Bishop Rozanski blesses the new mural by local artist Suzanne Little-Stefanik.
ADAMS, Mass. — Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski was in Adams on Monday morning to deliver Mass at St. Stanislaus' Church and visit with the students of St. Stanislaus Kostka School.
It's not often a Mass celebrated by the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield ends up as the second most important story of the day, but the kids at St. Stan's made sure that's exactly what happened.
Rozanski was greeted by each class he visited with an enthusiastic group wave and "Hi, Bishop!" A lot of parishioners toured the school along with him. Rozanski liked what he saw.
"I think that having an education that's based in values, especially in our world today when everyone seems to be drifting, really gives a solid foundation to a start in life for the students," he said. "The theme of faith is not confined to just religion class but really goes to all of the different classes. So through science, math, and history the theme of faith is all pervasive in the curriculum."
The parochial K-8 school on Summer Street was founded in 1912 and enrollment today hovers around 100. The church was scheduled for closure a few years ago by the diocese but was saved by a three-year vigil held by parishioners. It's now considered a mission of the Parish of St. John Paul II.
Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese Dan Baillargeon shares the bishop's passion for the merits of a Catholic education. Baillargeon is the first layperson to hold the position of superintendent. He sees the quality of education offered as a solid foundation for growth in an increasingly competitive arena.
"We've found that kids coming from a Catholic education are better prepared for high school. My wife and I have eight children, six of which are in Catholic schools in the diocese, and they're doing better as a result of being in these schools," he said.
Like most districts both lay and diocesean in the region, enrollment has dwindled and schools have closed — including St. Mark's and St. Joseph's High schools in Pittsfield. St. Stan's Principal Joseph Rogge, a longtime educator and administrator in the area, still sees the past as the key to the future, however for the small but passionate family at the school.
"We have to look at yesterday. What did we do in the past that was so good? The goal isn't 'Let's see how many schools we can close,'" he said. "We've always educated the whole child. We have to excel in academics but also in the teaching of values and faith. What we do is special. I believe it. I'm 72 years old. I came here in May of '18. I feel like I'm 40 or 50."
The Rev. Steven Montesanti serves the parish and St. Mary's in Cheshire as well. He sees the church and the school as one entity and can't imagine either existing alone.
"One benefits the other. The kids are some of the best teachers to their own parents. They are just spontaneously in the moment. [The parishioners] see the kids and they feel their presence and it has a way of keeping everybody younger," said the Pittsfield native. "You get grounded in a reality of faith that lasts a lifetime. It really does."
Former student Mary Wojtaszek Jette toured the school after Mass. Her family sent three generations to St. Stan's. She doesn't see many differences from the past.
"My father went here, I went here, and my kids went here. Almost all the parishioners sent their kids here. It was where all my friends were," she said. She did mention one big difference. "When we were here it was ONLY nuns."
Fourth-grade teacher Tammy Barosso was excited for the bishop's visit and saw it as a great learning opportunity for the kids. She thinks St. Stanislaus' story is an inspiration for her students.
"It's a living testament that it doesn't matter how long you live (St. Stanislaus Kostka died at 17), you can still make a difference in people's lives. It's important for kids to make that connection," she said. "In my 20 years here, this is a very special day. To be able to commemorate this visit with our project."
The project Barosso was speaking about is an interdisciplinary study, undertaken by the pupils, of St. Stanislaus' history in anticipation of the Rozanski's visit. The students prepared several projects for the tour of the school.
The eighth-graders wrote, filmed, and edited a history of the venerated Jesuit. Sixth-graders made a scale model of a statue of him and a magazine was published by them as well. The bishop treated everyone of them as sacred.
Rozanski was even implored to stay longer by some of the sixth-graders but was informed by their teacher that it might have been a ruse so they could miss a little more class time. The bishop asked them if they thought it was something St. Stanislaus would do. The answer was a penitent — and in unison — "Noooooo."
Before heading back to Springfield, Rozanski blessed a mural of St. Stanislaus Kostka painted by Adams resident Suzanne Little-Stefanik. The mural was commissioned specifically for this visit and sits right inside the main entrance. Little-Stefanik's work can be found throughout the school. She works at the Williams College Museum of Art.
St. Stan's will be holding its annual Parish Bazaar on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Kolbe Hall, 108 Summer St.
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