July 26, 2020

We finally wrapped up the 2019-20 school year on Friday night, July 17, with the graduation liturgy for the eighth graders from our school. It was an abbreviated ceremony compared to past years, but there was a good spirit in the church as we gathered to give thanks for these young people and to celebrate their transition to High School.

We also had an opportunity to give thanks for and celebrate the 16 years of service to our school community that Debbie Cestnik has given us. “Mamma Cestnik” as she is affectionately known, provided love and care for our students as well as a wonderful education in the classroom. I will always be grateful for Mrs. Cestnik’s presence on the
8th-grade trips to Washington, D.C., both for her broad and deep understanding of U.S. History and for the way she cared for our children. We will miss her, but we are grateful for how generously she has shared her gifts with our community these past 16 years.

We also had an opportunity to say thank you to Mrs. La Rose for her leadership as our school principal these last three years. She showed us time and again what it is to be a leader who genuinely cares for every single student and every single member of our school faculty and staff. She transitioned into the principal position three years ago under less than ideal circumstances and provided us with stability and gentle leadership that was a true blessing. She completed her last year with us by successfully leading us through the process of transitioning to distance learning and working closely with our new principal, Kathy Lundy, in preparing for next year. We will miss Mrs. La Rose deeply, but we are happy for her that she is going to get to spend more time with her family, especially her beloved grandchildren!

When we were finished with our brief graduation ceremony, I was aware of how grateful I am for Debbie Cestnik, Mary Ellen La Rose, our twenty-two graduates and their families, and all of our students, faculty, staff, and families.

We are uniquely blessed here at St. Joseph with vibrant Family Faith Formation, Sacramental Preparation and Youth Ministry Programs, as well as a Catholic school that has formed students for some 66 years. I was aware of my gratitude for all of that this past Friday.

This past year has been unique in its challenges. But, our school and our faith formation programs responded incredibly well in providing high-quality formation and education on virtual platforms.

Even though there is uncertainty about what the future holds for us, there are some important things we know for sure. We will continue to form our children and young people in the faith - either virtually or in person. If the state and archdiocesan guidelines allow it, we are ready to welcome every student at St. Joseph School onto our campus for school five days per week. We will not be forced to do distance learning because of a lack of space. We will be able to accommodate every student while maintaining the required social distancing.

We are also grateful to be able to offer more financial aid than we ever have before. Generous donors have made additional financial aid dollars available so that any family who wants to attend our school will not be prevented from doing so because of money. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of becoming part of our school family, please contact our principal, Mrs. Kathy Lundy. Kathy would be happy to talk with you about our school.

Our comprehensive Family Faith Formation is also prepared to start the year in the fall - either in person or virtually. Our long tradition of equipping parents as the first educators of their children will continue this year in whatever format and configuration that it needs to. Whether it is helping families to introduce their little ones to the faith for the first time, or helping them to prepare their children for their first confession and first Holy Communion, our catechists are excited about the year that lies ahead. If you are interested in our Elementary Family Faith Formation Program, including sacramental preparation, please contact Tracy Joy.

Finally, our Youth Ministry program for Middle School and High School transitioned very well to the virtual mode last spring. Youth Ministry gatherings continued both for Middle and High School, and plans are underway for service learning opportunities this summer. If you would like more information about various youth ministry opportunities, please contact Ryan Chase.

As we move into this last week of July, I hope and pray that our catechists, our teachers, our program leaders, our administration and staff are able to take a well-deserved rest over the next few weeks. I know a number of them will be working hard preparing for the fall. Let us keep these brothers and sisters in our prayers - prayers of gratitude for all they have done this past year, and prayers for strength to continue the Lord’s work in the coming year.

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni