Holy Family Catholic School celebrates its 20th anniversary.
ORANGE COUNTY In 1996, Tina Mello had recently moved to Florida from Boston.
She didn’t think she would stay long, but one place made her quickly feel at home: Holy Family Catholic School.
Up north, she was part of the Holy Family parish, so when she saw the Holy Family Catholic School was opening its doors for the first time that year, she knew it was where God was calling her to be.
During her interview with Principal Sister Dorothy Sayers — who is still principal at the school — she expressed her confidence in getting the job.
“I said to Sister Dorothy, ‘I already know you’re going to hire me,’ and she said, ‘You know what? You’re right,’” Mello said.
Twenty years later, Mello didn’t move back to Boston. She’s still teaching at Holy Family Catholic School, which she feels is becoming more of a family, and a place where children and their families can grow closer to God.
On Sept. 1, Holy Family Catholic School celebrated its 20th anniversary. And in that time, it’s become the home of countless memories.
Mackenzie Snook was part of Holy Family’s first first-grade class in 1996 and attended school there until her eighth-grade graduation. During her time at the school, she was active in the theater program. After high school at Bishop Moore and college at Wake Forest, she came back, this time as a teacher, instructing fifth-graders in religion and language arts, as well as teaching after school theater classes.
“I’ve grown up here and still growing up here in a lot of ways,” she said. “I’m awestruck daily on seeing kids sit in the same desk as I sat in, hopefully raising them in the faith in the way that I was.”
In the early 90s, Lucretia Head went to Holy Family’s new Father William Ennis and asked if Holy Family could start a school. He was interested and asked to meet with others who were behind the school. When saw the people were willing to support the school, he agreed.
In the year before the school opened, Sister Dorothy Sayers came to Holy Family as the new principal. The school broke down in the same month that a new church building opened.
Over time, Head, now a teacher, saw her vision come to reality.
“I was hoping that we could have a school in which the children could be brought up in a school of a Catholic faith and Christian values, and that they would have a good academic education,” she said.
Head credits Sayers and Ennis for their vision and support of the school. Ennis still is one of the school’s biggest fans.
“I’m delighted that it’s going so well,” Ennis said.
A PLACE FOR FAMILIES
Father John Giel is the new pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, and he has embraced the school.
“I’ve only been here for a year, but I’m so happy to be here,” he said. “I’m so happy that our school is a part of this parish. It’s where families grow and people grow as families and grow towards their God.”
The Murphy family has had a child attend Holy Family since 2001, when Jewell Murphy started in the early childhood center.
Jewell graduated from the school in 2008, but her younger brothers still attend.
“It gave me not only a good background with education but also a good faith background,” Jewell said. “I went on to Bishop Moore to continuing learning about my faith. That gave me a good foundation.”
Her mother, Tami Murphy, has worked as a teacher and social-media director at the school.
“We not only educate the children; we educate the parents as well,” Mello said. “They’ll come to us and they’ll say, ‘You know what, Mrs. Mello, I never knew that.’ The children bring the lessons home when it comes to religion. ... What a positive influence this school has been.”
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].