Royal Oak — Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron went back to school — as a pastor, not a student.
The archbishop visited students at St. Mary School in Royal Oak on May 25 to celebrate Mass in commemoration of the school’s 100th anniversary.
“I’m here to congratulate you on this event, 100 years, that’s older than I am,” the archbishop joked as he walked down the nave, quizzing students about math and science and asking an “eighth-grader question” on the purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Before slavery was ended by President Lincoln, you could be ransomed, where someone pays to have you be free,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “St. Peter says in the epistle today we’re ransomed through Jesus Christ’s death. Because for Him, we are set free of sin. Think about that, that’s how much you’re worth, you’re worth the very life of God.”
Archbishop Vigneron told students he was there to be a “coach,” preparing them to give thanks to the Lord for 100 years of Catholic education at St. Mary’s, not just for themselves, but all students, parents, staff and faculty who were part of the century-long tradition at St. Mary’s.
“This school exists so that you can be free men, free women, who can live free because Jesus Christ ransomed you to be free of sin,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You’re free to live a good life when you leave this school. So whatever you do, you do it to know how to live your life as God’s children.”
After the Mass, St. Mary students presented the archbishop with gifts, commemorating his visit to mark the centennial.
St. Mary principal Gabriela Bola said the Mass was a culmination of the yearlong celebration of 100 years of St. Mary School, which included a reunion of alumni from all graduation classes.
“The oldest to come was from the Class of 1932, which was incredible,” Bola said. “We’re incredibly blessed to have Archbishop Vigneron be part of the celebration, we’re so appreciative. It’s an honor to think of the staff, pastors, people who were here before us.”
Bola said the credit for the success of the school belongs to its parents and the behind-the-scenes staff.
“I’m a parent, parishioner and principal here, and it’s a special place,” Bola said. “People put their time, talent and sweat into the parish, and I’m just thankful for all the people who keep it going. This is a place where you roll up your sleeves and get involved, and it’s so special to celebrate this.”