Restored chapel highlights new school year for Manahawkin students
By David Karas | Trenton Monitor Correspondent
The start of the school year took on added significance for students in All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin.
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During a Mass to mark the opening of the 2016-17 academic year, the students, teachers, faculty and family also witnessed the blessing and reopening of the school chapel. The Mass was celebrated Sept. 23 in St. Mary of the Pines Church, Manahawkin, by Father Pasquale A. Papalia, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, and concelebrated by Father Marcin Kania, parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat.
Kathleen Blazewicz recalled being struck by the presence of a chapel in the elementary school upon her arrival as the newly appointed principal in July, 2015. While impressed that an elementary school housed a chapel, she also noted its appearance, which was in need of refurbishment.
Blazewicz set out to see what work could be done by first having conversations with the pastors of each of the school’s five sending parishes – St. Mary, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Theresa, Little Egg Harbor, St. Francis Assisi, Brant Beach, and St. Pius X, Forked River. In each conversation, the question was raised about whether the chapel should remain.
Determined to keep it, she surmised, “We needed to turn it around and restore what it should be – what it was meant to be originally.”
Work commenced as some teachers cleaned out the chapel, and Msgr. Kenard Tuzeneu, pastor of St. Mary Parish, removed the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle and placed it in St. Mary of the Pines Church. The tabernacle was relocated to the school’s center hallway during the refurbishments.
“It was such an emotional time for the staff, students and parents,” Blazewiczsaid. “All who walked past stopped and said [the tabernacle] was such a powerful statement – one without words.”
Blazewicz spoke of the anticipation and happiness that filled All Saints Regional Catholic School as the community gathered for the Sept. 23 Mass and how heartened all were to hear Father Papalia’s remarks as he spoke about how Jesus would again be living in their school chapel.
After the Mass, each student was given a white carnation and all processed from the church to the school, with altar servers and hand bells leading the way. Once all were gathered around the chapel, the community reverently looked on as Father Kania returned the tabernacle to its prayerful place of prominence and as Father Papalia then placed the Blessed Sacrament inside the tabernacle.
“The children placed their carnations in a vase and knelt before the tabernacle. It was truly an emotional moment for me,” Blazewicz said, adding that she noticed parents and staff members with tears in their eyes as well.
“It was just awesome,” she added. “To know that Jesus is truly with us each and every day in our school, to build our Catholic identity, to bring the respect to our Chapel and to our faith…It is a sign that we truly live our faith in our school community.”