PROVIDENCE — On February 3, during the 8:45 a.m. Catholic Schools Week Mass, Dan Ferris, superintendent of diocesan Catholic schools presented St. Thomas Parish Pastor Father John Soares with the 2017 Distinguished School Pastor Award and St. Thomas Regional School Principal Mrs. Mary DiMuccio with the 2017 Distinguished Catholic Elementary School Principal Award. Both announcements were met with enthusiastic applause from the students, teachers, board members and the several dozen parents who attended the Mass.
Ferris said that Father Soares received recognition for his unwavering vision and commitment to Catholic parochial education — to the children, to their families, to the principal and to the faculty and staff who make up the school community.
"This was summarized in his homily, on Jesus’ command to love one another and the example of Christ’ sacrificial love to the point of accepting the Father’s will for his death on the Cross," Ferris said. "Father Soares loves having a Catholic school and is willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for the good of the children entrusted to his care."
The superintendent added that the pastor provides exceptional support for the work of his principal Mrs. DiMuccio, and makes himself present to the children.
"He’s regularly in the school building, not to manage the daily activities of the school, but as a witness to the Gospel. His lighthearted banter with the students and his loud, unmistakable laugh follow him down the hall."
Ferris said that Principal DiMuccio was recognized for a similar dedication and commitment.
"She works as hard as anyone to bring the presence and the love of God to every student every day at St. Thomas Regional School. Mrs.DiMuccio was recognized for her leadership in highly effective classroom instruction,” Ferris said.
He noted that instructional practices that Mrs. DiMuccio has developed with her teachers and implemented at the school keep the students’ interest and engagement at a peak, with students in all grades learning on their individual interactive tablets.
During that morning's routine, students in second grade were singing and dancing a song about geometry. They composed the song to remember the differences between types of angles: acute, right, obtuse, and straight. Students in first grade were playing sight-word soup with recognition vocabulary words ladled out into individual bowls for recitation. The eighth grade was performing a skit for a smiling and clapping audience of parents, while the fourth grade had created a PowerPoint presentation about the genetic deformity that afflicted the main character in the highly popular young fiction book Wonder.
In addition to project based and hands-on learning, Mrs. DiMuccio is recognized as a leader in the diocese with implementing integrated STEAM instruction.
Both Father Soares and Mrs. DiMuccio were surprised when presented with their awards. Father Soares was informed the previous week that the Catholic School Office had selected Mrs. DiMuccio for the Distinguished Principal recognition, but he was asked him not to let her know about the award in advance. He was simply told members of the Catholic School Office staff would attend the Mass for Catholic Schools Week. He did, however, have flowers ordered that were presented to her after the announcement. And several members of the principal's family were secretly notified and were in attendance, including her husband, who hid in the choir loft during Mass.
Father Soares was astounded to learn during the presentation that he also was being awarded. Both Father Soares and Mrs. DiMuccio received congratulatory letters from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.