WARWICK — The Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Hope, the most recently approved independent Catholic school within the Diocese of Providence, held its first annual gala at the Crowne Plaza on Saturday, October 14.
More than 400 people were in attendance, including students, their families, teachers and administrators of local Catholic schools and local clergy. Bishop Richard G. Henning offered a blessing at the start of the gala, and Bishop Emeritus Thomas J. Tobin, was also in attendance.
Bishop Tobin was honored with the Anchor Award, given by the Chesterton Academy to those who exemplify the school’s values or who have helped the school in a notable manner. Philip Primeau, a member of the board of directors for the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Hope, presented the award to Bishop Tobin.
Primeau noted how, in early Christian art, the anchor was a symbol for hope, and that the events surrounding the founding of the school give expression to the goodness of God’s Providential care.
“Just a couple of years ago, Chesterton Academy was a vision in the mind of our intrepid leader, Michael Casey. It was just a vision, but now is a reality that promises to bless and transform many lives for years to come,” Primeau said.
Hope, Primeau continued, requires both trust in God as well as a willingness to cooperate with God’s Plan. It was for this reason that Bishop Tobin was honored, as it was Bishop Tobin who approved of the school as Catholic last November, thereby making its mission possible.
“I am deeply honored to be with you here this evening,” Bishop Tobin said to a packed audience. “Certainly, I am honored and humbled to receive the Anchor Award this evening. I must admit that I do so somewhat reluctantly. … There were lots and lots of people here and in the diocese who worked much harder than I did to bring about Chesterton Academy. So, I do accept the award this evening, and receive it with great honor and humility, but I do so on behalf of those in the diocese who worked very closely to bring about the reality of Chesterton Academy.”
During the night, the students of the Chesterton Academy also performed a rendition of the traditional Christian hymn “All Praise to Thee My God This Night.”
Many of those present were overcome with emotion at the show of support for the nascent school.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” said Ed Walsh, one of the cofounders of the school.
Throughout the night, Walsh emphasized how the success of the school was the result of Divine Providence, and that the teachers and administrators are merely vessels used to bring about God’s Plan.
This sense of joy was born out of a clear understanding that the school serves the clearly defined mission of helping the youth of the diocese grow in their faith.
“Its biggest strength is inspiring high school students, having them grow in their Catholic faith. This school is clearly doing that,” said Roger Codding, one of the attendants of the gala.
“[The biggest impact of the Chesterton Academy], I think, honestly, is creating future saints in these children. We live in such a secular society. My experience has been that it was tough [to form good Catholic students],” said Nick Iden, another attendee of the gala.
The gala comes just days after Bishop Henning made his first visit to the school. Celebrating Mass with the students and touring the school, Bishop Henning noted that he was pleasantly surprised by the sense of reverence and hospitality of the students.
“I’m looking forward to it growing,” Bishop Henning said. “Even though it’s likely to always be a small institution — that’s the nature of it — it’s a small institution that will have a large impact.”
Save the date for Chesterton Academy's Open House on Nov. 4, 9 a.m. Visit www.ChestertonRI.org.