Students and Faculty of Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy (MSSCA) participated in the national recognition of 130 years of Catholic Education in the country. The Founders’ Day celebration was acknowledged with a special assembly on Monday (November 4) at the Wallace Groves auditorium on the school’s campus.
The Catholic Board of Education’s (CBE) theme for this year’s celebrations, ‘Faith Filled Past … Hopeful Future’ is observed by all schools, during simultaneous assemblies across the country.
MSSCA Principal, Joy Ritchie-Green, spoke about the impact Catholic education has had throughout its existence.
“In Catholic education we are all about service and once you would’ve walked the halls of a catholic school, you will forever be changed,” she said.
Ritchie-Green, who is also a product of the CBE added, “Who I am today is because I attended a Catholic School.”
Ritchie-Green expressed gratitude to the countless hours that many individuals, including educators, staff members, parents and guardians, past and present, have dedicated to the Catholic education system. One of those individuals being well-known educator Mavis Shepherd, who has contributed decades of her life to Catholic education, particularly at MSSCA.
“Without our teachers being here we would not have a Mary Star and Mrs. Shepherd we are happy to have you here with us this morning,” she said.
Ritchie-Green noted that what makes the system so unique to others besides its longevity is the fact that it was the first to be open to students of all races and ethnicities, which is a legacy to be proud of.
The Catholic education system is the largest private educational system in The Bahamas, one of the oldest educational systems, and has thousands of alumni.
On November 4, 1889, the Sisters of Charity opened the first of Catholic school in The Bahamas – St. Francis School, a free institution, in a rented house on West Street, on grounds south of the church. The St. Francis & Joseph School of today is the product of that first school.
Days after St. Francis School was opened, another school, St. Francis Xavier Academy, a fee-paying school was opened in a section of the rented St. Francis School. The Xavier’s Lower School of today is the product of St. Francis Xavier Academy.
MSSCA was established in 1960.
The assembly also featured musical selections from the school’s primary and secondary choir and a message from the Archbishop. Caline Newton was the guest speaker for the event. She reflected on her time as a student in the Catholic Education system, stating that she spent 16 years in the system from grades 1 through 12. Newton expressed that during her time there she was taught valuable life lessons of faith and hope that she carries with her to this day.
Father David Cooper, Mary, Star of the Sea Pastor spoke about the significance of Catholic Education in the country during an interview. He stated that as a product of Catholic Education all of his life, he understands the great sacrifice all the pioneers of Catholic Education have made, particularly in The Bahamas.
He furthered that Catholic Education not only stresses the importance academic development but character as well.
“Make students aware of their social responsibilities and also to instill in them altruism, where they have a responsibility to give back to the nation and to those who have sacrificed for them before,” he said.
Father Cooper, also gave an update on how students were coping following hurricane Dorian’s destruction in early September this year.
“Here at Mary Star we’re still in transition, a lot of our students are still not back, they are still away,” he said.
He added that many of the lower school students are not as expressive about their hurricane experience but some of the high school students are.
“Many students have been affected by some way or the other,” he said.
Father Cooper revealed that they have offered the students some counseling but admits that recovery will be a long process.
One of the MSSCA Teachers of the Month, Math Teacher Anil Antony also shared his thoughts on Catholic Education post Dorian.
He shared that several of the school’s teachers have been affected by the storm but they are all working to offer the high standard of education synonymous with the Catholic system.
“We are serious about education...we are not going to sacrifice and we are not going to compromise for any kind of natural disaster,” he said.
Antony has been a teacher in the system for 25 years, many of which were spent at the Grand Bahama Catholic High School.
“I joined the Catholic school system in 1994, so I’m still here, I’m happy and I’m proud,” he said.
He furthered that the system is keen on developing their students to be well rounded individuals and will continue to do so regardless.