Father Robert Marciano knows the value – and the lessons – of a good story.
Fr. Marciano told two stories Wednesday to the students and faculty of Bishop Hendricken High School as he stepped into his new role of president of the school he graduated from. Fr. Marciano becomes the first priest to be president of a school in the Diocese of Providence.
While taking on the responsibilities of school president, Fr. Marciano isn’t relinquishing his position of pastor of St. Kevin and St. Benedict Churches. In fact, he requested that he also continue in his role as pastor.
With a full Fr. McNally Gym, retired president John Jackson told of how he had wished for Fr. Marciano’s appointment and how the school is blessed to have had Bishop Thomas Tobin make the appointment.
He said the school has “embarked on a journey to new heights never seen in 60 years [of the school’s history].”
In an interview following his appointment, Fr. Marciano talked of plans to undertake a major capital fund drive to create a school endowment as well as build a field house. He suggested the drive could be for as much as $30 million.
Asked Wednesday how he had arrived at that amount, Fr. Marciano said it came to him. Yet, he feels it is realistic given the school’s history and performance. He said many graduates from the 70s, 80s and more recently are in positions to help the school.
Speaking with a reporter, Thomas Harkins, chair of the Hendricken board called Fr. Marciano’s selection, “the biggest blessing we have had in quite some time.”
He believes Fr. Marciano is “comfortable” in asking for donations to the school and based on Fr. Marciano’s experience in restructuring St. Kevin School, which is now the fastest growing parochial school in the diocese, he will make changes to further improve Hendricken.
In his remarks Fr. Marciano praised Jackson’s leadership over the last eight years and the work of Father Murphy, leader of campus ministry.
Fr. Marciano told of how last Sunday he visited Ann Loffredo, now in her 80s and one of the leaders who fought to save the school when the Holy Cross Brothers announced they were leaving in the 1970s. He said, “You and I today stand on he shoulders of those who have gone before us.”
“I also have the privilege to share these thoughts with you, as a good reminder that what we do, you and I, must continue the legacy of faith, academic excellence, athletic achievement, fine art performances, and most importantly, personal and spiritual growth that has been our history since this school’s very beginning almost 60 years ago,” he said. “The sacrifices made each day by those who teach and work here and those who have sent you here, including our generous donors, rely on us to be Hendricken men, who bring the light of the gospel to a world that is often dark and confused.”
In his second story Fr. Marciano talked of the life of operatic composer Giacomo Puccini, who was stricken with cancer at the age of 64 in 1922. Puccini was determined to complete the opera Turandot, but realized that may be impossible as his conditioned worsened. He urged that his students finish the opera if that happened. His favorite student Arturo Toscanini completed the opera after Puccini died.
“You and I are disciples, devoted students of a divine master, who gave us not just music to write, but a Gospel to live. For our Blessed Lord walked this earth, chose his apostles, preached his message, founded his Church, and then dying, gave us his command to continue the symphony of his work on earth and that is what you and I, all of together, members of this Hendricken family are most privileged to do,” he said.
As students left the gym to return to classes, Father Marciano didn’t dally. Saying good byes he headed for the school office.
Jackson lingered, however, to receive hugs and words of thanks from faculty. Later in the day he left for Florida, suggesting it might only be several weeks before he returns to the school that has been so much of his life.