Permit me to take the opportunity to extend to each of you most sincere and cordial best wishes for a New Year of grace, peace, and good health. May God continue to bless our dear little ones, the children of St. Paul the Apostle Preschool, and keep them from all harm of mind body or soul. At the same time may I extend sincere gratitude to you for sending your children to St. Paul’s. I am keenly aware that you have many options in the area of child care, and we are most appreciative of your loyalty, trust, and generosity.
Many of you probably are aware of my love for the Preschool. Each day when the church bell strikes nine, I make my way over to greet you and your children upon your arrival. The 9.15 bell rings and the children go in to class, usually all smiles. No wonder why they sing I love St. Paul’s Preschool with such enthusiasm. Such would never be the case without the dedication, selflessness, care, and outstanding service and devotion of two remarkable ladies, our Administrator, Mrs. Gayle Crimarco, and our Administrative Assistant, Mrs. Debbie Oliva. Between the two of them they have more than 40 years of service to the Preschool. As pastor of the Church, I have never had anything other but complete trust, confidence and admiration in and respect for them. In addition to our administrative staff our faculty and aides have over 100 years of service to the Preschool. I need not tell you of their outstanding service. As for myself, I have simply tried not to get in the way, and to bless the children each day.
It is for that reason that I have had to come to the most difficult decision of my 39 years as a priest. Our Preschool will close after the graduation ceremonies in June of 2019. I have made this decision only after a great deal of time in prayer and after consultation with other pastors, diocesan officials and my parish advisors. It is a sad decision. As you may know 15 years ago our Preschool had more than 125 children. Now we have 54 and are looking at a significant decrease for next year. In addition, demographics in our area have changed and few St. Paul families find themselves using our parish Preschool. The introduction of Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) has also taken a toll on St. Paul’s and other Preschools. Just today we have read in Newsday and seen on Channel 12 that two more Catholic Grammar Schools will close in June. (All Saints Regional in Glen Cove and St. Joseph in Ronkonkoma).
Please be assured that we all stand ready to assist you in every way to find an alternative for your children. I was most anxious to communicate this news to you before registration would begin. We did not want to register children with the full knowledge that we would be closing. In the next few weeks we hope to have representatives of both St. Edward the Confessor Preschool (Syosset) and Our Lady of Mercy Preschool (Hicksville/Plainview) come to speak to us about their own programs. Each of these parishes has a Catholic Grammar School and the Preschool often becomes a so-called feeder for the Grammar schools. We at St. Paul have never had a Grammar School and thus our Preschool has never been a feeder.
Although never a feeder school, nonetheless our Preschool has been a feeder in the broad sense. In its long history St. Paul’s has fed countless little ones with the uplifting truths of the Catholic faith, the love for God, country and family. When I see the children, I understand more than ever why Our Lord Jesus Christ taught, “Unless you become like the little ones, you shall never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
I am certain of very few things but of one thing I am certain. I am certain that when the Church bell tolls nine on September 9, 2019, a tear will be shed in the rectory. May my closing words to you be those of St. Jeanne Jugan, the Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who would always say:
Be little; be always little.
Once again thanking you for your kindness and attention, and with best wishes, I am always
In Jesus and Mary,
Reverend Monsignor James F. Pereda, J.C.D.