The Infamous Mater Ceremony


A statue of mater, a key role model for the Woodlands community. This image was licensed from Ted Abbott.

Charlotte Sparks, co-editor

There are multiple traditions that overtake Woodlands Academy during the year. From Senior Day to Junior Ring ceremony, the amount of ceremonies can feel overwhelming, especially to new faces. Not to mention, most events aren’t necessarily explained: one in particular is Mater.

Every year in the fall, there is the typical “what is Mater anyways”, usually from freshmen and occasionally from juniors or seniors. Mater is a ceremony based on the fresco that was painted by Pauline Perdrau. After Pauline painted a fresco of Mary called Mater, her fresco was criticized for having harsh colors. However, years later when the pope came to visit the fresco, the fresco’s colors miraculously softened revealing a beautiful masterpiece.

At Woodlands, the mid-october tradition is a way to honor the sophomores and the women in their lives.  Around three sophomore students take time to write a reflection about a story of Mary. One sophomore who participated this year was Karishma Bhatara. As she spoke during the ceremony, she focused on the women that she looks up to in her life: her mother and two grandmothers. Karishma’s speech exemplified that Mater is about sophomores focusing on the women that inspire them like how Mary inspires us, as a way “ to make [her]self an independent and successful woman,” Bhatara remarks.

But, why are sophomores, in particular, in charge of this ceremony? Sophomore year is extremely significant overall, academically and socially. Sophomore year brings lots of new milestones from having a sweet sixteen party to getting drivers licenses. With this in mind, sophomores “start to go from a young girl to an independent woman,” Bhatara explains. Along with that, they have past the time of awkwardness and timidness to begin “to fully grow as a person but also in their own faith journey,” says Caitlin. 

Sophomores, then, receive a medal with a picture of Mater to depict the transformations that these young women will do to share the same principles as Mary. These medals are presented to each sophomore by their advisors. Class leaders, then, present each advisor a medal as well. 

Along with this inexplicable event of the fresco and the conception of Jesus, Mater has become a symbol of “gentle kindness, maintained confidence, and unfailing faith,” says Caitlin Mooney (class of 2022 and reflectionist at the 2019 Mater Ceremony). The values that Mary/Mater represent led the Sacred Heart School community to concentrate their faith curriculum around her seen through things like statues and the Mater ceremony itself. 

Overall, Mater puts the focus on challenges that other inspirational women faced into perspective. Because of Mater, sophomores have a time to share how proud they are of their family, specifically women in their lives. Bhatara articulates, “[her] Mom and Grandmother were present and very touched by my speech.” Without this ceremony, they wouldn’t have this beautiful memory. So, when this tradition rolls around again next year and someone asks you “what is Mater anyways”, you’ll know what to say.