Rev. Charles Gallagher of Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Chaptico blesses the new Mother Catherine Academy in Helen.

Helen, MD — Sometime during mass the sun came up. The start of the mass July 1 at Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic Church in Chaptico was symbolic of a new day. July 1 was the first day of Mother Catherine Academy, the successor to Mother Catherine Spalding School.

The former Mother Catherine Spalding School in Helen was threatened with closure by the Archdiocese of Washington because of low enrollment. The school community sprang into action and voted to create a new private, accredited school with the archdiocese as the spiritual and religious education adviser. Instead of the archdiocese, however, a private board will operate the school.

Since that announcement, enrollment has steadily increased. As of July 1, 120 students were committed to attending when school opens for the next semester. President of the Mother Catherine Academy Board of Directors Tom Cavanaugh told The Bay Net that the new arrangement gives the community more flexibility in governance and fundraising. “Our goal is to raise the enrollment by 10 percent a year,” he said.

“The board asks the faithful of St. Mary’s County to keep the success of this school in their prayers as we endeavor to create the finest school in the diocese through the efforts of a superior staff using innovative programs leveraging dedicated community involvement in each step of this journey,” Cavanaugh said.

Principal Linda Miedzinski will continue as principal of the new school.

“I am honored to be a member of the Mother Catherine Academy Board of Trustees,” said board member Sharon Jarboe. “To be involved in the school’s transition to an independent school brings me great joy. I attended the school as an elementary student and began my teaching career in the early 1990s at Mother Catherine Spalding School. I have witnessed the exceptional faith and outstanding volunteerism of this school community throughout.”

So, parents and students, teachers and staff, and school supporters packed Our Lady of the Wayside Church at 5 a.m. to celebrate the new dawn. Con-celebrating the mass were the church’s pastor Fr. Charles Gallagher, and Fr. Anthony Lickteig of Holly Angels in Avenue and Sacred Heart in Bushwood, Fr. Michael Tietjen of Immaculate Conception Church in Mechanicsville and Fr. Raymond Schmidt of St. John’s Church in Hollywood.

Following mass the attendees reassembled at the school for a blessing of the building by Rev. Gallagher (shown) and a breakfast reception.

Among the attendees at the reception were former delegate John Wood and his wife Barbara, who have had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren attend the school. Wood said he was disappointed the archdiocese pulled out but he was glad to see the community coming together to save the school.

Just before assembling inside, Miedzinski took pictures outside the school of the sun just rising above the east corner of the building. Indeed a new day had dawned.

Contact Dick Myers at