Goodbyes are bittersweet for St. Patrick Academy as they thank their pastor for his love, dedication


PROVIDENCE — Boxes of tissues were passed around the St. Patrick Academy auditorium at the end of the school day as students, faculty and alumni offered their tearful thanks and emotional goodbyes to Bishop-elect James T. Ruggieri. Soon, he will make the move from Providence to Portland for his ordination as bishop, and he will do so with the spiritual support and love of this dedicated school family that he helped to nurture.

In 2009, with help from parishioners and supporters, Father Ruggieri founded St. Patrick’s Academy, a Catholic preparatory high school for students unable to enroll in other Catholic schools for financial and other reasons. There is no set tuition; families pay what they can afford. The school enrolls 25 students per grade for a maximum of 100 students. Twenty percent are first-generation immigrants.

On his final day at the Academy, Friday, April 5, students presented him with thoughtful gifts, a signed basketball and a framed article in which the Academy and the bishop-elect were featured. Then, one-by-one, students and faculty lined up to offer words of appreciation to a man who has been a living example of Christ.
Gabriel De La Cruz Viloria, a junior at St. Patrick Academy, stood before the student body to thank Bishop-elect Ruggieri for showing him what a “genuine, kind, compassionate person really looks like.”

“Thank you for showing me what it really means to live like Jesus,” said De La Cruz Viloria. “Every time I hear your homilies it just gives me the vibes of what Jesus would say. You give off that light and energy that everybody needs and offer a positivity when people are down. I really appreciate you for that.”

Christopher Garcia, a freshman at the Academy, said that even after only recently getting to know the pastor, he has made a profound impact on his life.
“In that year, you changed me and my family forever. Because I came from a really dark space in school, and attending the Academy was a very big opportunity for me. I am blessed for all you have done for my family — inside and outside of school — and I really am appreciative for that. Thank you for everything.”

This joyous time is certainly bittersweet for those that will miss his presence, guidance and example in the school halls. After many students spoke from their heart about the pastor’s positive influence, the auditorium grew quiet as he stood to speak.

“Thank you so much. This is a beautiful way to end,” Bishop-elect said with tears in his eyes, taking a long pause to collect his thoughts. “And a really beautiful way to begin. Thank you.”