A blessed day at Paul VI High School

A blessed day at Paul VI High School
Bishop Dennis Sullivan accepts a gift at Mass at Paul VI High School, Haddon Township, on Oct. 20, a day after the former pope’s beatification and elevation to the title “Blessed.” Pictured with the bishop are seniors, Rob Helsel, Anthony Leone, Marisa Tedesco and Mike Bizzoco. Photo by James A. McBride

Bishop Dennis Sullivan accepts a gift at Mass at Paul VI High School, Haddon Township, on Oct. 20, a day after the former pope’s beatification and elevation to the title “Blessed.” Pictured with the bishop are seniors, Rob Helsel, Anthony Leone, Marisa Tedesco and Mike Bizzoco.
Photo by James A. McBride

By Peter G. Sánchez

HADDON TOWNSHIP — Pope Paul VI had plenty on his mind as leader of the Catholic Church from 1963-78, including the Second Vatican Council and Humanae Vitae. Did he know about a high school named for him in Haddon Township, NJ.?

Apparently so.

Msgr. James Tracy, a retired priest of the Camden Diocese, recalled being a seminarian and accompanying Archbishop Celestine J. Damiano on a trip to Rome.

Msgr. Tracy remembered Archbishop Damiano asking him to carry a cylinder, which, while in the presence of the pontiff, was opened to reveal the plans for the creation of Paul VI High School, one of the very few schools in the country named for the late pontiff.

Also with Msgr. Tracy on that trip was another seminarian — now another retired priest of the diocese — Msgr. Leonard G. Scott.

The two priests and Bishop Dennis Sullivan visited the high school for a day of celebration Oct. 20, a day after the former pope’s beatification and elevation to the title “Blessed.”

At St. Peter Basilica in Vatican City on Oct. 19, Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI.

Pope Paul VI led “the church into new territory and a new expression of herself,” said Bishop Sullivan at Mass in the school auditorium.

The Camden leader recalled the day’s Gospel, which centered on storing up spiritual treasures to enter eternal life, instead of amassing material wealth in a temporary home.

“When Paul VI died on Aug. 7. 1978, that he was pope did not matter; what mattered was what he had stored up in himself to present to God: faith, mercy, kindness and love. Those he carried to his grave,” he said.

Since the beginning of the school year, students have been learning about, and commemorating, the legacy of Blessed Paul VI.

In Sister Dianna Higgins’ freshman religion classes, a recent project has had students split up into groups and tasked with creating posters that focus on a particular aspect of Paul VI’s life, such as his childhood, and his papal documents.

“This is an important day for the school,” she said on the 20th, as students celebrated in her class after the Mass, with treats like biscotti and pizzelles, indicative of the Italian roots of Montini, who was born in the village of Concesio, in the province of Brescia, in Lombardy.

“We should all strive to be like Paul VI; he’s a cool guy,” said Matt Moleski, a freshman in Sister Dianna’s class.

In the cafeteria, the lunch specials also reflected his heritage, offering such foods as pancetta and pasta with bay leaf; risotto with asiago cheese, peas and mushrooms; and mozzarella, radicchio and tomato on focaccia. There was also a sheet cake, commemorating the beatification.

In front of the altar during Mass were a second class relic of Blessed Paul VI, a zucchetto worn by the pontiff; and paintings created by art class students, one depicting Blessed Paul VI in prayer, and another of the Italian Alps.

Before the liturgy, students watched a video produced by film class students, which featured interviews with Msgr. Tracy and Msgr. Scott.

The film students, along with the school, are working on a video to send to Pope Francis soon, thanking him for beatifying Paul VI.

Father John Rossi, Director of Catholic Identity, shared photos with the school community of his trip this past summer to Paul VI’s hometown, including images of the high school and where he was ordained a priest.

In thanks for Bishop Sullivan’s visit, the high school presented him with a silk screen silhouette of Paul VI, made by art student Marisa Tedesco; and a pen box, commemorating the day.

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