By NANCY CZABALA
CHARLESTON — A long tradition ended as the last Mass was celebrated at Bishop England High School May 8, in the Father O’Brien Gymnasium.
With the entire student body and many alumni present, Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy presided with concelebrants Bishop David B. Thompson, Father James Parker, Msgr. Donald Hamburger, Father Ernest Kennedy, Father Joseph Hanley and Father Gregory West, who are all alumni of the school. Msgr. Lawrence McInerny, rector, was master of ceremonies.
Msgr. McInerny in his homily told of Father O’Brien’s role in beginning the school, and how it began with “a few typewriters, and a handful of students and sisters.” He said, “We are moving on now, still the same community, but with a new face. We are a Catholic High School, and today we invoke God’s blessing. His blessing has always been with us, and we have a confidence that, as we move forward, we will continue to have God’s blessing, and that he will continue to show us the way.”
Bishop Thompson addressed the group after Mass, asking the attendees to thank God for all the gifts he has given us. He then said, “We now honor a God of a different name, Principal Nicholas Theos,” who is retiring this year, after 25 years as principal of Bishop England. The attendees stood to give Theos a roaring round of applause. The bishop said, “We thank him for a quarter of a century of service. He has given his life for the ‘sheep’ here at Bishop England High School and we are here to thank him for being such a good shepherd.” The bishop proposed to make Theos the first member of the new Hall of Fame at Bishop England. The crowd expressed their concurring vote with another standing ovation.
Bishop Thompson continued to explain that the students and faculty at Bishop England have always been known as “the bishops”. Because Theos has been the first and best “bishop” for over 25 years, he would now become an “official” bishop. Removing his zucchetto (skull cap), the bishop placed it on Theos’ head, making him an “honorary bishop.”
Msgr. McInerny then called attention to the concelebrants, recognizing their long history with the school, and to Msgr. Robert Kelly, former rector. He said of Msgr. Kelly, “As many of you know Bishop England is just not Bishop England without Father Kelly.” Msgr. McInerny gave him his own official parking spot (Msgr. Kelly and Msgr. McInerny currently share a spot at the Calhoun campus) saying that he hopes his strong presence at the school will continue. Msgr. Kelly said to the students and alumni, “I hope you’ll always be proud of what you’ve built.”
Msgr. McInerny then turned the spotlight back to Theos. He said that Theos insisted on no dinners, or special celebrations for his retirement, but Msgr. McInerny said, “He never said no Mass.” Theos’ wife, Katherine, and son, Paul, came as a surprise to join in the celebration.
Msgr. McInerny announced that friends, parents and alumni have donated $35,000 for the new Development Office on Daniel Island, which will be named in honor of Nicholas J. Theos as a tribute to his dedication to the school. Theos is responsible for establishing the Endowment Fund at Bishop England.
Msgr. McInerny then presented Theos with a parting gift from the school — a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, and a seven-day cruise to Alaska. He invited alumni to a reception afterward honoring Theos.
Theos said, “I believe there is good in each and every one of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you’ve done for me.”