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Ss. Peter and Paul Parish gives thanks as Bishop Koenig blesses new high school, family life center and columbarium

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Bishop Koenig addresses students Oct. 29 at the new SS. Peter and Paul High School in Easton, Md. Dialog photo

EASTON, Md. – A full church gathered inside Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton, Md., for the dedication and blessing of the family life center, columbarium and Ss. Peter and Paul High School. Parishioners, students, benefactors, contractors, diocesan priests and officials joined Bishops Koenig and Malooly for the prayer service and ceremony celebrating the newest additions to the parish campus.

Inclement weather kept the festivities indoors, but there was no dampening of the mood inside the church.

“We’re not just blessing the buildings,” Bishop Koenig said. “We’re blessing the work that has gone into making this a reality. We truly are blessing what gives glory and praise to God.”

Bishop Koenig talked about the namesake saints of the parish and how they were represented in the new facilities. Peter, he said, was the rock upon which the church was built, and he is often seen holding a key. Keys can be physical, but there are also other keys, such as the keys to learning.

“For St. Peter, that key was a sign of the ways that he opened up the knowledge of Christ for others,” he said. “The keys that Peter holds are a reminder to us of how we’re called to enter into the life of God.,” whether through adult education, faith formation or faith sharing, for example, or by opening up the minds of our young people.

Bishop Koenig greets a guest at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton, Md., where the family life center, columbarium and new high school were blessed and dedicated on Oct. 29. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

St. Paul is often pictured with a sword, and the nickname of the school’s athletic teams is the Sabres. The sword, the bishop said, doesn’t just symbolize how Paul was executed; it also is a sign of his desire to spread the faith.

Bishop Koenig expressed his gratitude to the benefactors and others who made the project become a reality. He said he was reminded of the motto of his high school, which, translated loosely from Latin is “let us be more of Christ and not of ourselves.”

He thanked those who gave more of themselves to help get this work done for the benefit of others going forward. Those people might grow and become like Christ and not of themselves, he said.

Two seniors made brief remarks to the audience. Janel Loaiza-Paucar thanked the community for its support. She said the chapel is the first thing students see when the enter the new high school, and it is a reminder of how important their faith is. Her classmate, Kyler Krewson, said they are grateful for features such as the performing arts auditorium, fitness center and athletic facilities.

“Your dedication has ensured that Catholic education is here to stay and prosper for generations,” he said.

The school faced an uncertain future after the Diocese of Wilmington declared bankruptcy in 2009, Bishop Malooly said after the service. Ss. Peter and Paul was scheduled to close, but he insisted the high school, which was housed in a series of trailers, remain open as it is the “only game in town” for Catholic secondary education on the Eastern Shore. The pastor, Father James Nash, recalled during his remarks to the congregation how he, principal James Nemeth and others from the parish approached diocesan officials with ambitions to build the family life center and columbarium, but they threw a curve ball when they said they wanted to add a high school to the complex.

The bishop, Father Nash said, deserves special thanks for having faith in the community to support a high school.

“All of a sudden, we decided to add a high school to this. I don’t know what came over (Bishop Malooly), but he said yes,” said Father Nash, in his seventh year as pastor.

Father Nash thanked a litany of people who helped make the day happen, from the contractors to parents to two families who were seeking a final resting place for a loved one who had died.

“We do this for parishioners, the deceased, kids and faculty so they can have a place that they can call home,” Father Nash said.

The old school, he said, included a quality education and plenty of memories, but so will the new one.

Two people, he continued, deserved special praise: Brent Outten and Peggy Wilson. Wilson was unable to attend, but Outten wore a smile from ear to ear, and he couldn’t take more than a few steps without being stopped.

Outten, the parish facilities director for the past 13 years, called the day “a dream come true. It’s been a great journey to be on. Glad to be on it. We’re very fortunate to provide the parish with a high school.”

The opening of the school, family life center and columbarium has been a boost to the parish community, Outten said. “Having everything in one complex, as far the high school and the family life center, it’s brought a great energy to the parish itself.”

Bishop Malooly recalled that there was always a desire for a parish center for social events, and others wanted a new high school. Some wanted both.

“As we got moving along, after the initial work Father Coine did, Father Nash just really endeared himself and got on board,” Bishop Malooly said. Father Robert Coine was the pastor before Father Nash.

Bishop Malooly was in Easton several times as the project moved along, the last time for the high school graduation. The work that had been done was striking, he said.

Msgr. Hurley and I came for graduation in May, and I couldn’t even find the rectory because all the buildings were up. This is remarkable,” he said. “This is good for the parish and good for the families.”

Bishop Koenig was not in the diocese for most of this project, arriving over the summer as the buildings and columbarium were already open, but he found a way to endear himself to the students at Ss. Peter and Paul by telling them they would have no homework for the weekend. All of the facilities were open for tours after the prayer service.