Principal, pastor recognized for service to Catholic education


WARWICK — The Catholic School Office last week recognized two individuals for their outstanding service to the students and families of the Diocese of Providence. Joan Sickinger, principal of St. Peter Tri-Parish School, Warwick, was awarded the Distinguished Principal Award, while Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Parish and School, Warwick, received the Distinguished School Pastor Award for his years of commitment to Catholic education.

Sickinger, a lifetime parishioner of St. Peter Church, began her career at St. Peter School more than 35 years ago as a preschool teacher. In the time since, she has taught kindergarten, third grade and fourth grade in addition to serving as principal, and has seen two daughters and three grandchildren make their way through the school.

“That’s why it means so much to me,” she told Rhode Island Catholic after receiving the award. “I love the school and I love the kids. I want it to succeed.”

Daniel Ferris, superintendent of schools for the diocese, described Sickinger as a humble, wise and generous individual always ready to serve on a committee or support an initiative to benefit Catholic schools in the state.

“Mrs. Sickinger is respected by her pastor Father Roger Gagne, her peer principals, her colleagues at St. Peter’s, by the parents at the school and by those she cares the most about: the children in the school,” he said. “She’s there ready to serve. She exemplifies servant leadership. What a great quality! The school is blessed to have such an outstanding principal.”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, in a letter presented to Sickinger along with the award, echoed Ferris’s words and congratulated the entire St. Peter community.

“This achievement is not only a mark of distinction for you, but it also reflects on the school and the parish,” he wrote. “Thank you for your dedication to Catholic school education and for your years of service as an educator in the Diocese. May God continue to bless you in your ministry.”

Ferris presented the award during a morning assembly in the school cafeteria last Tuesday, which also marked the celebration of Sickinger’s birthday. Students were gathered and told they were holding a surprise birthday party for their principal. When all had arrived, Ferris announced that Sickinger was the recipient of the Distinguished Principal Award, garnering enthusiastic applause from students, faculty and staff.

“She’s a fun principal. She guides us through everything,” said fourth-grader Aidan Ferolito, one of many St. Peter students eager to share his favorite memories of his principal.

“She’s amazing, she really is,” added St. Peter Pastor Father Roger Gagne. “She brings out the best in people. She has an amazing gift.”

Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Parish and School, Warwick, was the recipient of the Distinguished School Pastor award, which recognized his leadership in Catholic education at St. Kevin’s and beyond. Ferris said Father Marciano’s dedication to improving the quality and enrollment of Catholic schools in Rhode Island led to his selection for the diocesan award.

“He’d be the first to tell you he hasn’t done it singlehandedly, but he’s the vision and pastoral leadership behind one of the biggest enrollment turnarounds of any Catholic elementary school, anywhere,” said Ferris. “He believes in the gift of a Catholic education and does whatever it takes to help families give that gift to their children.”

In particular, Ferris mentioned Father Marciano’s partnership with St. Kevin’s Principal Roger Parent to strengthen the school’s Catholic identity as an example of his dedication and willingness to collaborate.

“He’s formed a great team with Principal Roger Parent, he’s brought the presence of the Eucharist into the school chapel and made it a sanctuary of Our Lord’s presence for the students and staff, and he just can’t tell enough people what a wonderful place the school is,” said Ferris. “The students are getting an incredible education and the world is hearing about it.”

Bishop Tobin, in a letter presented to Father Marciano, thanked the pastor for his continued efforts at maintaining a Catholic learning environment for students and staff of the school.

“The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education reminds us that ‘The goal of Catholic schools, in all their forms, is to live in fidelity to their educational mission, which has Christ as its foundation,’” said Bishop Tobin. “Thank you for your faithfulness to the educational mission of St. Kevin’s School and to ensuring that the school’s parents, staff and students know our Lord, Jesus Christ, as its sure foundation.”

Ferris presented the award to Father Marciano during the celebration of Mass at St. Kevin’s on Sunday, January 31. Parishioners demonstrated their support for the pastor and his continued leadership of the school with a round of applause.