Today, students gathered in the atrium at the National Shrine of Saint John Neumann to celebrate the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year in the five-county Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The celebration signaled the opening of the 235th consecutive year for Catholic education in the region.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. was joined by Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, who oversees the Office of Catholic Education; Father Richard S. Bennett, CSsR, Pastor of Saint Peter the Apostle Parish; Sister Rose Federci, SSND, Principal of Saint Peter the Apostle School; and leadership from the Office of Catholic Education in addition to supporters of Catholic education to welcome students throughout the 119 parish and regional elementary schools, 17 high schools and 4 schools of special education back to school.
Archbishop Chaput said, “We’ve gathered in a most fitting location for our celebration just steps away from the tomb of Saint John Neumann, the founder of the Catholic School system in the United States. As our fourth bishop, he sought to provide an educational experience permeated with faith and the values of the Gospel. In doing so, he created a precious gift. He continued, “…it’s important to understand that everyone can be leader. It’s not just for the elected or the appointed. Leadership is accessible to each of us….The most effective kind of leadership stems from humility and service to others. It’s filled with compassion, charity, and good will. In short, it’s about understanding the responsibility we have to each other and fulfilling it. My challenge to you, boys and girls, is to become leaders who serve others. The more you serve, the more you will see proof positive that small acts of Christian love are contagious. They provide inspiration to better the condition of the world in which we live.”
DeOvionne Brown, a graduate of Saint Peter the Apostle School and member of the class of 2019 from John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School expressed the impact her Catholic education has had on her by saying, “Catholicism and Catholic education helped me grow into the strong person I have become. If I had not tried, or if I had not received a scholarship to go to a catholic school, who knows where I would be other than here speaking to you all.
I just want to say that God may not always give you what you want, but he does give you what you need. There’s always an answer whether we can see it or not. If we open our hearts to the Lord, he will show us the way.”
Students from the four Archdiocesan Schools of Special Education lead attendees by singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
The event concluded with a pep rally featuring the Bishop Shanahan High School Marching Band, Downingtown (Chester County) and the Cardinal O’Hara High School Cheerleading Team, Springfield, (Delaware County). In addition, mascots from many Archdiocesan high schools competed in a race. The Eagle from Conwell-Egan Catholic High School (Fairless Hills, Bucks County) took the crown by besting The Patriot from Archbishop John Carroll High School (Radnor, Delaware County) and The Viking from Archbishop Wood High School (Warminster, Bucks County) in the final round of competition. Students were also treated to music provided by DJs Sister Virginia Pascall, I.H.M. and Sister Diane Licordare, I.H.M.
Editor’s Notes: For information about Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, please visit www.aopcatholicschools.org/. For information about Faith in the Future please visit faithinthefuture.com/.