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Mary Star/Stella Maris add ‘dream team’ leadership

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Mary, Star of the Sea pastor Patrick Mulcahy and Stella Maris Academy principal Francie Moss
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

With the July 1 appointment of Father Patrick Mulcahy as Mary, Star of the Sea’s pastor and Francie Moss as Stella Maris Academy’s principal, the Catholic church and school’s self-described “dream team” will be the first parish leaders to serve at both Mary, Star of the Sea Oceanside and Mary, Star of the Sea La Jolla.

The outgoing pastor and principal will retire at the end of June. Patricia Lowell, has been with Stella Maris Academy since 1993, first as a teacher, and then as the principal for 13 years. Father James Rafferty, has been the Mary, Star of the Sea pastor since 2008 and has been in the priesthood for 47 years.

“I refer to Father Pat and myself as a dream team,” Moss said. “We bring positive energy moving toward a community spirit between the parish and the school. We are not two entities, we are one entity.”

Equally enthused, Mulcahy told the Light: “I’m most excited about being part of a school again. I’ve been with parishes with and without schools and I really missed working with the kids and the families. Oftentimes, people enter a position and they think about adapting it to what they want. (Moss and) I see the opposite. There are a lot of great things happening here already and I’m eager to go in and bring the gifts God has given me to be a part of the La Jolla community and help people deepen their relationship with God.

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“In the school, we want to provide a terrific academic experience and formation in values and faith.”

The two worked together at Mary, Star of the Sea Oceanside for three years.

Principal Francie Moss

Raised a Catholic by Italian parents, Moss said she hails from the East Coast.

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“I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was in third grade, so it made sense to stay in Catholic education when I went into education,” she said. She has worked in public and private schools across San Diego teaching third grade to junior high. After more than a decade, she explored administration and served as vice principal and then principal of area schools.

Her first post was at the Mary, Star of the Sea in Oceanside; then to the Holy Trinity School in El Cajon, where she’s been for the last 12 years.

“I thought I was going to retire there,” the Bay Ho resident explained. “But it was time to make one more move. Then Stella Maris came up and I thought, ‘I get to work with Father Pat again, and it’s only a few miles from my house, OK God, I get the message!’ ”

As principal, Moss said she’ll focus on bridging the school to the church and promoting values and academic rigor. “The children are the future of our church, they need to have a connection with their church,” she said. “The church loves to see the children there because they bring life and hope for the future, so everyone wins.

“What makes a Catholic education different from private schools and public schools is the faith dimension and bringing God into every life lesson. A poor choice, a life celebration, struggles, whatever it is, we have our faith to fall back on. My values are steeped in my faith, which got me through very difficult phases in my life. I live it. I am not ashamed of it.

“Additionally, we have Transitional Kindergarten through eighth-grade, so we want to shape the older kids to be role models. That keeps them focused on their roles as leaders, and keeps them grounded in responsibility and their values and faith ... and it benefits young people to have peer role models.”

As an admitted perfectionist, Moss said she advocates for creating an academically challenging environment. “I appreciate hard work, but at the same time, I empathize with students who struggle to make it,” she said.

In her free time, with two adult children, one grandchild and a “very supportive husband” at home, Moss likes to dance and dine out.

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Fr. Patrick Mulcahy

Born in Texas, with a father in the Air Force, Mulcahy said he spent his early years in Europe.

“My first language is actually Spanish, because my dad was stationed in Seville, Spain. My whole family lived there and there was no school on the base, so my parents sent me to school and I picked up Spanish more fluently than English,” he explained.

Returning to the United States, Mulcahy studied economics at UC San Diego in the late 1980s. But, the longing was there to “find a niche where I could help make people’s lives better,” so he explored priesthood.

And after Mulcahy was ordained in 1995, he said he never looked back.

“One of the challenges of the teachings of the church is, a lot of times, it becomes a theoretical debate. My goal is to make it relevant to people’s lives,” Mulcahy said. “People are engaged by those who can speak to them, not about how much they know, but about taking a Scripture passage and explaining how it helps them to live a better a life. I don’t consider myself an intellectual, but one of my gifts is to communicate with people and make Scripture accessible.”

Joking that he can connect with children because he “never grew up” himself, Mulcahy said he looks forward to reaching congregants of all ages. As the pastor of a church with a school attached to it, he said he tries to approach religion as less of an exercise and more of a love story.

“It’s falling in love with God and being formed and shaped by that,” he said. “When you fall in love with God, hopefully, it leads to you falling in love with God’s people throughout life. What people want is to be challenged, affirmed and lifted up in a way that helps them see God has a plan for them. If I can do that by communicating with them and through interactions, that’s what I want to do.”

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He also said he wants to be accessible to anyone who calls at any time.

“The most beautiful gift you can give someone to show you love them, is time,” Mulcahy said. “If we give someone time, we tell them, ‘I could be doing 1,000 things, but I made a choice to be here with you.’ It lets the person know they are important. I want people to know they are listened to, that I am on their side and want to help them through whatever they are going through.”

Mary, Star of the Sea is at 7713 Girard Ave. Stella Maris Academy is at 7654 Herschel Ave. (858) 454-2631. marystarlajolla.org


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