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Ss. Peter and Paul parish, schools honor memory of founder Msgr. Joseph W. Irwin — Catholic Schools Week

Msgr. Joseph H. Irwin’s chalice — encrusted with his mother’s jewelry— his portrait, a statue of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and his copy of “The Little Way” will be featured in a Catholic Schools Week presentation celebrating the influence of the founder and longtime priest of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish and Schools in Easton, Md.

EASTON — Honoring the memory of the founder and longtime pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish and schools will be just one of many activities designed to help the educational community celebrate Catholic Schools Week in the heart of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

As the new high school on South Washington Street begins its second semester in a new building, students and faculty will recall its founding by Wilmington native Msgr. Joseph H. Irwin.

Beginning with Masses the weekend of Saturday, Jan. 29, and Sunday, Jan. 30, leaders, faculty, staff, alumni, students and parents will celebrate educational excellence, faith and service. Students will attend weekend Masses in uniform and thank parishioners for their support.

The elementary school at 900 High St. will tie some of their activities to Respect Life Month. As the school’s community service project, each class will create baby baskets for Choices Pregnancy Center in Easton.

Students in PreK-3 through eighth grades will assemble the baskets and participate in a prayer service to bless them, principal Sherrie Connolly said. “About 25 baskets altogether” with additional donations will “fill a truckload” with baby items, she said.

Although grandparents day won’t be held this year, students will make cards for grandparents and special loved ones, Connolly said. Children also will create cards and gift baskets for parish priests Fathers James Nash, Michael Angeloni and Oscar Ekwere.

Throughout the week students at both schools will delve into the history of their schools and have fun doing it with tag days, games and other fun projects.
The only Catholic high school on Maryland’s Eastern Shore will celebrate the influence of Monsignor Irwin, whose remains are buried on the grounds of the elementary school.

In 1925, Msgr. Irwin became the first pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul and served until 1936. He was then appointed to form a new parish, St. Helena’s, in the Wilmington suburb of Bellefonte, where he served for two years. In 1938, he returned to the Easton parish and served until his death in 1969. He founded the elementary school in 1955 and the high school in 1958.

The Dominican Sisters from Sparkill, N.Y., originally staffed the school.

The high school will host an open house for parents, grandparents, parishioners and alumni on Monday, Jan. 31. Msgr. Irwin’s ministry will be featured in a slide presentation. Campus minister Vicki Cappa will give out Hershey chocolate bars to memorialize the tradition many alumni remember: The beloved pastor always gave Hershey bars with report cards to students.

“I think it’s so important to know where you come from,” Cappa said. “It’s just like a family — you need to know your history, your genealogy.”

“I think it gives everyone a greater sense of community to know that there’s history here, and the school started for reason and that they’re part of that journey with all the (thousands) of other students — that they’re all bound together on this faith journey.”

On Tuesday, theology classes will walk the short distance to the church for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and celebrate the community back at school with a presentation of Guiding Eyes for the Blind with junior Catherine Langston and Grant, the black Labrador retriever puppy she’s raising for the organization. Students will gather toys and food for rescued pets at Talbot Humane.

“Celebrating Our Students Day” on Wednesday will focus on pampering students with a school colors (blue and white) tag day, breakfast foods, Panera lunch orders, a no-homework pass, and a movie students picked, “Spider Man Homecoming.” Cappa laughed as she explained, “We tried to get them to choose something inspirational.”

Rounding out the week will be Mass at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the church on the feast day of St. Blaise, and a half day and teacher appreciation day lunch on Friday.