Father Robert L. Marciano fingered the bronze medallion that hung from his neck. It was the size of a saucer. The face of it bore the name and crest of Bishop Hendricken High School.
Barely a half hour earlier, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin had placed the medallion around Father Marciano's neck during an inauguration mass Monday evening at Our Lady of Providence Chapel at the Aldrich mansion on Warwick Neck. Escaping the cold rain, those attending the mass followed the walkway taking them into the mansion and the reception celebrating Father Marciano's appointment as president of Bishop Hendricken. Father Marciano remains as pastor of St. Kevin Church, a role that he also fills at St. Benedict Church.
As guests gathered around to congratulate him, many of them wanting to get a closer look at the medallion, Father Marciano turned it over to reveal a highly polished, absolutely blank surface. It is not a fitting metaphor for Father Marciano. Father Marciano is a Hendricken alumnus, class of 1975, and has had a long relationship with the school. As pastor at St. Kevin, he advanced the proposal of converting St. Kevin School into a middle school and feeder to Hendricken.
Father Marciano has been a part of Hendricken history, and in his homily he talked a bit about that and a new chapter in the school "in the mission that is ours at Bishop Hendricken." He said the mission at Hendricken is "to use our gifts and talents to show the face of God to the young men who come to us, who sit in our classrooms, walk our halls, perform terrific artistic and musical feats, compete in our sports programs, but most especially, combining all of those, to meet God through us and live a life that serves Him now and all the days in the future."
Father Marciano talked briefly Wednesday about that new chapter.
He said the school has researched curriculum changes and starting in 2021 will incorporate INSPIRE - or Instructing and Nurturing Students to Pursue Interest Reaching Excellence - into the curriculum in partnership with Bryant University, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University and the University of Rhode Island. Classes times will remain the same, however, under the program students will become eligible to earn college credits, thereby giving them a jump on college. The change in curriculum was "rolled out" to the faculty last Thursday and the staff will work to introduce it in September 2021.
He said INSPIRE would make Hendricken "more of a preparatory school than a high school."
As for the history in his homily, Father Marciano turned the clock back nearly 60 years to a day when Morris Farm owned the land where the school sits today. He told how the late Bishop Russell J. McVinney visited the family with his vision to build a Catholic school for young men.
As pastor at St. Kevin, Father Marciano told of how he would bring communion to Mr. and Mrs. Morris when they were in their 80s, and how Mr. Morris told the story of kneeling in their living room to receive Bishop McVinney - and how, without hesitation, they gave him permission to take what he needed.
"My how times have changed. Today, you would need a case study, a strategic plan, a neighborhood survey and 12 lawyers to make it at happen. But since we were born on the faith of that good bishop and the Morris family, it is only right that we continue that journey for those who come to us now and be sure that everything we do, everything ... as administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, benefactors and students brings the message of the Gospel to life in our daily work so that Jesus Christ, Risen and alive, lives in us and through us to be seen by those whom we meet," he said.
Looking at the medallion Monday night, Father Marciano said it had been suggested to him that the names of the school's presidents be engraved on the back. He is the school's seventh president, but as already evidenced, he's leaving his mark.