Once the students of Cardinal Gibbons High School heard there would be another Catholic high school in the Diocese, they immediately wanted to help. At the students’ suggestion, the community of Pope John Paul II Catholic High School in Greenville travelled to Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh.
On April 30, twenty-five rising 9th graders, faculty, trustees, administration and parents from Pope John Paul II High School were welcomed into the CGHS community. Among the visitors were Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Pastor of St. Peter Parish, Greenville; Fr. Michael A. Butler, Pastor of St. Gabriel Parish, Greenville, where the new high school will be located; and Dr. Joseph Nelson, new principal of St. Peter Catholic School and lead administrator for John Paul II High School.
In his opening address to the students, Jason Curtis, principal of Cardinal Gibbons, said, “The most important part of this campus is the people, and now, Pope John Paul II High School, you are a part of that relationship.”
The Greenville students were given the opportunity to tour the school, eat lunch and attend classes with Gibbons students. Faculty from the same subject area in each school and parents from each school were paired together for question-and-answer sessions. “There’s an authenticity to living God’s love at Cardinal Gibbons from the leadership, administration, faculty, and the students and I have a great deal of respect for that,” said Dr. Valerie DeBellis, the JPII honors Geometry teacher.
Several students expressed their eagerness to start classes in the new high school. They were awed by the Cardinal Gibbons facilities but, more than that, impressed by the spirit among students. “The one thing I would like to see at our school next year,” one John Paul II freshman said, “is the kind of relationship between the students and faculty and among the students that I see here at Cardinal Gibbons.”
Colette DeLeo, whose son will be a member of John Paul II’s first class, called the new high school an answer to prayer, saying she had started praying for a Catholic high school when her son was in kindergarten.
Fr. Kerber said, “The best part of being here was witnessing how faithful the Cardinal Gibbons students are. Their faith permeated our whole experience today.”
Speaking to the students at the beginning of the Welcome Day, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, described Cardinal Gibbons as “a treasure and a gift to the Diocese of Raleigh. It takes its Catholic identity seriously and teaches you to celebrate your faith, because you are a part of something bigger than just your class or your school. You are part of the Body of Christ, the whole Church in the world.”
The Bishop’s words must have resonated with the John Paul II students as they boarded the bus for home on Friday afternoon. Thanks to the openness and generosity of the students at Cardinal Gibbons, they had seen their own world expand in just a few hours.
Above: Cardinal Gibbons High School students creating an arch of welcome for visiting students from the newly established Pope John Paul II High School in Greenville.