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NORWOOD -- Gretchen Hawley says she sees her profession not as a job but rather a vocation.
As principal of St. Catherine of Siena Elementary School, Hawley knows the importance of bringing Christ to the young people of today.
“Every day I get up to speak to the children” during the morning prayer gathering, Hawley explained, “and I ask them to see Christ in others and to be Christ for others.”
To make that possible, the schoolchildren -- 560 in all -- meet every day for prayer. In addition to their regular courses, which includes religion, they also are exhorted to “share their life and share their faith” with others.
Hawley added that “the sacramental life of the Church is also integrally linked with the sacramental life of the school” as well. The school holds frequent Masses and, twice a year, there is a schoolwide penitential liturgy in which students are encouraged to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In addition, “the priests are very active in the life of the school,” Hawley said, adding that their involvement “helps add to the community feeling we have inside our school.”
St. Catherine of Siena School was established in 1926 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. To honor them, the school prays for the sisters as part of their morning prayer service every day.
“I guess I truly feel a call to secure Catholic education in the future because it’s been such an important part of the parish’s past,” Hawley said.
Hawley also praised the teachers and staff, noting that their “commitment” to the students is “inspiring.”
“Our mission is the same mission as that of the wider Church -- to evangelize and to bring others to Christ,” she continued.
“In our school, it’s a team of people who all work together to fulfill this mission of St. Catherine’s,” said Hawley.
Originally from Dorchester, Hawley, 52, grew up attending Catholic schools.
“My education, my very self, I credit to my Catholic education,” she said.
“I was taught to see God in all things, and was given the ability to take that experience of seeing God in all things and to live in a way that will hopefully bring others to Christ,” she said.
Feeling the call to work with children and young people, Hawley became a teacher, working for over 30 years at both Catholic and public schools throughout her tenure. Four years ago, when she was offered the opportunity to become the principal at her parish school, she happily took it on.
In addition to being the school principal, Hawley and her husband of 19 years, George Hawley, have been parishioners at St. Catherine’s for the past 14 years. In fact, her husband, a Norwood native, attended St. Catherine of Siena School when he was a child. Each of their three sons has graduated from the school as well.
“Our parish is very vibrant, with a lot of families, but it is also very close-knit” she said. “It almost feels like a small town, where everyone knows everyone and is comfortable.”
“Yes,” she added, “it really is like a small town.”