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Back to school:
Two more principals named in diocese

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placeholder September 8, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Back to school: Two more principals named in diocese

Marilyn Marchi
St. Joseph Elementary, Alameda

When Marilyn Marchi retired as coordinator of the Safe Environment Project of the Diocese of Oakland, she left her colleagues with these words from Lao Tzu:

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

Marchi would know. After 34 years as a Catholic school teacher and principal, she had taken on the job of coordinating programs to promote the safety of minors. At the end of July 2013, she retired from that, too.

But when Father George Alengadan pastor at St. Joseph Basilica parish asked her to consider yet another change, Marchi said yes. Marchi is the new principal of St. Joseph Elementary School in Alameda.

In a letter in the parish bulletin introducing the new principal, Marchi wrote to her new community: "Throughout my career I have been dedicated to the mission of Catholic education fostering academic excellence in an environment that is rooted in the Gospel message of Jesus. I look forward with excitement and anticipation to working with the students, faculty and parents, and with Father George, in the Saint Joseph community. Together we will continue the traditions while progressing to new heights and achievements."

A year into her second retirement, had Marchi envisioned herself returning to school?

"I really had no 'vision' of my returning to a principal's office," she said. "In fact, I got involved in Safe Environment program and catechetical programs in our new parish. The truth is that I knew I would not be satisfied being totally out of ministry to young people."

Marchi had last served as principal at St. Philip Neri School in Alameda. Before that, she was principal of All Saints in Hayward. Her teaching career included Holy Rosary School in Antioch and St. Agnes School in Concord. Upon her retirement as principal, she received the Diocesan Medal of Merit.

At that time, Dominican Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, former diocesan superintendent of schools, praised Marchi for her "faith in our God, love of service in the Church and major contributions to Catholic education."

Being principal might seem irresistible.

"I love the energy, challenge, daily surprises in the life of a principal," she said. "I admit I do like being a leader in a Catholic school, working with faculty, staff, students and parents. What a blessing to have a career that is woven into my faith!"

What has she missed in her years away from the principal's office?

"I have missed working with teachers who have a passion for their art; passing on to the children and young people what is essential — academically, spiritually, emotionally, socially."

Her work in the Safe Environment program dovetails with the mission of the principal. "As Safe Environment coordinator I remained connected, through that work, with parishes and schools," she said. "I am now in the position of carrying out the work of making sure our environments are safe and secure. What I asked schools and parishes to do as Safe Environment coordinator, I will now be doing at this school."

Marchi is enthusiastic. "I am looking forward to being in this family — to being part of another chapter in the story that is St. Joseph School!"

Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine
St. Bede, Hayward

At the end of the last school year, Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine received a gift from one of her third-graders at St. Edward School in Newark. Attached to the gift was a beautiful handmade card with this scripture passage from 1 Peter 4:10 written in it, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace."

As she was cleaning her classroom and organizing her files in preparation for the next school year, she was asked to consider being principal at St. Bede School in Hayward.

"Everything happened so quickly with the interview, invitation and the brief discernment," Pierre-Antoine said. "In making the decision, I had to trust what God had in store for my life, letting go of my own plans for the upcoming school year and completely surrendering to a new calling."

This new calling would take her away from the school community she had served for 12 years, including nine years of teaching third grade. Additionally, she had served two years as assistant principal and eighth-grade religion teacher, and a year teaching sixth-grade science, seventh-grade religion, math and science and eighth-grade math.

But her roots went even deeper than that. She was educated at St. Edward. "In my family, my brother and cousins all graduated from St. Edward," she said. She is also a Moreau Catholic High School graduate.

Pierre-Antoine graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and human development from Boston College and a master's degree in science education from Cal State Hayward.

Through the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program of the Alliance for Catholic Education, Pierre-Antoine received her master's degree in educational administration from the University of Notre Dame in 2008.

She got to know the St. Bede community through attending several Masses at the Hayward church, and having one-on-one conversations with some of the faculty and staff. "I am fortunate to work with Father Seamus (Farrell) who is such a supportive and caring pastor. The staff members whom I've met are very passionate about the school and dedicated to their ministries," she said.

The new principal has sent a letter to the families. She's also did her homework over the summer. "I've been studying the yearbook and calling each family personally," she said. "I've called almost every school family to introduce myself and strengthen the partnership between home and school. These calls have helped me learn the names of the families, particularly the children, while also making a personal connection with the members of my new community."

Pierre-Antoine brings her love for Catholic education to her new position. "I believe in the value and importance of Catholic education," she said. "I am a proud product of a school system that formed me to be a person who strives to follow the teachings of Christ and care for the needs of others. As principal of St. Bede School, I want all members of our school community to recognize that God's presence lies within each one of us so we are called to share this light with others."

This is a particularly proud year for the school, which was founded in 1964.

"This is also our golden anniversary so I want our entire school community (parishioners, faculty and staff, school families, alumni, members of the local community, donors and friends) to be able to celebrate how the 50-year history of our school has touched the lives of so many people so that we are inspired to continue the legacy that was established by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary," Pierre-Antoine said.

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