Students, parents and faculty at St. Joan of Arc School, Jackson Heights, could not contain their excitement last week when they welcomed Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who came to celebrate Catholic Schools Week with them.
“They (the little ones) were telling their parents, ‘One more day until Bishop DiMarzio comes,’” said John Fruner, principal.
“It was very exciting how the whole school prepared for this special event. How our music teacher has prepared us for so many songs,” said Andie Ratilla, an eighth grader who was selected as one of the masters of ceremony.
“Our school is very blessed to be one of the Catholic schools the bishop is visiting,” said Aaron Das, eighth grader. The other school Bishop DiMarzio visited was Our Lady of Fatima, East Elmhurst.
Bishop DiMarzio was greeted by six students who ushered him to the auditorium where 488 students sang “Oh Bless the Lord my Soul” from Godspell. Then, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students led everyone in prayer and in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Msgr. Otto Garcia, pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish, welcomed Bishop DiMarzio to the school “that has a 93-year reputation of integrating not only very strong academics but also the faith.”
He spoke of the school’s strong tradition and how many of its dedicated administration and faculty are alumni who love the school. Msgr. Garcia commended the bishop for helping to keep Catholic education alive.
First graders recited two poems about important topics for them: friendship and a loose tooth. Then, 150 students from teacher Andrea Puerta’s after-school Spanish program sang and danced. Some students read paragraphs written to commemorate Catholic Schools Week. Many said that their teachers and friends were reasons to be “proud and honored” to be part of the school because they cared for them as family. One of them, Rocia Sanchez said she loved that they get to pray every day.
Students proudly proclaimed the school’s mission, which is to “educate exceptionally, serve endlessly and to dare dreams of the impossible in our welcoming Catholic School community so we manifest God in today’s world” in the spirit of their patron saint.
The whole auditorium was treated to eighth grader Ming Huang Zhang’s piano piece by Chopin, which he memorized to play in front of the bishop.
After other performances, students asked questions of Bishop DiMarzio. These included who helped him know that God wanted him to be a priest, what does he like about being a bishop and a question about how to avoid temptation.
Bishop DiMarzio pointed to the time Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert.
“He was tempted to show us how to overcome temptation,” the bishop said. “Jesus did it by praying but also by quoting the Scriptures to the devil. He always had answers for the devil because He knew God’s Word.”
The bishop encouraged students to read the Bible as much as they can.
Gratitude for Sacrifices
Bishop DiMarzio thanked the school’s teachers for their sacrifice to teach in Catholic schools and then asked the children to thank their parents for making sacrifices to give them a Catholic education.
He also talked to the children about how much “God loves us more than we can understand” and said this Year of Mercy is a chance to show His love to others by performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The bishop presented the principal with a plaque to commemorate his visit and the school also gave gifts to the bishop. After the closing prayer, a smiling bishop blessed the school community.
“It was wonderful to meet him,” said Ella Russo, first grader. “He is very nice.”
First grader Noah Caravallo, one of the students who greeted the bishop, said he was excited to thank him for coming to his school.
Keviin Shah and Bryan Cheng, eighth graders, said the visit was special.
“I think it is a great goodbye gift for us to see the bishop and then continue on with the rest of our graduating year,” Shah said.
Fruner said the visit of Bishop DiMarzio – someone whom the children hear about during the eucharistic prayer every Sunday – “makes teaching the Catholic faith come alive.”
“It was definitely a wonderful way to end Catholic School’s Week,” he said.