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Students and staff at Mount de Sales Academy received a visit Monday from the Most Rev. William E. Lori, the 16th archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Over the course of the visit, Lori took part in mass, met with staff and took questions from some of the school's 490 ninth through 12th grade students.

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"I guess you could say he's kind of like a celebrity in the church," said 16-year-old Mae Smith, a sophomore. "So it's really great to have him come to us and him teach us and have us be able to ask him questions and him answer them."

Since Lori became archbishop in 2012, he has visited the school three times, said school principal Sister Mary Thomas.

The archbishop's visit coincided with the start of National Catholic Schools Week, which has been an annual recognition of Catholic education since 1974.

Each year has a different theme, according to the National Catholic Education Association, which works with Catholic educators to support the teaching mission of the Catholic Church. This year, it is "Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service."

"It's kind of a gift in this country to have a place like Mount de Sales where we can educate with freedom to fully integrate faith in the educational experience," Thomas said. "This week catholic schools are celebrating that opportunity and right we have in this country because it's not true in every country."

The visit came months after the archdiocese announced it will close three Catholic schools, including Seton Keough, near Halethorpe, and merge two others, due to declining enrollment and a need to upgrade facilities.

Lori said the transition is going well, the enrollment declines have leveled off and the schools are getting stronger.

"We made a strong, strategic study to determine how best to place our resources and to make sure every student in a school that was closed finds another seat in a Catholic school," he said. "Our motto is, 'rise above,' and I think we're trying to do exactly that."



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