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Archbishop of the New York Timothy M. Dolan told students, parents, staff and alumni of Villa Maria Academy that he’ll ‘do anything to get out of the office’ to meet people.
Archbishop Dolan went to Villa Maria Academy on the morning of Wednesday, March 30 to celebrate the Country Club Road school’s 125th anniversary, holding a special mass in the school’s gymnasium. He also toured the school, visited classes and met with students and teachers.
“For 125 years, this has been a blessing,” the Archbishop said during the mass. “A blessing to the community, the country and the world.”
Villa Maria Academy opened in 1886 on E. 79th Street in Manhattan and moved to its current location, along the Eastchester Bay waterfront in 1928. The school runs from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
During the mass, Archbishop Dolan reminded the students, as well as the adults in the audience, that its mission always has been and always should be about providing for children.
“You make it worthwhile,” Archbishop Dolan said to the students. “All the sacrifice, we do it all for you and is it ever worth it. This is what it’s all about.”
Archbishop Dolan had never been to Villa Maria before the 125th anniversary mass and Sr. Teresa Barton, the school’s principal for over a decade, said his visit was a positive experience for her students.
“He’s such a warm and caring person, he makes them feel close to God,” Sr Barton said. “He gives a human face to God.”
Teachers have worked the 125th anniversary into the schools curriculum by talking about the history of the country and the world since it opened. Students also spent two weeks rehearsing for the special mass.
Janice Mastropietro teaches junior high religion at Villa Maria and helped organize Archbishop Dolan’s visit to the school.
“Our development office called the Archdiocese downtown,” Mastropietro said. “We’re so grateful he was able to come because he’s so busy.”
The school had been trying to arrange his visit since the new year, but the timing didn’t work out until the 125th anniversary mass.
Students thanked Archbishop Dolan by presenting him with two pieces of Villa Maria paraphernalia: a white sweatshirt and a blue t-shirt.
“He exudes holiness and love,” Mastropietro said. “And that’s what we try to teach the children.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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