Archbishop Nelson Perez made his first visit to a high school since assuming leadership of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, celebrating Mass last week at Little Flower.
Perez last month succeeded Archbishop Charles Chaput, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
At age 58, Perez is the youngest archbishop in the United States.
In his homily, Perez recalled his first assignment as a parochial vicar in 1989 at St. Ambrose Church, in Olney. He joked that he had jet black hair back then. He would later serve as pastor at St. William, from 2002-09.
Perez recalled visiting Little Flower to hear confessions and watch plays.
Speaking to about 460 girls, he wanted to know what is “awesome” about Little Flower. The answers included diversity, sisterhood, an 80-year tradition, teachers, a good education, the devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, extracurricular activities and the school minister, the Rev. Joe McCaffrey.
Perez asked all teachers to stand to be recognized.
Repeating advice he gives to children on their confirmation, he told the girls, “Never, never, never underestimate the power of the spirit of God working in you, through you and despite you.” He also asked each student to recruit one girl to enroll in the school.
Little Flower presented Perez with roses, a swag bag and saddle shoes, and the archbishop joined hands with school president Jeane McNamara and a student to sing the alma mater.
After the Mass, Perez shook hands with each student and posed for pictures.
At the end of the day, the girls received the good news that Perez had given them a day off on a date to be determined. ••