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Pope John Paul II school marks 20th

Pope John Paul II Catholic School has had a presence in Citrus County for 20 years. The school recently noted that milestone with a dinner and program.

The school was established in 1985 under the name Central Catholic School of Citrus County. In 2000 the name was changed to honor the long-serving pope.

The celebration was an opportunity to invite alumni back to the school. There were about 100 people in attendance, 40 of whom were former students. Also back to visit were former principals. Sister Mary Loyola Mathia, the school's first principal, spoke to the group, as did the Rev. James Hoge, the school's first pastor.

Hoge, said school director of administration Cindy Chase, started all the county's six Catholic churches.

Besides dinner and dancing, there were scrapbooks to explore and a video of the 20 years prepared by former student and Distinguished Alumnus Andrew "Drew" Lepinski. The Distinguished Alumnus award is presented once a year. Lepinski is currently enrolled at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach.

There was also a display of memorabilia, including Central Catholic School cups, jackets and shirts.

On a somber note, two deceased alumni were remembered: Zeke Lepinski (brother of Andrew) died in 2001, and D.J. Passalacqua died in 2002.

Chase said the event was the culmination of two years of effort to locate former students. There are about 200 in the school's database now and about 60 still need to be found.

Most of the former students are in high school or college now. The oldest class represented, Chase said, was 1991. The first graduate of Central Catholic School of Citrus County, Lyn Davis, who was not in attendance, now lives in Chicago.

Besides marking the anniversary of the Catholic institution, it was really a good way to bring the alumni back to school. "It was the first chance the alumni had to get together," Chase said.

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