By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff
BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — One of the youngest Catholic schools in the Fall River Diocese is preparing to celebrate an important milestone on September 27, as students, staff, parents and alumni are expected to come together to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of St. Margaret Regional School in Buzzards Bay.
The event will be commemorated with a special anniversary Mass at 4 p.m. inside St. Margaret’s Church, followed by the 14th annual spaghetti dinner in the school cafeteria at 5 p.m., with all proceeds to benefit scholarships for the graduates of the Class of 2015.
“We’re hoping that all our alumni come back to say hi to us and have a bite to eat during the dinner afterwards,” said Mary Jackson, who just began her second year as principal of St. Margaret Regional School.
Founded in 1994, St. Margaret Regional School is housed within a one-level building behind St. Margaret’s Church on Main Street in Buzzards Bay that was originally built as an adjacent parish center in 1969.
“Bishop Sean O’Malley decided that we needed some Catholic school representation on the Cape, and this is the school he opened consequently,” Jackson told The Anchor. “This was a parish center that the parishioners of St. Margaret’s raised the money to build, and they generously said it could be used to house the school.”
As noted in a recent history prepared for St. Margaret’s Parish, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, St. Margaret Regional School came about in the early 1990s when families from parishes in the area began to express a desire for a more accessible Catholic school for children who lived in Bourne and its surrounding communities. They appealed to the then-bishop of Fall River, Séan P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap., to explore the possibilities and he listened to their call.
Since St. Margaret’s had an existing parish center that, with modest renovations, could be more effectively used as a school, the diocese decreed that the parish center would become a diocesan school and be named St. Margaret Regional School. The parish would continue to use the building for Religious Education classes and special activities.
In September 1994 the doors opened to kindergarten, grades one and two. The immediate and favorable response brought forth interest in additional grade levels and a rapid expansion began. In 1995 the school expanded to include kindergarten through grade five. Each subsequent year a class was added, bringing birth to a middle school. By 2000 St. Margaret Regional School graduated its first eighth-grade class.
Noting that this was the first Catholic elementary school to serve the area of Cape Cod commonly referred to as the “Upper Cape,” Jackson said St. Margaret’s currently has 175 students enrolled in grades pre-k through eight.
“We have students from Plymouth, from Wareham, and many from Cape Cod,” she said. “Some students travel at least a half-hour to come here. The next closest elementary school would be St. Pius X School in South Yarmouth.”
As the sole administrator, Jackson works alongside 14 full-time faculty members and nine part-time teachers.
“I have found that the teachers here are absolutely wonderful,” she said. “They are very good at what they do and they are always taking classes to try to learn more about their practice. They are very collegial with each other and they love the children; and the children certainly love them.”
Another key to the success of St. Margaret Regional School, Jackson said, is the ongoing support it gets from the families who make the sacrifice to send their children to a Catholic school.
“I’ve found the families here to be so good,” she said. “We call and they always come to help us, no matter what we ask. And the Catholic schools in the whole diocese have been so helpful and supportive to us as well. We’ve gotten computer equipment from all the high schools; when they update their equipment they offer us their existing equipment.
“(In this diocese) it’s a whole Catholic school family and everybody wants to help everybody else, we’re not in competition with each other.”
Another relative newcomer to St. Margaret Regional School, Father Bruce Czapla, OFM, pastor of St. Margaret’s Parish, likewise echoed Jackson’s sentiments about the importance of having a Catholic school presence in Buzzards Bay.
“I firmly believe in Catholic education and am grateful that there is such a school here at St. Margaret’s Parish,” Father Czapla told The Anchor. “This school has done well because of its high standards in learning, and because it teaches knowledge of the Catholic faith and encourages the practice of this faith.”
A resident of North Easton and parishioner at Immaculate Conception Parish, Jackson — who was named principal of St. Margaret Regional School in July 2013 — did not attend Catholic school herself and admitted she sometimes feels like she “missed out.”
“There wasn’t a Catholic school near us and my father was a public school administrator, so we went to his school,” she said. “But my children all went to Catholic schools and my grandchildren are attending Catholic schools now, so it’s very important to us.”
For more information about St. Margaret Regional School, visit www.saintmargaretregional.com.