BANGOR, Maine — After more than three decades in education, Joe Gallant has found his dream job — principal of All Saints Catholic School.
He greeted his 219 students for the first time Wednesday.
Gallant, 58, of Bangor taught high school social studies before becoming a principal about 20 years ago. A bachelor, he retired at the age of 55 as principal of Old Town High School. The opportunity to combine his skills as an administrator and his deep Catholic faith drew him back into the schoolhouse.
“This is a great way to teach young Catholics to practice their faith every day,” he said of his new job Thursday in an interview at his office on the St. Mary’s campus. “We have morning prayers every day and attend Mass every week.
“Catholic educators and parents have an obligation to pass the faith onto their children,” Gallant continued. “Parents send them here so they can be immersed in the faith every day and practice it with other Catholics without being afraid.”
He replaced Marcia Diamond, who left Maine in June to join her husband John Diamond in Fayetteville, Ark. She is the principal of a Catholic school in the city, home to the University of Arkansas and the corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart.
Gallant attended St. John’s Catholic School from kindergarten through eighth grade. At the time, it was the parish school of St. John Catholic Church, now part of St. Paul the Apostle Parish along with other Catholic churches in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden and Winterport.
St. Mary’s and St. John’s Catholic Schools merged to form All Saints in 2000. The St. Mary’s campus on Ohio Street serves children in pre-kindergarten programs through third grade. Students in grades four through eight attend the St. John’s campus on State Street.
“He’s an extremely experienced educator and administrator,” the Rev. Timothy Nadeau, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, said Sunday of Gallant. “He’s also a very faithful, practicing Catholic.”
As principal of Old Town High School, he had to recruit students as he must do at All Saints, said the priest, who was on the committee that hired Gallant.
“He’s a parishioner at St. Mary’s, so he knows the communities and the parents,” Airlia Britt, director of advancement at the school said Sunday. “He understands the importance of the school’s role in building a foundation of faith. And, he has a great sense of humor.”
Gallant said it would be at least a year before he suggested any major changes to how the school operates.
“I need to learn how the school works from the staff here,” he said.
So far, Gallant is enjoying wandering and classrooms of St. John’s again and seeing his former students, now parents with children enrolled at All Saints.
“It has been a really special treat for me to share memories and reconnect with them,” he said. “It’s great to see them as young adults with young children.”
Gallant plans to continue officiating at high school football games.
“That is a great diversion for me,” the principal said.