When her mother-in-law suggested three years ago that she could be the principal at St. Monica School, Anca Wilson didn’t give it much thought. But one day, the passing remark would come true.
Wilson is replacing longtime principal Pam Dellino, who has retired after leading the school for 14 years.
When asked what brought her to St. Monica, Wilson attributed this new opportunity to God.
“To me, it was meant to be,” said Wilson, a West Seattle resident who was born in Romania and came to America at age 17.
Wilson left Romania in the mid-1980s with her mother and older sister three years after her father, Viorel Lupsa, fled the country, which was then under communist rule. He received political asylum in the former Yugoslavia and was placed in a refugee camp in Belgrade.
Religious persecution and inherent communist oppression had become a double burden on the family, Wilson said. As the son of an orthodox priest, Lupsa had been especially targeted.
Wilson remembers being stalked by police in high school, and days before her departure with her mother and sister, their Bucharest hotel room was broken into — most likely, for their passports.
“That made me all the more thankful for what I have, for being in the U.S., appreciating what this country has to offer … and especially, religious freedom,” Wilson said. “I try to keep it in perspective every day — the great blessing this country is to my family.”
The family was reunited in the United States, where Lupsa had been granted a sponsor after interviewing with an American consul. Under President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Most Favored Nation’ clause, one stipulation was that the Romanian government would permit families to reunite in the U.S.
“Thanks to President Reagan, and God, I am here,” Wilson said.
The family’s sponsor resided in Burien, Wash., and from there the family moved to the Eastside, and then to Seattle.
“I didn’t speak English, but I was determined to succeed,” Wilson said. She had begun French studies in Romania. Now, in addition to her native language and English, she is fluent in French and is learning Spanish.
Wilson’s mother, Lucia, who had been a school principal in Romania, opened a day care, where Wilson got to help with children of all ages. The day care became Wilson’s inspiration to pursue a teaching career.
“I was looking for something more fulfilling than classical music performance,” said Wilson, who studied classical music at Cornish School of the Arts, where she met her husband, Brian. Still, music has brought her great joy, she said. Flute is her primary instrument, and she also plays piano and sings.
After completing a master in teaching program at Seattle University and substitute teaching for a year, Wilson settled on the Holy Family Parish School, where she taught pre-K, fourth and fifth grade, and became the vice principal and music specialist. She also holds a master of science in educational administration from National University in La Jolla, Calif.
Wilson married her husband, Brian, in the Mercer Island United Methodist Church, and they had their marriage “blessed” in a Catholic parish. Brian is a Protestant, but the couple attends worship services together.
“We have a lot of connection with the Island and a lot of time invested here,” Wilson said.
Brian graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1982, and he grew up in the house that his parents built on Mercer Island in 1960. His mother, Bonnie, sold the house three years ago before moving into Island House.
“Mercer Island is like a second home because of my mother-in-law,” Wilson said. “We spent a great deal of time here.”
Bonnie died in December, but now through St. Monica the family’s Island ties remain.
Wilson’s daughter, Julia, is entering seventh grade at St. Monica this fall. She chose to play flute — following in her mother’s footsteps — and will be in band.
Enrollment at St. Monica is at 200 students, down from last year. Catholic schools’ enrollment is declining nationwide, Wilson said.
“More than anything else, Catholic schools’ greatest challenge is the increasing secularism of our society,” Wilson said.
With the coming school year quickly approaching, Wilson is most looking forward to getting to know the children.
Sixty percent of St. Monica students come from off-Island. That was not the case 20 years ago, when the majority of students were Islanders.
“The most exciting part is to be with them, see them in action, see teachers in action,” Wilson said. “We have a great, hard-working, talented staff.”
The school employs 18 teachers. With aids and other support, St. Monica has a total of 29 staff members.
“I’m very blessed to be here. It’s such an honor to be present, to serve the St. Monica community and also to serve Mercer Island. I believe that this community brings a great service to the Island and not just the Catholic community, but all who come to our doors,” Wilson said. “St. Monica is a big part of the history of the Island. I intend to continue to build on the work that was done here by my predecessor.”
Anca Wilson spends time at Alki Beach with her husband, Brian, and daughter, Julia.