Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., blesses two of the many Crucifixes that will be sent to the Catholic school eighth-grade graduating classes in the Diocese. Joining the Bishop, from left: Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools; Shannon Crawford, of the Department of Development, and Daniel O’Connell, an associate director in the Catholic Schools Department. Staff photos
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., blesses two of the many Crucifixes that will be sent to the Catholic school eighth-grade graduating classes in the Diocese. Joining the Bishop, from left: Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools; Shannon Crawford, of the Department of Development, and Daniel O’Connell, an associate director in the Catholic Schools Department. Staff photos

Catholic school eighth-graders from around the Diocese will receive an early graduation gift: a Crucifix, from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

“Bishop O’Connell’s gesture is a wonderful way of showing that although each school is an individual entity, we are part of one Diocese and one Church where its shepherd cares for each member of that Diocese and Church. I see it as a reminder of who we are and what we believe,” said Craig Palmer, principal of St. Mary School, Middletown.

“The students should think of what Jesus did for all of us and remember that the mission of our schools is to create disciples who will go forward and evangelize,” he said.

The annual tradition for Bishop O’Connell to send Crucifixes along with a card to all graduating eighth-graders began seven years ago as a way for the Diocese to cultivate lasting relationships with the students.

“We feel that a gift coming from the Bishop … provides a connection with him and creates a deeper understanding that our Diocese is here and supports them [the students],” said Christine Prete, an associate director in the diocesan Department of Development. “We continually hope and pray that this gift will be a reminder of their spiritual experience attending Catholic school and will create the desire to maintain a relationship with their school and our Diocese for many years to come.”

Through the coordination of the Diocese’s Department of Catholic Schools, all the Crucifixes and accompanying cards are blessed by the Bishop and gifted to the students as a keepsake of their Catholic grammar school years. Prete noted that since 2015, 7,900 Crucifixes have been sent.

“When people grow up, they tend to look back on college and high school experiences but not so much their elementary school experiences,” said Daniel O’Connell, an associate director in the Department of Catholic Schools. “We hope that giving them a special keepsake will help them to remember their elementary school days.”

In his six years as principal of St. Mary School, Palmer has observed that with each eighth-grade graduating class, “the students were especially excited to know that their Bishop had blessed and gifted the Crucifixes to them.

“It is my hope that our graduates will look back and think of their time at St. Mary School as blessed, knowing that they were part of something greater than simply getting an education, every time they gaze upon their Crucifixes,” Palmer said. “The Crucifix is a tangible sign of the love the Father has for us. This understanding is something sorely lacking in our world today, and we know that if more people had this understanding, the world would be a better place. After all, God’s mercy and grace is enough!”