By Seth Daniel and Marianne Salza
There can be no better endorsement for a pre-school than when the young students don’t want to leave.
That’s what many parents have experienced over the last 10 years at the Good Shepherd School on Warren Street, a school within St. Mary’s Church that celebrated its 10th anniversary on Monday.
For parents Aleta Mustone and Matt Engler, both of their children – Sebastian and Theo – were hard to pry away from the school at pick-up time each day.
“The teachers and staff are genuinely loving and nurturing; they knew our kids so well and were able to work with their strengths as well as address any challenges in the most positive, supportive way,” said Mustone. “The boys had fun every day – often wanting to stay ‘just a little bit longer, please, please.’ I wish every child could have such a positive start to their school experience.”
That was a common thread this week as students, parents, alumni and even Cardinal Sean O’Malley came to celebrate the Good Shepherd’s 10th anniversary.
“One of the reasons the school exists is to pass on faith to generations,” declared Cardinal O’Malley, who first visited the school during its dedication 10 years ago. “Science can help us understand the world around us, but it’s our faith that allows us to discover what our mission is. This is what a Catholic education is about: making the discovery that everything is a gift.”
The Good Shepherd School, an independent Catholic school, is one of the only Catholic pre-schools in the diocese, and it’s a credit to the community and Father Jim Ronan – who founded the school after careful study.
Ronan said after coming to St. Mary’s Church in 2004, he saw that Charlestown Catholic was closing, and there was a risk that there wouldn’t be a Catholic school presence at all in the Town. He embarked on several studies, looking at data and feasibility studies for the needs of the community.
“It became clear the best course of action was to support the biggest need, and that was a pre-school,” he said. “We were early on thinking outside the box on that – particularly a Catholic School with faith formation for little ones would be part of the curriculum.”
With some planning and a great fundraising effort, they were able to gut and build out the school in the basement of St. Mary’s, creating a model area for early childhood education. Ten years ago this month, they hired their first faculty and enrolled their first class – expanding out one year at a time. Now, they have four classrooms serving ages 2-5 under the direction of Jessica Maxwell.
“The school is now an independent school,” said Ronan. “It has its own Board of Directors and is not part of the Parish, but it is a Catholic school under the direction of the Archdiocese of Boston. However it is a free-standing school that pays rent to the Parish.”
Ronan said the Good Shepherd School was a response to the changing demographics of the Town – where newer people are moving in and staying to be part of the fabric of the community.
“The reality is the demographic of the Town has changed radically in the last 15 years,” he said. “The preponderance of people then were primarily Townies and a small number of new arrivals. That’s flipped around. I think the minority now are Townies and the new people are the majority. A lot of residents are young and have young families. You see the baby strollers every time you go out for a walk.”
He added that there are more weddings and baptisms, and attendance is up throughout the Parish – in addition to the numbers at the school.
“The numbers are much higher in 2019 than in recent decades,” he said. “It’s a new face on the Town.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who presented a homily to the community, hopes that the school will inspire children with the love of God, and encourage them to give back to their neighbors, and exercise forgiveness.