to me. It’s hard to describe the feeling that day but, I’m so thankful to God that I had the opportunity to be part of that event in Philadelphia history. If it weren’t for my family and friends at Holy Innocents that guided, taught, and prayed for me I wouldn’t be here expressing my gratitude. 

I’m currently in my Junior year at Archbishop Ryan High School.   I’m also on my school’s track team.  I do both distance running and sprint but I prefer being a sprinter. I ran the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters and looking forward to running the 800 meters this year. Track has always been my passion. It’s like for some people a passion to fly. Don’t get me wrong, flying with wings has always been a dream but running is close enough to a flight in my opinion. It’ll be a dream come true if I make it to the Olympics and win a medal for Team USA. 

Many times when I run, I often have flashbacks of myself running during my years at Holy Inn competing with friends during recess and in the school gym. All of my great childhood memories of altar serving, and running and helping others trace back to Holy Inn. I just want to thank you all for supporting Holy Innocents annual fund, it means a lot and may the Lord bless you all. 

Lorenzo is a 2014 graduate of Holy Innocents and a 2018 of Archbishop Ryan High School.


Rev. MATTHEW BIEDRZYCKI

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I was ordained a priest on May 21, 2016, and every now and again I will wake up in the morning and wonder just how I got here. From this vantage point I can see many people, places and things that have left me changed throughout life. One place in particular that stands out is Holy Innocents. It was the place where I became a member of the Church in spirit and truth in Baptism. It is the place where I encountered the Lord for the first time in Holy Communion. Finally it is the place where I was strengthened with the Holy Spirit and equipped for the mission of the Gospel wherever that might lead me. 

Throughout grade school and high school Holy Innocents remained a cornerstone in my spiritual formation particularly and my formation as a person more generally. At Holy Innocents Grade School, under the influence of many fine teachers, lay and religious, and priests I can see now where the foundations of my character were solidified outside of the home. There I was educated in the faith not so much in class as in the culture of the school. Seeing now the impact that culture has upon one's growth I see that the formation of a healthy and formative culture is truly a gift not to be taken for granted. Not every place is so fortunate to have that special "something more" that Holy Innocents had and has. 

Whenever I think of or visit Holy Innocents the sensation of “coming home” fills my heart and a deep gratitude wells up inside for the many people and experiences I came to know of the years there. My first role models in the priesthood served at Holy Innocents in one capacity or another and by the time it came to discern my own call, the diocesan priesthood was the primary focus given the priest I had known at the “Inn.” Fr. Higgins and Fr. Vincent who still serve there were a big impact on me as well as such figures as Msgr. Magee, Fr. Cox, Fr. White and many others. Holy Inn is a truly blessed place and I am glad to be counted a part of the great tradition that has formed and continues to form now and in the future.

Rev. Matthew K. Biedrzycki, MA, MDIV is the Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul and the Shrine of Saint Katherine Drexel.


LIN JIA CHEN

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I attended Holy Innocents from fifth to eighth grade. When I first began my education at Holy Innocents, I had just moved to the States and couldn't speak the English language. The small size classroom and ESL program helped me quickly adapt to the new environment. Looking back, I'm grateful for the impact Holy Innocents has made in my life whether it's learning the English language or giving me friends that I can still call to hang out with over Christmas break. One thing in particular that I loved about Holy Innocents is the teachers who are so passionate about teaching and making a difference in the students' lives. I learned not just about the map of the US and fundamentals of Algebra, but also to be a person with values and care for the world around us. 

Lin is a 2013 graduate of Holy Innocents, and is currently a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania (majoring in Economics with a minor in Consumer Psychology)


We want to hear from YOU!

Email your story and a recent photo to Linda at development@holyinnocentsrc.org