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Principals honored at special Mass

CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert J. Baker called on school principals to offer spiritual guidance when helping students discern God’s path for them.

The bishop was speaking to the administrators during a special Mass held to celebrate Diocese of Charleston’s school system at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on May 9.

Restoration work on the church paused long enough for about 50 people to attend the noon Mass and hear the bishop’s homily. He cited “Lifework: Finding Your Purpose in Life” by Rick Sarkisian, which calls for young people to consider values, virtues and faith along with their talents and interests in selecting a career.

He said principals and teachers can help make spirituality a more important part of the process.

The bishop also emphasized the importance of demonstrating love and charity in daily life. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said God’s love is the heart of the Gospel and the central nucleus of Christianity.

Bishop Baker encouraged the congregation to strive for the love of God and the love of their neighbors and said charity is the reason why things should be done. Quoting the pope, he noted that the church exists to educate people in love and bring them to spiritual maturity and called for the schools to be a partner in this goal.

Several school leaders praised the bishop’s words and said being the loving people we are supposed to be is a challenge that must be met each day.

After Mass, the crowd met at the Cathedral center for a luncheon and special tribute to Dianne Trapini of St. Francis Xavier High School in Sumter and Madeline McMillion of St. Peter in Columbia. The two principals are retiring this year.

“It’s a nice way for all of us to come together and honor those principals who aren’t returning,” said Fred McKay, principal of Charleston Catholic School.

Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, vicar general, who concelebrated the Mass, offered a warm welcome and provided the blessing.

The honorees were greeted in the conference room with skits,  disco music and a projector screen flashing their photos, along with images that elicited a mixture of laughter and groans.

More amusement ensued as the school leaders participated in toasting and roasting their departing colleagues.

“I was very touched,” Trapini said. “They’re just a wonderful, wonderful bunch.”

Both principals received a slew of presents, as did Msgr. Roth, who was given a toy firetruck in a light-hearted recognition of his recent honor by the South Carolina Firefighters’ Association.

Bishop Baker closed the luncheon on a more serious note by thanking the principals for being partners with the church through a difficult time in their joint history.

He reminded the group that they are all the Lord’s ambassadors and stressed how important it is for both our church and our schools to continue to provide a safe haven for children.

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