Students at St. Francis Xavier School in South Weymouth sing patriotic songs during the school's Veterans Day celebration Nov. 9. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
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SOUTH WEYMOUTH -- St. Francis Xavier School was one of the many Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston to hold special ceremonies as the nation prepared to mark Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Since Veterans Day fell on a Sunday this year, the school held its annual Veterans Day Program Nov. 9 with about 50 veterans in attendance, many of them friends or relatives of members of the school community.
Speaking to the Pilot at a reception after the program, Principal Robert Murphy said St. Francis Xavier School has held the event for 20 years, and that putting it on "really involves the whole school."
"The teachers embrace it, the kids embrace it," he said.
The ceremony began with a procession of flags carried by students into St. Francis Xavier Church. Father Charles Higgins, the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church, offered the opening prayer.
He quoted St. John Paul II, who said "Freedom always comes at a high price," and "There is no such thing as freedom without sacrifice."
Pamela Ahl, who teaches grade six, acted as master of ceremonies.
Every grade, from kindergarten to grade eight, participated in the music program, which included performances from the students and sing-alongs with audience participation. Grade-four students dressed in costumes of members of different professions -- such as doctors, police officers and construction workers -- sang "Seize the Day" from the movie musical "Newsies." When the grade-five students sang a medley of the official songs of the five branches of the U.S. Military, veterans in attendance were invited to stand during the song of the branch in which they served.
Murphy offered some words of appreciation for the veterans, the event and the school community.
"You can see how much of their heart and soul they put into this program," he said of the students and faculty.
"To our veterans here today, I sincerely thank you for your service and your sacrifice," he said.
Murphy spoke of the fact that this Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The holiday was originally called Armistice Day and honored those who had died in the war, which people believed would end all wars.
Unfortunately, Murphy acknowledged, it did not end all wars, and people, such as the veterans present, "have answered our nation's call to service."
"We appreciate all their service and it is important that we never cease to honor and thank them and acknowledge the sacrifices they made to serve our great country," he said.
Murphy noted that in addition to being the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, this year is also the 60th anniversary of the opening of St. Francis Xavier School.
"Along with high academic standards, we provide our students with opportunities to serve others and become leaders. Service and leadership are important components of Catholic schools everywhere," Murphy said.
He added, "Jesus came to us to serve. We could have no better role model."
Grade-eight teacher Angela Bowman held an honorary roll call, inviting the veterans by name to accept thank-you cards made and distributed by the students.
Debbie Stevens told the Pilot her granddaughter attended St. Francis Xavier School for four years.
"I've been coming to this program since she came here, and I think it's wonderful," she said.
Stevens brought her friend Paul Warren, an Army veteran who directed music in Lynn schools and participated in various churches' music programs for many years.
"I've been telling him about this for the whole year, so he's here today," she said.
"I was so glad that he was able to come," she added.
Warren, 93, said he was "very pleasantly, positively surprised" by the number of students and quality of singing in the program.
"It's so well-put-together," he said.
Alice Dzierceski attended the event with her brother, Leonard J. Clayton, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Dzierceski's daughter, Marie Minihan, teaches grade four at the school.
"I hope it continues," Dzierceski said afterwards.