Bishop Robert Brennan, head of the Catholic Diocese in Brooklyn, welcomed students of St. Athanasius Catholic Academy back for the first day of school on Wednesday, Sept. 6 — a day before public school students across the city headed back to their own classrooms after the summer break.
The bishop joined head principal Diane Competello in high-fiving Bensonhurst students as they returned to campus and offered up a prayer over their 2023-2024 academic school year. Some students eagerly rushed to greet their friends and classmates in the schoolyard, while some hung back to exchange final goodbyes with their parents.
According to John Quaglione, deputy press secretary for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, it was an inspiring moment for students and parents to be greeted by the bishop.
“It was really so well received,” he said. “It was such an excitement around the fact that he was there.”
After a warm welcome in the schoolyard, Brennan walked with students through the halls and stopped into a few classrooms.
“It was a very unique and inspiring moment,” he said.
The Diocese of Brooklyn represents 69 Catholic elementary schools and 15 high schools with an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students, according to a diocese spokesperson. Last year, the community welcomed a new superintendent — Deacon Kevin McCormack, the former principal at Xaverian High School. McCormack emphasized the importance of critical thinking and allowing students to grow and change within traditional Catholic values and teachings.
While admissions to Catholic schools rose in New York City in 2022, the Archdiocese of New York closed 12 schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island ahead of the 2023-24 school year.
Quaglione said parents who choose to put their students in Catholic schools are making an investment in their children’s education and part of that investment includes wanting to have faith integrated in their courses. Tuition can fall between $4,000 to $5,000 a school year so to have the bishop meet with children emphasized the Diocese’s devotion to parents.
“It solidified for the parents, students and faculty an even greater commitment to this school year and to the decision to be a part of a Catholic school community,” Quaglione told Brooklyn Paper. “They really feel the connection between the church and the school community by his presence.”