Your Grace Metropolitan Soroka, Your Excellency Bishop Bootkoski, Your Grace Archbishop Sulyk, Father Pastor, Father Roman, reverend clergy, venerable sisters, parishioners, parents, alumni, students and guests. Slava Isusu Chrystu!
Fifty years. . . Fifty years is long time. To create something from nothing and to keep it going for so many years requires much foresight and true dedication. You start with a dream, a few dollars in the building fund, and a lot of prayers. The challenge presented by Metropolitan Bohachevsky for Ukrainian Catholic parishes to build schools was taken up by then Father Pastor Yaroslaw Gabro and then Father Pastor Stephen Sulyk. The passion and commitment of these priests and the Missionary Sisters of the Mother of God must have been contagious to convince a relatively small parish to undertake the monumental task. To those parishioners that are sitting here with us today and to those that have passed, allow me to offer sincerest thanks for your hard work and dedication – hlybokyj poklen vam.
I mentioned Metropolitan Bohachevsky and Metropolitan Sulyk, but need to thank all of the leadership in the Philadelphia archeparchy over the years for their support for the school. Metropolitan Soroka, we are deeply grateful for your continued support and your taking time out of your busy schedule to grace us with your frequent visits to our school.
Since the Ukrainian Catholic archeparchy does not have an Office of Schools to provide the day to day guidance, we consider ourselves very fortunate to be in the region of the Metuchen Diocese. Bishop Bootkoski and his Schools team led by Mgsr. Corona and Dr. Ellen Ayoub have been very gracious and helpful. You exemplify true Christian values by making our school feel welcome within the framework of the diocesan schools. Please accept our thanks for all you do for our school.
It would be impossible for me to mention all the people whose dedication and cooperative efforts were so instrumental in founding this school 50 years ago and continuing its good works until this day. The administrators of the school – first Archbishop Sulyk, then Father Roman Dubitsky, who led the school for over 30 years, and now Father Ivan, had enormous pressures in the operation of the school. Crisis after crisis were dealt with for the good of the parish and school. The principals before me, have my deep admiration for the work they accomplished. The vision they had for our school was truly inspiring. The Missionary Sisters of the Mother of God put their hearts and souls into their work here at Assumption. The word “hero” can be defined by the way Sr. Yosaphata has dedicated her entire adult life to our school. When we speak of a school, we think of teachers. Every student has that favorite teacher – the teacher that made a life-long impression on them. When our alumni come back to visit, and that happens quite often, it is remarkable that they understand why they were scolded for not having their homework done and proudly proclaim that they are now doing well in high school or college. There can be no higher praise for a teacher. The teachers that toiled in this building over the years – meeting, planning, teaching and worrying about each and every student – should be applauded for their disciplined and caring approach to the education of the students. Each of our teachers, those here for a long term and those that are new to the school, have accepted the challenge to do the best possible for all our students for little compensation.
The support of the parish and school organizations is essential to the morale and financial well-being of the school. The PTA & FSA and its Executive Committees, the Bingo Committee and workers, Holy Name, St. Ann’s, and the Seniors all provide assistance when needed.
As you can see, there is much good that happens here at Assumption. I remember how Father Roman worried where he could find enough money to replace the old, drafty windows. Remember the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”? Answering our prayers, a parishioner stepped forward and provided the financial means. I remember a few years ago, Sister Yosaphata asked me if I knew why we received a check from Target for $340. It turned out that one of our teachers registered our school for a give-back program and convinced her neighbors to choose our school for this program. A few years ago, I was walking on Jacques Street and noticed an elderly man had fallen and a neighbor was trying to help him up. I offered to help. When the man passed away some months later, we found out he left $1000 in his will for our school. I firmly believe these good things happen to our school because we have not lost sight of who we are. Our focus on our Catholic identity has persevered throughout these 50 years. Our focus on a faith-based Catholic education for the students keeps the school true to its mission. Five years ago, a family registered their little girl in Kindergarten. Unfortunately, the father’s job was transferred to Canada, and they had to leave even before the end of the school year. This past summer, that family called and said they were in the area visiting friends and that their daughter insisted she wanted to visit the school, even though her teacher was not here. When they arrived she ran up to me and gave me a hug. After a tour to see the changes, she asked if it was possible to get a new ACS tshirt because hers was worn out and too tight. I found a shirt with ACS on it and her father insisted on paying for it. He wrote out a check for $100 and said it was a small token for all the kind things our school had done for their family and for how well their child was prepared for first grade. On their way out, they noticed the new mosaic above the main entrance and commented on how beautiful it was. It reads: “To know, to love and to serve God” Yes – that is what these 50 years has been all about!