By Yadira Betances
---- — ANDOVER — For 100 years, St. Augustine School has prided itself in shaping young lives academically and spiritually.
Many alumni have even followed in their teacher’s footsteps by becoming educators themselves at their alma mater and other schools.
“I’ve grown here and you have been part of my family and made me the person who I am today,” said Principal Paula O’Dea. She was a teacher for 27 years before becoming principal eight years ago.
O’Dea, along with former school leaders Mary Moran, Ann Kendall, Marie Galinski, and Sister Madeline Carrabino were honored at the 10:30 a.m. Mass and a reception that followed yesterday.
During the homily, the Rev. Peter G. Gori, pastor at St. Augustine Parish, gave a history of the church and school.
“From the very beginning, they wanted their own Catholic school,” Gori said of the church founded in 1866. “This dream became a reality on Sept. 8, 1914.” He noted the day is significant because it’s when the church celebrates the birth of Mother Mary.
“Our primary goal is to help you grow academically, in your minds and souls as a beautiful and loving child of God that you are,” Gori said. “May we be blessed for another 100 years of success.”
St. Augustine School, 25 Central St., has 457 students in grades pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
Every month during the year, the parish will host events related to the centennial. The highlight will be the blessing of the $1.9 million gymnasium by Cardinal Sean O’Malley in December. The school has already raised $1.4 million for the project that will break ground in May, Gori said.
Many of the teachers and staff members were thrilled to see Sister Carrabino, who taught art, music and religion and lead the youth guitar group that played in church.
“I was so excited to see her because she was my most inspiring teacher,” said Mary Ann Rex.
She said Carrabino, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame, influenced her to become a teacher.
Janet Fluet, who graduated from St. Augustine in 1976, said her parents still exchange Christmas cards with Sister Carrabino.
“It was awesome to see her. It was great to catch up with her because it’s been forever since I’ve seen her,” said Fluet, cafeteria manager at St. Augustine, who learn how to play the guitar from the sister.
Parents of students enrolled understand why St. Augustine has been around for a century.
“This is not just a school; it’s family. They know you, your children and for the kids, it’s an extension of their home,” said Fran Miles whose children, David and Chiara are in fifth- and second-grade respectively.
Eugenie “Janie” Moffitt’s seven children all attended St. Augustine School.
“St. Augustine is a vital part of my family and their faith,” said Moffitt, former chairwoman of the School Board. “It’s been a blessing for us because my children have made wonderful friendships that have lasted after leaving the school.”