Blessings and bridges

Sept 15-22
VOL 124 NO. 31
Blessings and bridges
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
Opening of the school year is celebrated with Mass

Most Holy Rosary Church in Syracuse was filled to capacity on Sept. 6 as administrators and teachers gathered for the Mass for the Opening of Schools. They came to celebrate their faith and the start of a new school year. The mood was upbeat as the Mass began.

Irene Veney, a librarian at St. Margaret’s School in Mattydale, was glad for the opportunity to attend the Mass. “I came to get centered for the year,” she said.

Bishop James Moynihan, principal celebrant of the Mass, was joined by Bishop Thomas Costello, 15 priests and more than 700 teachers, administrators and religious to spend some time in prayer and to receive God’s blessings for the 2005-06 academic year.

Bishop Moynihan said, “This morning at the beginning of a new school year, we come before God not as individuals asking for whatever we want, but as Catholic school administrators and teachers, standing in a position to receive whatever it is that God desires to give us.”

Bishop Moynihan said that Catholic schools are culturally and morally distinctive as educational institutions. Because the administrators and teachers preside over the Catholic schools, they are the critical agents for translating the celebration of the primacy of God, the primacy of the spiritual and moral life, the dignity of the human person, and the Church’s commitment to social justice to the school experience. “Presumptuous as it may sound, you are Jesus’ chosen people today,” said Bishop Moynihan. “You are his modern-day Apostles, missionaries in the schools and in the classrooms, sent to communicate Jesus Christ to our children as images and likenesses of God.”

Bishop Moynihan concluded his homily by commending parents for the sacrifices they make in order to provide a Catholic education for their children. “I also wish to commend our administrators and teachers for their heroic efforts in maintaining these schools which are truly essential, not only for our diocese, but for our individual faith and for our national survival,” said Bishop Moynihan. “It’s extremely difficult for pastors and people to maintain these schools, but they do so because of their undaunting commitment to pass on the faith that they enjoy to their children and to their children’s children. This morning, I am happy to express my own total commitment to our Catholic schools and my deep gratitude to all of you who make these schools places where faith and knowledge meet.”

Participating in the Mass especially inspired Sue Cerrone, music teacher at St. Margaret’s School. “I helped plan all the music for the Mass today,” said Cerrone. “I wanted to bring the Holy Spirit into this. I hope that the Holy Spirit will carry us through the whole school year. When the bishop mentioned that the responsorial psalm ‘Your Words and Life’ was very special, and he actually likes the composer of that song, Bernadette Farrell, I was very happy and pleased because I chose that song, and I also love that composer. That song is very beautiful. Many of the people who sang today met this morning for a quick rehearsal and we pulled it together. It went beautifully. We have a lot of beautiful singers here today and a lot of dedicated people in music.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Father George Sheehan, interim superintendent of Catholic schools, thanked the many people who had offered their services in planning the Mass. He also welcomed the new teachers and administrators for the 2005-06 academic year.

Father Sheehan then introduced a team of four administrators from Le Moyne College. “Today we are fortunate to have some people present who are important bridge-builders,” he said. “They are constructing a crossover and building a program that connects the Christ-centered elementary and secondary education system to a higher level — the next level — higher education.”

Dr. Linda LeMura, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Le Moyne College, was the first to be introduced. “We are absolutely delighted to be here, to share these moments with you, to talk about some really exciting important initiatives that are occurring at Le Moyne,” LeMura said.

LeMura then introduced Dr. Cathy Leogrande, Chair of the Education Department at Le Moyne College. “It’s so much a marriage for us to be together,” said Leogrande. “Your students become our students.”

Leogrande described five initiatives that Le Moyne College recently incorporated into its education program. They include reduced graduate education tuition for diocesan teachers, an educational leadership program to certify principals and superintendents, professional development, job placement and recruitment, and joint grants and research.

Dr. John Smarrelli, Chair of the Biology Department at Le Moyne College, also spoke. Smarrelli explained the recent inception of Summer Science Camp, a weeklong day-camp for fourth through sixth graders that took place in an environmental science setting. In a project called “Project Clean Water,” the students performed chemical measurements and tests on water form both Onondaga Lake and Otisco Lake. “Through participating in the project, the students increased their awareness of a lake’s ecosystem structure and the differences between lakes,” explained Smarrelli.

Smarrelli then introduced his wife, Dr. Sherilyn Smith, who also teaches at Le Moyne College. Smith explained two programs designed for high school students. The Le Moyne Scholars Institute allows junior and senior high school students to take selected Le Moyne courses for credit.

By participating in the Research Engineering Apprenticeship Program, students with an interest in scientific research have an opportunity to spend 80 hours during the summer working with a Le Moyne College faculty member.

The event came to a close as Father Sheehan expressed his desire for a sustained partnership between the schools of the diocese and Le Moyne College. “I hope we can continue the bridges between the schools,” said Father Sheehan.

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