Tuesday, July 23, 2024

St. Columba School Leaves Lasting Legacy in Bloomsburg Community

Seventy years has passed since St. Columba School first welcomed students and began teaching them to be disciples of Christ ready to witness and be salt and light to the greater Bloomsburg area.

On May 29, Bishop Timothy Senior came to the school to celebrate Holy Mass as the school is closing its doors. School enrollment has been in decline for years, making it difficult for the parish community to sustain the school further into the future.

“Today, it is a bittersweet day,” Principal Mary Lenzini Howe, a 1969 graduate of St. Columba, said after Mass. “We celebrate our Catholic education we received here, but everything has a season. We hate to see it go, and it is like a death, but the season has changed, and this one has come to an end.”

Dozens of alumni were in attendance for the Mass, and many were dabbing their eyes knowing that their beloved school that opened in 1954 will not open for the school year 2024-25 come autumn.

After Mass, the school community recognized Sts. Cyril and Methodius Sister Lydia Benyish for her many decades of service of teaching the faith and preparing the children to receive the sacraments. An educational fund has been established by the school so that Sister’s legacy will live on at the parish.

“Sister Lydia, you are a shining example of the goodness of this school – a school that will live on in the hearts of people here in this community,” Bishop Senior said. Sister Lydia was sitting in the pew where she usually sits amongst the children she guides, teaches and loves.

“There is a sacredness to tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues,” famed 19th century writer and muse Washington Irving wrote. “They are messengers of overwhelming grief, a deep contrition and of unspeakable love.”

There were many tears flowing inside St. Columba Church during the closing Mass and there can be no doubting the faithful alumni, parishioners, teachers, students and clergy of the parish mourn the loss of a school that has stood in the heart of this college town on Iron Street for so long.

Father Richard Mowery, pastor, thanked Bishop Senior for coming to celebrate the Mass and console the several hundred gathered on the cool late spring day. He, too, thanked Lenzini Howe, who, though in only her first year as principal, tirelessly tried to keep the school open and was a “dedicated mentor” to Father Mowery throughout this past academic year.

“We take this moment to pause for the fruitfulness and thankfulness for 70 years of making disciples who were formed here all those years,” Bishop Senior said in his homily. “It’s also a moment of sadness. We must acknowledge the loss and that pain is difficult. Change is too, and it happens in life. I know, and I have an understanding…. Yes, we see the dying, but we always must see the Resurrection.”

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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