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Ss. Peter and Paul High School students soak in ‘so many opportunities for everyone’ at new facility in Easton, Md. — Photo gallery

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Students at Ss. Peter and Paul High School. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

EASTON — Ss. Peter and Paul High School students walked the short distance from the main door of their school into the main door of the parish church. They say it’s just one of the advantages the new school provides them.

They comprised about half of the 500 folks who gathered to dedicate three major building projects on Friday, Oct. 29.

The dedication, led by Bishop Koenig and accompanied by Bishop Emeritus Malooly, provided an opportunity for parishioners, diocesan leaders and members of the Easton, Md., community to tour the state-of-the-art high school envisioned by the parish for years and launched in 2016 as part of the parish’s “Sacred Vision” project, which also included the parish family life center.

Superlatives and smiles characterized students’ reactions to the new school.

“I think it’s awesome,” junior Sam Lovell said as he opened the door of the church for visitors. “I like the bigger rooms — it feels like a high school. You’re like, ‘That’s my high school.’”

Students at Ss. Peter and Paul High School.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

“I like the auditorium and the gym, too,” added junior Ryan McHale, who also served as a greeter. “And all the rooms are so much bigger.”

The spaciousness of the building is in marked contrast to the former high school. Built in 1958, it currently houses the elementary and middle schools at 900 High Street, about two miles north of the new high school.

Later, under the leadership of former pastor Rev. Paul Jennings, two stick-built buildings attached by a portable structure to form a U-shape were installed on Choptank Avenue behind the original brick school building.

According to Ss. Peter and Paul’s pastor Father James Nash, the structure was meant to be in place for only five years. Instead it housed the high school for nearly 25 years.

About 170 students could fit comfortably in the 16,000 square foot modular buildings, but the new 65,000 square foot building will be able accommodate 325 students in its contemporary, industrial style interior.

Sam Lovell is confident that the former school’s sense of intimacy can be replicated in the larger space. “That’s gonna come with this high school,” he said. “Like it’s gonna develop its own feel, you know?”

Bishop Koenig offers a blessing at Ss. Peter and Paul Church Oct. 29 in Easton, Md.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

While the high school is predominantly a Talbot County school, it draws students from the five Mid-Shore counties. About half of the students are Catholic.

Junior Sarah Krocheski handed out programs to people as they entered the church for the dedication service. She said she loves the new school and that “it’s beautiful.

“I love it,” Krocheski said. “It’s a larger school, but we’re still such a close-knit community. So not really much has changed except that we definitely are given so much more to work with and so much more space, which is awesome. And the art room is huge. I’m really excited.”

“My favorite thing is the art room,” junior Catherine Langston said. “It just has endless supplies, endless anything you could ever think of, and there’s so many windows, and it’s just a really bright spacious room.”

The choir at Ss. Peter and Paul Church Oct. 29 in Easton, Md.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

It’s so great,” senior Lexi Gordon said. “It’s really exciting to be the first class to graduate from there also. It’s so cool.”

“There’s so much more space, and there are so many opportunities for everyone, like the auditorium and the great new fields, which I won’t be able to play on, but they’re great,” Gordon said. “There’s something for everybody.”

“I love the new school,” said junior Hattie Messick. “My favorite part is the gymnasium and the sports complex. It’s just such an improvement from the last school. Like we’re getting a gym and a weight room. That’s going to be so beneficial.”

Senior Rachel Andrew appreciated the larger space, as well as the proximity to the church. At the old school, students would ride in buses to attend special services and Masses. “It’s nice that we’re right next to the church so we can come over for things like this easily,” she said.

At the former school building, students lined up in two of the three hallways to form a L for prayers and announcements. “I like how big (the new school) is and how in the morning, we all go in the auditorium for prayer and announcements,” Andrew said. “It’s nice to all come together in the one room.”

Before the service began, campus minister Vicki Cappa said she was excited that the new high school is next door to the church on the 100-acre campus.

Bishop Malooly speaks with students of Ss. Peter and Paul High School.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

“Yesterday, the kids were helping at the columbarium, and then they came over to (the church) to have lunch to talk about Trunk or Treat,” Cappa said. “I went back and told Jim (Nemeth), “My heart is full. This is everything I thought it would be.”

“We’re together and it’s just going to blossom more each day,” Cappa said.

“It’s a great celebration, isn’t it?” diocesan education secretary Lou De Angelo said as he toured the new high school complex.”

“It’s a magnificent building and certainly long overdue,” De Angelo said. “Much good will come out of here as it had in the other building. But now it’s nice to have a facility to match the quality of education.”

James Nemeth was on hand for the service but kept a low profile. He has been principal of the high school for 21 years.

“I think people wanted to be committed to this for a long time, but to actually pull that together, to where you take people’s desire to be committed, and then to write a check and support that – that campaign happened very quickly and that happened because of the tremendous work of Father Nash, but more so, just the great work of the school board, (and of) Peggy Wilson, in particular,” Nemeth said.

“Without Peggy, this doesn’t happen,” Nemeth said. “She doesn’t want to hear that because she’s a very humble human being, but she really has been the driving force to continue to move this along in the most challenging of times … where you’re building a brand new Catholic school during a pandemic. Wow. God works in great ways and through great people.”

Heading up the Sacred Vision project fundraising effort were parishioners Dr. Wayne Hockmeyer and Jim Farrell.

“Parochial Catholic education is terribly important,” said Hockmeyer, a member of the school board and retired biotech pioneer and researcher. His parents’ commitment to Catholic education was a key factor in his success, he said.

“The Catholic educational system was really important” to his parents and immigrant grandparents. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money,” Hockmeyer said. “I think Catholic education had a lot to do to prepare me for college and life, so … to see something like this continue on to new generations of students is just wonderful.”