By Michelle Castleman
MONROEVILLE — Built one century ago, as depicted by a marked cornerstone, St. Joseph School in Monroeville and its families welcomed Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to kick off Catholic Schools Week 2011 with them at their Saturday evening Mass on Jan. 29.
Located side by side between Summit and Mulberry streets, the historic parish, St. Rose of Lima, was established in 1868 while the school began construction in 1911. Father Steve Colchin has served as pastor at St. Rose since 2003.
A full house and local television media were on hand to greet Bishop Rhoades, who recalled his own childhood Catholic education at St. Mary’s in Lebanon, Pa. He told the congregation how much he enjoyed visiting the nearby town of Hershey and taking in the smell of chocolate while walking its streets. He also congratulated the parish members of the small town for supporting the noble mission of a Catholic school.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades focused on the Baltimore Catechism and the question, “Why did God make us?” He had the students memorize and repeat the answer, “God put us in the world to know, to love, to serve Him and to come to paradise.”
Bishop Rhoades went on to detail that we are to organize our lives with the goal of knowing, loving and serving God. He also referred to different saints including St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of Catholic schools and St. Augustine — Pope Benedict’s personal favorite.
Bishop Rhoades touched on the Gospel message about the famous Sermon on the Mount when the eight Beatitudes were delivered explaining, “Jesus lived each one of the Beatitudes perfectly.” Bishop Rhoades finished by challenging all those in attendance to strive to be holy; to be men and women, boys and girls, of the Beatitudes.
Before the closing hymn, the Home and School Association gifted Bishop Rhoades with a St. Joseph School jacket and monogrammed bag. The third- and fourth-grade students performed the song, “Open My Eyes,” through sign language, and awards were presented to three different members of the school staff for more than 75 years of service.
Debbie Groves, who instructs the third- and fourth-grade classroom has been teaching at St. Joseph for 25 years, while Principal Carolyn Kirkendall was recognized for 26 years, as well as Joan Bultemeier, the first- and second-grade teacher.
After the Mass, Bishop Rhoades journeyed with the students to their classrooms. In each room, a special presentation was on hand and letters of appreciation were given to the bishop to fill his new bag. The kindergartners, who are taught by Natalie Pugh, eagerly reenacted their morning routine.
When the Bishop explained that he was like a shepherd and they, his sheep, the kindergartners all started giggling and “baa-ing.”
The 21 first-and-second graders prepared a special song about the Twelve Apostles while the young third-and-fourth graders portrayed their rendition of Paul Revere’s Ride.
The fifth-and sixth-graders eloquently recited the Hail Mary in Spanish as taught by their instructor Amy Smith, a St. Joseph School alumni.
Finally, Susan Nice’s seventh-and-eighth graders challenged Bishop Rhoades to join them in a series of brain-based exercises.
A reception with the school families and parish members followed in the school basement.
This extraordinary place of learning was opened in 1912 and staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis who continued until 1972. The school underwent major renovation which was completed in the summer of 1998.
An additional celebration marking the 100th anniversary is being planned for the fall of 2012 with the alumni of St. Joseph School.
The mission statement of St. Joseph School teaches Christ, the way, the truth and the life, to ensure a lifelong formation of faith. The students are challenged toward academic excellence so they become contributing members of society.
The school’s current enrollment is 71 students and all faiths are welcomed. St. Joseph School is currently registering for the 2011-2012 school year. For questions, please call the school office at (260) 623-3447.
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