Penelope Puckett reads the petitions during the Mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of the St. Joseph Catholic School in Waxahachie on Oct. 8. (RON HEFLIN/Special Contributor)

WAXAHACHIE — A triple celebration infused the St. Joseph Catholic Community with joy and fueled scores of memories on Oct. 8, when Bishop Edward J. Burns served as the main celebrant of a Mass commemorating St. Joseph Catholic School’s 25th anniversary and the one-year anniversary of the parish’s new church’s dedication.

At the post-Mass reception, the St. Joseph community honored Bishop Burns with a large cake on his birthday weekend.

Bishop Burns said he was grateful to be able to share in the special anniversary celebrations.

During his homily, he told the standing-room-only gathering of his delight at the warm welcome he received upon his arrival to shepherd the Diocese of Dallas eight months ago.

His message emphasized the importance of knowing who we are in “relationship to Jesus Christ and each other.”

“Everything we do, we do through the lens of the Gospel,” Bishop Burns said. “It is important that we stay strong…

“It’s powerful to see that we are indeed celebrating who we are. We are Church.”

Bishop Burns called strong Catholic schools “vital” and encouraged participation, strength and celebration while toiling in the vineyard of church and school.

St. Joseph principal Debbie Timmermann, whose ties to the school go back to its beginning, welcomed well-wishers to the post-Mass reception.

The event brimmed with cheerful conversations as Bishop Burns posed for photos with students and families. Alumni also enjoyed paging through school yearbooks, graduation programs and scrapbooks that charted the school’s 25 years.

“It’s a milestone for our school,” Timmermann said. “It gives you a proud feeling for the school and for the church family.”
Timmermann, in her sixth year as the principal, was a member of the core parishioner group that helped start the school and served as its inaugural school board president.

“My first day as principal was like coming back home,” said Timmermann, a St. Joseph parishioner for 35 years who has two children who attended St. Joseph and two grandchildren now at the school. “People say all the time that when you walk into our school, there’s such a sense of peace and family.”

Many said that they cherished the chance to pay tribute to the Ellis County school, which has an enrollment of 150 and serves pre-K through eighth grade.

Jennifer Barrington, president of the St. Joseph Catholic School Advisory Council, said that the school supports students’ growth in all areas.

“It’s a fabulous school with a tremendous, welcoming family environment,” said Barrington, whose children are in kindergarten and third grade at St. Joseph. “Before our children were school-age, we saw evidence of all the good things that were happening at St. Joseph. We saw well-rounded students and the people that they were becoming. We saw the things that the students went on to do as a testimony to all the good things that happen here.”

Charlotte Buford, who teaches second grade at St. Joseph, said that the school instills Gospel values and offers a challenging academic program.

“We focus on the faith,” she said. “Our school teaches the children about giving to others, having morals and respect for others. The academics challenge them and teach them to be problem-solvers.”

Jodi Kowalski, who has been the after-care program’s teacher since 1994, said that she loves nurturing students during the last part of the school day.

“I think of it not as a job, but as my ministry,” she said. “We are raising these kids to love God and to love their community and each other. We prepare them to make a positive difference in the world. All the kids come back to see us. They had such a good start here.

“This is a very blessed day.”

Story by Cathy Harasta, The Texas Catholic

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