Students from Wyoming Area Catholic School in Exeter held an outdoor prayer service on March 12, 2021, marking the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down schools in 2020. Students are shown spacing themselves according to health guidelines. (Photo courtesy: Tony Callaio, The Sunday Dispatch)

 EXETER – Exactly one year after transitioning to distance learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students from Wyoming Area Catholic School came together in-person on March 12 to mark the anniversary with a prayer service.

“It was beautiful. It was a chance to reflect and that was the whole point, focusing on where we’ve come and where we’re going and that we are so lucky to be in school now and look at what we’ve accomplished,” principal Eileen Rishcoff said.

Rishcoff said teacher Toni Griseto first suggested marking the anniversary with some type of event filled with hope. School administrators and teachers quickly settled on holding a prayer service. Initially, the event was going to be held inside the school gym but that is when the weather warmed up and they were able to go outside.

“The fact that it was such a beautiful day, it all fell into place. I’m a true believer that God intervenes and we were able to go outside,” Rishcoff added.

Wearing masks and remaining six feet apart, the students all came together on the front lawn of Wyoming Area Catholic School.

The prayer service was actually the first time all 146 students came together for an event in the last year.

“We’ve kept everybody in their own classrooms for the whole year, lunches and everything and this was the first time they were all together anywhere for the whole school year,” Rishcoff explained.

“When I mentioned that, they all started cheering.”

In addition to the prayer service, students also spent time in their religion classes reflecting on how “good things” can come from something that is “bad.”

The gathering of students was visible to many drivers passing by the school. That is because the former Saint Cecilia Church’s abandoned convent, rectory and garages were razed earlier this year.

The demolition has made the school much more visible.

“Our school is beautiful and nobody even knew we existed back here!” Rishcoff joked.