On Monday, August 23, Pope John Paul II High School in Greenville, NC, the second Catholic high school in the Diocese of Raleigh, opened its doors. After 10 years of planning, the school welcomed its inaugural freshman class, 23 students strong.
Classes are being held in three existing classrooms at St. Gabriel Church for the next two school years. The school hopes to add a gymnatorium, its first new structure, by fall 2011. Meanwhile athletic teams have been formed and the school offers Honors and AP classes.
The students were enthusiastic as they began their first day. Stephanie Ruffolo described her day as “pretty good. A lot better than I thought it would be. I am playing volleyball right now, and I will also play basketball.”
Asked how he liked school so far, Duncan Patrick grinned. “Love it!” he said. “I like being here with my friends. The teachers are pretty cool, and I already know most of them. We are having fun.”
On Friday, students and family members attended the school year’s opening Mass. Fr. Michael A. Butler, Pastor of St. Gabriel, was the Principal celebrant, with Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Pastor of St. Peter Parish in Greenville, as concelebrant and homilist. Also concelebrating was Fr. William G. Quigley, C.I.C.M., Campus Minister at East Carolina University.
In his homily, Fr. Kerber told the students that the most important goal in their education would not be outstanding grades or athletic achievements or popularity, but developing and demonstrating hearts full of love for the Lord and each other.
Dr. Michael J. Fedewa, Diocesan Director of Catholic Formation and Education, spoke briefly at the end of Mass to express how proud the Diocese was of all those involved in John Paul II and to assure them of continuing strong support for the school from Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and the Diocese.
Following Mass, students and parents shared refreshments before the youth moved on to their World History class.
Dr. Joseph Nelson, Lead Administrator for the school, and Mr. Glenn Joyner, the on-site Director, said that the first week had gone well. “You can just feel that there’s something special going on here,” Dr. Nelson said.
Mr. Roger Barefoot, John Paul II’s Athletic Director and health/physical education instructor, said that the students were “really excited” about being the first class in the school’s history. “Some of them participated in a cross country meet,” he said with a smile, “and I was able to tell our first student to cross the finish line that he now held the school record.” What the first class misses, Mr. Barefoot said, is mentoring from upper classmen. “Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh has been terrific in that respect, though,” he said, “both by the example they set in their own school and by the efforts they continue to make to reach out to our kids.”
Above: Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Fedewa addressing students and faculty of newly created Pope John Paul II High School following opening week Mass.
Above: Fr. Justin Kerber, C.P., Pastor of Saint Peter Church in Greenville attending reception with students and faculty of new high school.
Above: Pope John Paul II Students in start-up freshmen class during history lesson.