The first day of school was special for the 150 students who attend St. Albert the Great at Assumption Academy in Broadview Heights. The school offers grades K-8 and began a new pre-school program this year.
Returning to class on Aug. 21 meant meeting new teachers and a new principal as well as getting acclimated to a new school structure, thanks to a collaboration between St. Albert the Great School in North Royalton and Assumption Academy.
Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated Mass for the school and parish community at Assumption Church before touring the school with Principal Richard Kaliszewski (Assumption campus) and Ed Vittardi (St. Albert the Great principal), Father Justin Dyrwal, OSB, Assumption pastor, Father Ed Estok, St. Albert the Great pastor, and some students.
“I’m glad to be here with you today and to celebrate the Eucharist with you. Eucharist means thanksgiving and we’re thankful for our many gifts,” the bishop said. “Every single thing we have is a gift – a gift from God.”
He told the congregation -- which included students, teachers, staff members, parents and Assumption parishioners – that there is a lot new this year. “St. Albert and Assumption came together with the support of your pastors. It was a new beginning for Assumption Academy,” he said, something that will make the school stronger.
Change is something that we all deal with, Bishop Perez said, explaining that in 2012 he was the pastor of a parish in Philadelphia. “Then I got a call out of nowhere and I got a new name – I went from being called father and monsignor to bishop – a new way of doing things and I even dress differently,” he said, pointing to his zucchetto. “I also sometimes wear a pointy hat,” he said, referring to the miter worn by bishops.
“But I continue to be the same person. These two schools also came together in a new way, but continue to be who they were. They will be doing some things in a new way and that’s good because it has strengthened you.”
The bishop explained that Catholic schools are distinguished from other schools. “You can learn math and science at any school but faith is at the heart of a Catholic school,” he said. “You have a strong, powerful and deep relationship with Jesus Christ who is at the center of our faith.”
Catholic school teachers also are special, he said, because they choose to teach in the school. He said they teach the same subjects as other teachers, but always have faith at the center of their lessons. “And they make sacrifices to be here,” he said, noting that they could make more money elsewhere. “Salary alone is a sacrifice for them."
He also mentioned Kaliszewski, who joined the school as principal this year, and Vittardi, as well as the pastors of both parishes – Father Justin at Assumption and Father Estok at St. Albert the Great – and Father Louis Carey, OSB, Assumption parochial vicar. “I ordained him a year ago,” the bishop said. All work as a team to help ensure the success of the school. The contributions and support of parents and parishioners – past and present – also are important to the success of the parish and school.
“Your parents support you and make sacrifices every day. Many of them you don’t even know about,” Bishop Perez said.
Assumption Parish is 162 years old, Father Justin said. The school was established 62 years ago.
“If not for the people of this parish, you wouldn’t be here right now – in this particular area of the vineyard of the Lord,” the bishop told the students.
Change can be good and healthy, the bishop said, noting it happens every day. “You’ll grow this year; you’ll change. You may not realize it, but you will next year when your clothes don’t fit,” he quipped.
After Mass, Kaliszewski thanked the bishop for visiting and celebrating Mass with the school and parish community. He also thanked the faculty and staff for their dedication and welcomed everyone back to a fresh start for the school.
The two schools agreed on the collaborative venture after extensive conversations during the past year that included all stakeholders.