WEST WARWICK — On Sunday, Sept. 10, Bishop Richard G. Henning led the faithful of St. Joseph’s Parish by celebrating a Mass to open the school year for the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. Joseph School. Father Gregory Stowe, pastor of St. Joseph’s parish, concelebrated.
Many St. Joseph School teachers, administrators and students participated in the Mass.
“It’s a great blessing to welcome you, Bishop Henning, to our opening Mass for our centennial year at St. Joseph’s school, for your first pastoral visit to St. Joseph’s church,” Father Stowe said in his opening remarks to a packed church.
“We thank you for joining us this afternoon amidst your very busy schedule to offer this Holy Mass as we raise our prayers to God first and foremost in thanksgiving for this great gift of Catholic education, and also as we ask God’s Holy Spirit to continue to bless us for the years to come,” Father Stowe continued.
Bishop Henning’s homily centered on the importance of love in the life of the Christian, and how this love leads us to spread the truth to others.
“At the deepest level, it [love] is the foundation, it is the thing we need the most, the thing, in fact, that we are made for,” Bishop Henning preached. “But for us here in this place, if we want to understand love, we begin with the truth that the Scripture reveals to us, that God is love, that God’s own inner life is love itself.”
One element of love, Bishop Henning stated, is “telling the truth to people about what is right for them or good for them, even if they may not be so interested in hearing it.” This is something that applies in a particular way to educators, and is something the bishop said the teachers, families and administrators of St. Joseph’s keep in mind as they commemorate the 100th anniversary of their school.
“This school, one hundred years ago, in a very real sense was founded upon love, was founded upon men and women of faith who loved God and loved their neighbor, and wanted to see to it that children would have a place to come to be educated and formed, certainly, but above all to come to know Jesus Christ, his grace and his mercy, so that they might learn to live as God had made them to live.”
In his closing remarks, Bishop Henning noted that Catholic schools were some of the few exceptions to the downturn in academic output that resulted from the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, something he attributed to strong families and a devoted staff, taking this time to honor the teachers and staff present at the Mass.
After Mass, a light reception was offered for those in attendance in the newly renovated school gym, which was blessed by Bishop Henning. The blessing was followed by Rep. Thomas E. Noret, of District 25, who presented a commendation to Father Stowe and the St. Joseph’s community in honor of their centennial anniversary.
“This was where my children started their Catholic education,” Rep. Noret told the Rhode Island Catholic.
Noret, who also coaches volleyball with the Catholic Athletic League, noted how the recent renovations represent a positive change in the parish and a sign of the closeness of the community.
“Seeing it all this year, what a transformation,” he said. “It’s special to me because my family comes here.”
For some parishioners, the remodeling of the gym is a symbol for an investment in the community.
“Well, I’m actually thinking of my brothers, who played basketball on these courts,” said Bill Patenaude, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s. “So many families had so many memories. Many kids learned so much about life, and so much about team spirit, sportsmanship, all the values that we need that go hand-in-hand with our Catholic faith. That happened here. So, in a way, the gym is an extension of the church.”
Father Stowe said it was a great blessing to be celebrating 100 years of Catholic education at St. Joseph.
“There have been generations of teachers and faculty and staff who have sacrificed to keep St. Joe’s going, generations of parents that have made the sacrifices to send their children, and generations of young Catholic leaders that have been formed, first by their families, and then by St. Joseph’s school, to go on to contribute to our community and our state. To be able to continue that tradition, to be able to continue that ministry here in West Warwick, is just a great blessing.”
Principal Julie Capirchio said that St. Joseph School will continue its centennial celebration with a variety of events over the course of the school year, including a Centennial Gala on March 2, 2024, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick.
She noted that these events will honor the school’s rich heritage, inspiring achievements, and commitment to catholic education since 1923.
“We invite our Eagle community to join us as we celebrate 100 years of catholic education at St. Joseph School. SJS has a longstanding history of developing well rounded, socially resilient, and academically driven students.” Capirchio said.
“We welcome past and present students, teachers, staff, families and neighbors to reminisce about their time at the ‘eagle’s nest.’ Our centennial motto: Family, Faith, Community will play a key role in all that we do to commemorate 100 years of catholic education in West Warwick and Rhode Island.”