Principals of Catholic schools in the Diocese pray during the spirituality day Mass.
Principals of Catholic schools in the Diocese pray during the spirituality day Mass.

A warm spring day and the peaceful environs of Francis House of Prayer, the diocesan spiritual center and retreat house in Allentown, provided the perfect atmosphere for the elementary and secondary principals in the Diocese of Trenton as they gathered for a day of faith sharing and fellowship May 20.

Sister of St. Joseph Marcy Springer led the retreat for the Catholic school administrators, focusing her talk on gratitude. Retreatants were encouraged to devote some time in prayerful reflection in solitude on the grounds of the retreat house, a rare opportunity for those who spend their days in the busy hustle and bustle of a school community. 

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated Mass for the principals and, during his homily, expressed the importance of their role as Catholic school administrators. “As principals in a Catholic school, we have an awesome responsibility: a responsibility born of faith; a responsibility that inspires hope; a responsibility that draws its meaning and purpose from the Lord Jesus’ command to ‘love others as I have loved you.’ It is that love that makes our words compelling and convincing. It’s what and why we do what we do,” Bishop O’Connell said. 

“The most important thing that the Catholic Church has as its very reason for establishing Catholic schools is the transmission or handing on of Catholic faith to the next generation,” stressed Bishop O’Connell. “It is faith that gives rise to hope and hope that encourages love. 

Our audience contains young people – children, teenagers and adolescents, eager to learn but not willing to admit it. They want something to believe in,” the Bishop said, reminding administrators, “I am so grateful to you for the great work you do. You are such a blessing.”

For Cindy Smith, principal, St. Charles Borromeo, Cinnaminson, the experience of the day was valuable.

“I appreciated that Sister Marcy encouraged us to be alone with God in silence. The time we were given to go outside and be quiet and peaceful in this beautiful setting was a lovely gift,” she said.

Prior to the pandemic, principals and administrators would gather annually not only for meetings to discuss curriculum and trends in education, but also for prayer and to celebrate the Eucharist.  Returning to this day was welcomed by those in attendance.

“The Principal Spirituality Day was much needed. I walked away with a sense of inner quietness and peace.  It was a day to stop and take time to appreciate the work that we have been called or chosen to do.  Both Sister Marcy and Bishop O’Connell reminded us of this. Being involved in the children’s faith formation sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day events, yet it is the reason we are called to work in a Catholic school.  When you stop and think about this, we as Catholic educators have fulfilling jobs,” JoAnn Giordano, principal of St. James School, Red Bank, offered.

“This is a day to really stop and relax and appreciate. Sister’s talk was great, and we really do need to give thanks for so many things.  This day gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the friendships and support that is needed in this ministry that we are called to do,” observed Dr. Edward Gere, principal, Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River.

Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools, was pleased to gather with his school administrators once again.  Earlier in the week the principals also came together for the first in-person meeting in over two years. 

“This retreat came at a critical time because principals have been under tremendous pressure the past two and half years and didn’t have the opportunity to relax and receive the support from each other as they normally would,” he said, adding, “The retreat was designed to do just that, and it did it perfectly.”