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DOWNEY - The turnout was large (easily 500) and celebratory last Friday at the hour-long blessing and dedication ceremony of the recombined and newly-named St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy on Gardendale Street, as the principal speakers led by the Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, spoke of the two schools' rich pasts and what the new entity with its new colors and seal, and therefore a new identity, has in store for the future.
John Smet, chairman of the volunteer Advisory Board - made up of lay leaders from throughout the Archdiocese, local community leaders, educators and professionals, as well as alumni of St. Pius and St. Matthias - explained what the words "Pride, Virtue, Purpose" that adorn the academy's combination emblem and escutcheon "really meant."
Acknowledging that it was a great honor to represent the parents of "this community," PTO president Carlos Porras said the merger of the schools represented a new beginning, and that the academy with its "new colors (gray and red) and opportunities to start new traditions, along with benefiting from a great administration and staff, grants each student great potential to grow. We must therefore nurture them..."
ASB president Gelyan Garcia briefly referred to the advantages attached to "being first" in anything, and she reminded her fellow students how "We are surrounded by great people, whose support, as well as the resources at our disposal, will help us grow, not only academically, but athletically, socially, and spiritually."
Using the familiar maxim, "Where there is no vision, the people perish," to begin his remarks, Downey mayor and deacon Mario Guerra said: "Today we celebrate that vision-two schools with rich narratives getting together to further mold young minds along Catholic principles and ideals."
He said there now are five high schools in Downey, but "this is the only Catholic high school." Going forward, he urged the school community to "continue doing good things, including embracing Character Counts principles" of which he has been an ardent advocate.
"Catholic education is key to our church's future," said Archbishop Gomez. "The Catholic Church's firm commitment to providing a good education includes upholding values and practicing the virtues that are needed for right living..." With this new chapter in St. Pius-St. Matthias's evolution, Gomez said "Our bright and promising youth will definitely be part of that future."
He reminded everyone about what constitutes happiness. "Let's not forget," he said, "that happiness doesn't depend on an accumulation of material things, but in the good use to which we put our knowledge and skills-which is to serve the needs of mankind."
Because of his tight schedule, the Archbishop was seen hurrying away after the ceremony to where his car was parked. Standing nearby, I felt the urge to at least attempt to ask him for a few words exclusively for the Patriot. So, like a paparazzo, I hurried after him (he chose to sit in front beside his driver; he had already taken off his official jacket, probably to look inconspicuous, I thought).
He was game to roll down his window and my heart sank when he said, "I gotta go." "Thank you, Archbishop. I can use that." After a split second, though, his head popped out again as his car accelerated, leaving me with these precious words: "We're happy, we're all happy, about this."
School starts this Monday, said school principal Erick Rubaclava, who emceed Friday's program: "As of Tuesday evening, we have a total enrollment of 290. The entering freshman class numbers 27 boys, and 61 girls. We have already overshot our target for the boys, while we're still processing girls' applications. We hope to have an on-target freshman enrollment of 100 by opening day."
Published: Aug. 15, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 18