Parishioners, alumni, students, parents, teachers and local politicians filled Our Lady of Grace Church, Howard Beach, to celebrate a Mass renaming Ave Maria Catholic Academy (AMCA) as Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy (OLGCA).
As one of the first schools to adopt the academy structure almost 10 years ago, Our Lady of Grace was asked to rename its school. As new academies have been able to keep their given name and add “Catholic Academy,” the Board of Directors petitioned Bishop DiMarzio and was granted the permission to return the school to Our Lady of Grace.
The celebrant of the Mass was Father Marc Swartvagher, pastor. Deacon Alex Breviario assisted at the altar. The theme was past, present and future. Alumni and students participated as lectors, gift bearers and choir members.
“I want to share what AMCA, now OLGCA means to me presently in my life and during the last three years,” said Marybeth McManus, principal. “The first word that comes to my mind is family. In September 2014, I began my first year not only as a principal, but in a new school. Although I come from a big Catholic, Irish family, my second family has been all of the students and families who have shared in my journey the last three years.”
Following the Mass, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held outside the school, honoring two alumnae, Breeda Connolly and Margaret MacKinnon.
Sue Murray, MacKinnon’s daughter and an alumna, explained that her mom and classmate Connolly had unique memories.
“They were best friends and they both were in the same class; they both graduated together; they both got married on the same weekend and they both had children that started school on the first day of school together; both women were the true ‘Ladies of Grace.’”
Surrounded by current students in their new uniforms, Brother Ralph Darmento, F.S.C, diocesan deputy superintendent of schools, was joined by Mitchell R. Weiss, chairman of the board of OLGCA, who had the honor of cutting the ribbon.
Organized by Doreen DeCandia, fundraising chairperson and an OLGA parent of four children, the festivities continued in the school auditorium that was decorated with the school colors and blue and white balloons.
Playbills from past theatre productions, report cards, yearbooks, other memorabilia and graduation photos and testimonies from former and present students adorned the walls. There was a movie playing celebrating 100 years of OLG history.