Cambridge Matignon School announces new center for civics education

CAMBRIDGE -- In the midst of celebrations marking their 75th anniversary, Cambridge Matignon School has announced the formation of a new initiative: the Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Cambridge Center for Civics, Leadership and Public Service.

The Speaker O'Neill Center will offer civics education programs for local middle school and high school students, with a particular focus on the school's partners in the Cambridge Regional Catholic School Consortium. These programs will teach students about government, political science, and public service, while also helping them develop skills to make a difference in their communities, such as effective communication and creative problem solving.

Speaker O'Neill's son, former Lt. Gov. Tom O'Neill, has agreed to serve as the honorary chair of the advisory board of the new center. His firm, O'Neill and Associates, will help launch it.

According to Eileen Gustin, the assistant head of school for operations, they are planning to construct a new building for the center, which they hope will be completed by 2024. Some existing student activities, such as the Mock Trial team, peer mediation, and History Day, will now fall under the center's direction. Other programs, such as workshops and speaker series, will be added in the future.

The announcement of the Speaker O'Neill Center came on Nov. 4 during a special Mass and convocation marking the school's 75th anniversary. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and Abbot Mark Cooper, chancellor of St. Anselm College. The convocation, attended by the student body as well as representatives of other local Catholic schools, welcomed new head of school Dr. Paul Manuel, who explained the purpose of the Speaker O'Neill Center and reflected on Cambridge Matignon School's mission.

The center is not the first such project overseen by Manuel, who has previously been a professor of politics at St. Anselm College and Mount St. Mary's University. He was the director of the leadership program at the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C., and the founding director of the Institute for Leadership at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

In his remarks during the convocation, Manuel spoke about the connection between learning and leadership.

He said that for Catholic educators, "Preparing young people for a life of service is at the very heart of what we do in the classroom."

This spirit of service stems from Cambridge Matignon School's namesake, Father Francis Anthony Matignon, a pioneering missionary in the early days of the Archdiocese of Boston. After fleeing his native France in the wake of the revolution, he was sent to New England, where he helped to heal divisions between Protestants and Catholics as well as those between Irish Catholics and French Catholics.

Cardinal Richard Cushing founded Cambridge Matignon School, originally Matignon High School, in 1947. It was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph from its founding until 2019.

Manuel noted that the students now represent 67 Massachusetts zip codes, 29 states, and 24 countries. The diversity of the student body is reflected in the main entrance hallway, where several clocks show the time zones of cities around the world, and in the dining hall's flags, representing the many states and countries that the students come from.

"We now have a global responsibility of teaching the virtues of citizenship," Manuel said.

He acknowledged that the celebration was taking place at "a time of great difficulty" and division. However, he pointed out, Father Matignon also lived through complicated times.

"Father Matignon's own times were also complicated, but he navigated those difficulties, in the words of his contemporaries, 'with great piety, ardent zeal, remarkably great prudence, and exquisite courtesy.' In other words, he was faithful, dedicated, wise, and above all, kind," Manuel said.

He said these are qualities that the school's faculty and staff demonstrate and try to pass on to their students.

"The O'Neill Center is all about, not just Speaker O'Neill, but bringing to life the example of Father Matignon, who in his own life was known for his service," Manuel told the Pilot during a reception following the convocation.

He has been calling the school's anniversary "day one of the next 75 years." They are planning several events as part of the yearlong celebration, which Manuel said will highlight not only the academic and athletic accomplishments of students while they were at the school, but also "the unbelievable contributions that our alumni have made to the greater society, in Boston but really all around the world."

"It's also an opportunity to reintroduce Matignon from what had been primarily a local school to now a truly global school," he said.

More information about Cambridge Matignon School is available at their website,