byMark Labbe and Gregory L. Tracy Pilot Staff
BROCKTON -- It's been 10 years since Trinity Catholic Academy (TCA) in Brockton first opened its doors, a milestone the school celebrated on Ascension Thursday, May 25, with a special Mass presided by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.
Held at St. Edith Stein Church, which neighbors TCA's lower campus, the anniversary Mass saw a number of students of the pre-K to 8th grade school attend, as well as their family members and TCA teachers and staff. Also in attendance were a number of religious sisters representing the five orders that staffed Brockton's original Catholic schools as well as several benefactors and organizers of the original effort to form the academy.
The first project of what was then called The 2010 Initiative, the academy was formed in 2007 from the three Catholic schools remaining in Brockton at the time -- St. Casimir, St. Edward and Sacred Heart. All three schools were located within a mile of each other and all were at risk of closing due to low enrollment and limited financial resources.
In an effort to preserve Catholic education in the city, the three schools were consolidated into one academy with two campuses utilizing the former St. Edward's and St. Colman's school buildings, which were completely renovated by Suffolk Construction in less than a year.
When the academy opened in the fall of 2007, enrollment surpassed that of the three former schools combined. Enrollment remains strong and, over the past decade, the academy has gone on to educate some 3,500 students.
In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley spoke on the Great Commission that Jesus gave on Ascension Thursday, which called on disciples to go spread the Gospel, as well as the New Commandment he gave 40 days earlier on Holy Thursday, which called on the disciples to love one another as he loved them.
Catholic schools like Trinity Catholic Academy, he said, "help us to be able to live those marching orders that we receive in Jesus' farewell on Holy Thursday and Ascension Thursday -- that we learn how to love the way that Jesus loved, that we to make a gift of ourselves, that we learn to serve others, that we learn to give first, love first, forgive first."
"We also want to introduce people in to the Eucharist, which is the center of lives, where God's love becomes manifest and feeds us with his very life so that we can live on in his friendship forever," he continued.
Jesus has told us to create disciples, he said, and "Catholic schools are about making disciples, helping people learn about the faith and the call to be part of Jesus' community."
Following the Mass, a luncheon was held at the academy's lower campus gymnasium, which included a performance by the third grade choir and remarks from founding TCA board member and Simmons College provost Katie Conboy; Jack Connors, chairman of the Campaign for Catholic Schools; and Mark Payson, chair of the TCA Board of Trustees; as well as an opening prayer by Father James Lies, vice president of Mission at Stonehill College.
Conboy recalled the history of the academy, noting that the three original schools were struggling with declining enrollment and deteriorating buildings, but she said, speaking to Cardinal O'Malley, "you didn't turn your back on the community and its incredibly rich traditional of Catholic education."
Instead, in a call to action, Cardinal O'Malley "brought the best of the best to Brockton," she continued, referencing the many individuals and businesses leaders who worked to create the academy.
"Their unwavering dedication to build a solid organization has literally changed the course of lives here in Brockton," she said.
She also noted the contributions of women religious, who for decades taught in Brockton's Catholic schools and assisted at the academy in its first years.
"Together, these women planted the seeds that flourish throughout TCA and spread to what has become two vibrant learning communities in the heart of this city," said Conboy.
In his remarks, Connors recalled the story of how Cardinal O'Malley recruited him to lead the effort to revitalize the archdiocese's Catholic schools and how plans were laid for the first of those projects, Trinity Catholic Academy.
He lauded the efforts of late Tom and Mary Shields, Manthala "Matt" George, John Fish and others, but added that all those who worked to found the academy were simply motivated by their duty as Christians to give back to the community.
TCA board chair Payson also noted the "extraordinary" progress made over the past 10 years.
Students at TCA are "learning to live like Christ, to help our brothers and sisters, to reach out to the marginalized," he said.
"This work is critically important, it means so much to the community," said Payson.