Bishop Barry Knestout preaches during an Oct. 13 Mass at Jesus the Good Shepherd Church for Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings to honor the life and legacy of the school’s founder, whom the bishop served as a priest secretary from 1994 to 2004.
CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Bishop Barry Knestout preaches during an Oct. 13 Mass at Jesus the Good Shepherd Church for Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings to honor the life and legacy of the school’s founder, whom the bishop served as a priest secretary from 1994 to 2004.
During the week of Oct. 10, Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings honored its founder, the former archbishop of Washington who would have turned 96 on Oct. 11, during their first annual “Cardinal Hickey Week,” which included several events to honor his legacy.

Cardinal James Hickey founded the school in 1997, and when it opened it was the second parish elementary school in the archdiocese to open within 33 years.  He served as Washington’s archbishop from 1980 to 2000 and died in 2004.

At the school’s dedication, Cardinal Hickey said the new school would be a ”wonderful opportunity to help our young people meet Jesus,” and told the students, “You will find out how much the Lord loves you and how He will help you as you grow up.”

Today, nearly 20 years after its founding, the school continues the work of Catholic education that the former archbishop began. During a school Mass on Oct. 13, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout joined Father Michael King, the pastor of Jesus the Good Shepherd in Owings; Father James Stack, the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in North Beach; and Father John Dakes, the pastor of Jesus the Divine Word in Huntingtown, in celebrating the school’s founder. Cardinal Hickey Academy serves families from all three of those Calvert County parishes, which sponsor the school.

As Haley Magnuson, the student council vice president, welcomed everyone to the Mass, she said, “Cardinal James Hickey loved children, promoted Catholic education, and provided care for those in need. We thank God for the Christian witness of Cardinal Hickey.”

In his homily, Bishop Knestout told stories from the time when he served Cardinal Hickey as his priest secretary between 1994 and 2004. He said as he reflected on the readings for that day, which spoke of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes, he was reminded of Cardinal Hickey.

“Cardinal Hickey, like all of us, lived a life and encountered challenges, joys and different experiences in his life,” Bishop Knestout said.

Bishop Knestout added that reflecting upon these virtues and the life of a holy man like Cardinal Hickey can act as a “spiritual alarm clock” that will alert them as Christians to the example of holiness.

When Cardinal Hickey first asked then Father Knestout to be his priest secretary, Father Knestout had many ideas of why he wasn’t the right choice for the job. He told Cardinal Hickey that he wasn’t a good enough theologian, and that he didn’t know any canon law or speak enough languages to travel with him. But Cardinal Hickey assured him that it was all okay, which Bishop Knestout saw as an example of the cardinal’s “gentleness, kindness, and willingness to put at ease someone who was a very nervous young priest.”

Another example of this was when Bishop Knestout accompanied Cardinal Hickey to Rome and attended a small Mass with St. John Paul II. Bishop Knestout was asked to read the Gospel, but was nervous about doing it in front of the pope. As he was reading, he heard Pope John Paul II groaning, and looked up anxiously to see Cardinal Hickey making reassuring hand-gestures. After the Mass, Cardinal Hickey told him the pope frequently makes those noises when he is deep in prayer, and Bishop Knestout said, “either Cardinal Hickey was just saying that to make me feel better or it is true.” 

“These stories show Cardinal Hickey’s attention, care, gentleness, kindness and patience,” said Bishop Knestout. He encouraged the students to always remember to pray for Cardinal Hickey as he prays for us.

After the Mass, students ate cupcakes with the school colors of red and white to celebrate Cardinal Hickey’s birthday. Meanwhile, Bishop Knestout blessed the newly hung portrait of Cardinal Hickey at the front of the school, which he said he hoped would be “a regular reminder for students coming and going of the presence and prayer and support of their founder” as well as “a reminder to pray for him."

Bishop Knestout stayed at the school to visit several classrooms, including the Montessori preschool. While he was there, a couple of the students showed him how they dress an altar with the classroom’s small Mass kit, which included a mini chalice and altar cloth.

In another classroom, the bishop dropped by to explain what he wears as a bishop, including a large pectoral cross on a chain, which their founder, Cardinal Hickey, once wore.

“I keep it close to my heart as a reminder of Cardinal Hickey but also a remembrance of my role of bishop,” he said.

Jennifer Griffith, the principal of Cardinal Hickey Academy, said the school tries to emphasize service to honor the legacy of their founder, who was dedicated to serving the poor during his time as archbishop. Griffith said the goal of Cardinal Hickey Week is to make sure the students “know exactly who he was.”

In an effort to teach the students about their founder, on Oct. 11, they read “fun facts” about Cardinal Hickey over the PA system every 30 minutes, and drew names of kids out of a hat to receive a pencil bag full of candy. On Oct. 12, a group of students went to help hand out produce with Farming 4 Hunger, an organization that gives fresh food to those in need in Southern Maryland. And on Oct. 14, the school held a “Fall Fest” where kids could have a dress down day if they brought in donations to help the victims of Hurricane Matthew. 

“It is important for them to know the school is named for him because of his love for education,” she said, adding that before he died, Cardinal Hickey said he wanted to be known for his “love of Catholic education and serving the poor.”

“I hope, boys and girls, especially as we celebrate Cardinal Hickey it will make you think about not just the name but the person of Cardinal Hickey,” Father King said at the conclusion of the Oct. 13 Mass. “He had a beautiful love for everyone in our archdiocesan family. …He will always watch over us like a guardian angel."