History often looks kindly on first things and last.
For graduating students of All Saints Academy marching down the center aisle of St. Henry’s Church on June 4, each step was recorded in history, as these were the first students to ever graduate from the newly established school.
The 49 graduates of the new school slowly made their way down the center aisle, grinning at the hundreds of parents and well-wishers who filled the pews to either side, each graduate’s face beaming with pride, and yet with something more, something that seemed to say they knew they had accomplished something significant.
All Saints Academy on West 13th Street is the result of an effort to consolidate the four parochial schools in Bayonne to provide a Catholic education more economically sound.
For Sister Eileen Jude Wust, this posed a remarkable challenge for the students and parents, who somehow had to come together and recognize themselves as part of a new institution.
But she said the class came together remarkably, setting the standard for future classes.
She said each one of the students, parents, teachers, and administrators played a key role in the success of the first year by having a positive attitude, as well as active support.
Those students who became the first graduating class, she said, brought to the school from the very first day an enthusiasm and energy that helped meet the challenges of the change head on.
“Finally, this could not happen except for the parents who saw the incredible value in Catholic education for their children.” – Rev. Monsignor Paul Schetelick
“We are here because of a lot of prayer,” Reverend Monsignor Paul Schetelick said, noting that the new school was the result of eight Catholic churches, their pastors and congregations coming together to recognize the need for Catholic education in Bayonne for years to come.
Monsignor Schetelick said credit also goes to the faculty, who came together earlier than usual to make it happen.
“Finally, this could not happen except for the parents who saw the incredible value in Catholic education for their children,” he said, expressing additional gratitude. “If not for all the parents and students and their hard work, for the all the fundraisers, all the things they pulled together, we were not sure it could be pulled together. One thing we know, our God is a God that makes things possible. We were also blessed with great leadership.”
Sponsored by Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Saint Andrew, Saint Henry, Saint Joseph, Saint Michael, Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Mary, Star of the Sea churches, All Saints Academy was established as a result of a meeting in 2006 between the pastors of the churches, who recognized that Bayonne could no longer sustain four parish schools.
With the approval of Archbishop John J. Myers, the school opened its doors to the public this year for the first time.
“You have experienced in the last few years life transformed,” Brother Ralph Darmento, deputy superintendent of schools, told the graduates. “What has transpired during the last year is truly breathless.”
He said the graduates are taking their Catholic education out into the world, living examples of the holy beatitudes, and perhaps are those who will fashion the future world into a better place “inch by inch” through understanding and the “knowledge of values.”
Graduates were asked to write essays on their reflections on the year, and graduate Mivi Joseph recited excerpts from her essay during the ceremony.
“If anyone was to tell me that my eighth grade senior year was to turn out as memorable as it was, I would have said ‘no’ without hesitation,” she said.
She said the year allowed her to become a stronger person and to meet new friends.
The first couple of months were frustrating, she said. “I felt out of place in the new school.”
But as the months passed, she said she began to feel more comfortable.
“I didn’t know that seven months could change a person forever, but they did,” she said. “It amazes me how close I have become to people who, a couple of months ago, I saw as complete strangers.”
She said going to All Saints has made her a better person and brought her out of her shell.
“All Saints has taught me to be more open to more things and also brought me much more closer to God,” she said