Venturing into its inaugural year, St. Teresa of Calcutta School in Adams County stepped forward in faith with an opening Mass that brought together students, faculty and administrators from its two newly-established campuses: grades K-3 at the Conewago location, and grades 4-8 from the McSherrystown site.
Unified this school year from the consolidation of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in McSherrystown, Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in New Oxford, and Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Conewago, St. Teresa of Calcutta School was formed following a several-year study of Catholic school education in the Adams Deanery.
The Conewago Campus is located at the former Sacred Heart School, and the McSherrystown Campus at the former Annunciation School.
The communities of both campuses gathered at Annunciation Church on Sept. 5 for an opening Mass with Bishop Ronald Gainer as the principal celebrant and homilist, and area priests as concelebrants.
Following the longstanding tradition of the schools’ Prayer Partners program, older students and younger ones shared hymnals and prayed together during Mass, and listened as the bishop spoke of their school’s patron, whom he first encountered while studying as a priest in Rome in the 1980s.
“Very often, I celebrated Mass for the Missionaries of Charity, and many times Mother Teresa would be there in Rome visiting her Sisters,” Bishop Gainer relayed. “She would always say to me after Mass, ‘Thank you for bringing Jesus to my Sisters.’
“What an honor it was to be in the presence of a living saint,” the bishop said. “How amazing and truly a great woman your patron saint is.”
“I hope this new school is a place where we are all drawn to Jesus – a place where Jesus is brought to us and where we find his will for us,” Bishop Gainer told the students and educators.
St. Teresa of Calcutta School was established as a result of a grassroots study by parents, administrators and pastors of the Adams Deanery in examining ways of strengthening Catholic education relative to current demographics there.
“The population in Catholic schools here has diminished over the years, so coming together as one became a great benefit,” said Father Charles Persing, executive pastor of the school.
The consolidation of schools “has already been proven throughout our diocese to work, and to work well,” he told The Catholic Witness. “We need to continue the quality education that these three schools have provided over the past 100-plus years.”
He commended the administrators, faculty and members of the school’s various organizations who worked to establish tuition and uniform policy, logos, school colors and the mascot – the Crusaders – so that the school could hit the ground running when it opened its doors a few weeks ago.
Community members shared vital input too via surveys and planning sessions, making St. Teresa of Calcutta School a united effort.
“It was wonderful to see the faculty members support one another through the transition,” said Father Persing. Some of them, he noted, moved to a different room or building after teaching some 30 years in the same classroom.
“This is a new beginning for everyone, and they’ve been joyful in it,” he said.
Patricia Foltz, principal, echoed those sentiments.
“They’re already sharing ideas, and that’s helping their professional development. They’re excited that they’re not teaching a grade alone anymore, and that they have a team of teachers at each grade level,” she said. “We have faculty who are willing to go the extra mile for each other and for their students, and I couldn’t ask for a better group.”
That attitude and outlook is shared by the students as well.
“They’ve been so very happy. I’ve let them know that whatever concerns come up for them, they can come talk to me,” said Mrs. Foltz, who had served as principal at Annunciation School for the past two years.
“Their voice is important, and this is their school. Jesus is our model, and he is who we follow in everything we do.”
Natalie Rizzuto is the associate principal, overseeing grades K-3 at the Conewago Campus.
“We’re working to take a Christ-centered approach, and are using the model of St. Teresa as an ordinary and modern-day person who did extraordinary things,” she said.
Formerly a teacher at St. Joseph School in Mechanicsburg and St. Rose of Lima School in Thomasville, Miss Rizzuto also spoke of the continued efforts the school will make in STEM and STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics) education.
“It’s always been a part of the curriculum here in the deanery, and we’re working on establishing those foundations now at the earliest grade levels so that students will be ready as they progress into middle school and high school,” she said.
As St. Teresa of Calcutta School ventures into a new chapter in Catholic school education, Mrs. Foltz remarked that the Mass was the perfect start.
“Everything we do is about relationship, and that centers on our relationship with Jesus,” she said. “We turn to St. Teresa’s quote, ‘Faith in action is love. And love in action is service.’”
In his remarks at the school’s opening Mass, Father Persing emphasized the vision that parents, religious men and women, pastors and faculty had when each of the three original schools were founded – that each student learn and use that knowledge to become “Doers of the Word” – the motto that would become the maxim for Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown.
“All was done by entrusting their vision to the Holy Spirit,” Father Persing said. “It is the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us into this new chapter of Catholic education in the Adams Deanery.”
(St. Teresa of Calcutta School is now enrolling students in grades K-8. Visit http://stck8school.org/ or call the Conewago Campus (grades K-3) at 717-632-8715 or the McSherrystown Campus (grades 4-8) at 717-637-3135.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness