When Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the diocese, which also serves Queens, arrived at the school on January 30, the students were ready to celebrate. The festivities were part of Catholic Schools Week, which commemorates catholic schools and the community service work they perform across the city.
The week of celebration comes as a welcome respite for the beleagured Brooklyn diocese, which last month announced the imminent closings of at least 14 catholic schools. Only days later, Governor David Paterson, in his State of the State address, signaled his intention to cut Mandates Services Reimbursement, a state aid initiative that funds state-mandated programs at religious schools. The diocese, backed by lawmakers in Albany, including Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, have opposed the proposed cut.
As the fate of several of the diocese's schools and one of its funding lifelines is being decided in the state capital, Auxiliary Bishop Cisneros made the rounds in Brooklyn and Queens, visiting Catholic schools during Catholic School Week.
At St. Adalbert's, the students gave a spirited performance for their guest. The school band played several numbers and the choir sang four songs, including the Mary Poppins classic Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Auxiliary Bishop Cisneros then accepted gifts from the student body: a fleece, a food basket, and a wrapped present he decided to save for later.
"I congratulate you on the work and effort that you do here," Auxiliary Bishop Cisneros told the assembled students, faculty and parents. "This is the gift you are being given right now: the gift of education."
In an interview after the ceremony, Auxiliary Bishop Cisneros acknowledged the financial difficulties facing the diocese.
"The funds have to be there for us to provide those mandated services. We certainly hope that happens," he said. "Despite the fact that the whole country is going through a difficult situation economically, we can see hope for our schools."
St. Adalbert's Reverend Paul Miskiewicz, who admitted the school is having trouble competing with larger, wealthier public schools in the area, said Auxiliary Bishop Cisnero's visit lifted the school's spirits.
"Bishops usually are too busy to visit schools," Reverend Miskiewicz said. "I found this very touching that he wanted to be with the children."