CULLMAN, Ala. – It was a moment of wonder and excitement mixed with a bit of emotional anxiety as 136 students at Saint Bernard Preparatory School made their way to the Abbey Church on the opening day of school. In addition to the United States, five other countries are represented in the student body, including Spain, Brazil, Finland, China and Austria.
Fr. Joel Martin, headmaster of the school, opened with a prayer and welcomed students to campus. In an effort to remove some of the concerned looks, he took the opportunity to remind students that there is only one group of people who die at the monastery – the monks. “The rest of you are going to be OK,” he chuckled.
After a brief introduction of the student council officers, Fr. Joel recognized the senior class and all faculty and staff. Abbot Marcus Voss of St. Bernard Abbey issued a warm welcome to all and shared that in 1957 he, too, was a freshman at St. Bernard Prep. The Abbot extended an invitation to meet with him at any time. “My door is always open.”
Jim Miller, CEO at St. Bernard Prep, shared his excitement of being at the school. “You have the opportunity to change the world,” he said. “Always do the right thing, be kind and follow the example of Christ.”
At the end of the assembly, students recited together a service of commitment to be men and women of integrity. They promised to give teachers the best of their talents and gifts, to strive to be a good example for one another, to follow the example of Christ and to dedicate themselves to the task of learning and to the pursuit of wisdom so that they might be strengthened in Christian holiness. Likewise, the faculty and staff pledged their dedication to the lives of St. Bernard students.
Said Fr. Joel, “St. Bernard is a unique place. The purpose of our school is to help people grow in knowledge and in grace. We are all guests here; our real home is heaven, in God. We are God’s idea, so the spark of the divine is in each of us. Therefore, how we treat fellow guests – each other – is how we treat Christ, how we welcome God. May our Lord help us to do that well.”
The service ended by singing the school’s Alma Mater.