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Kolbe Academy to put focus on recovery for students

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    John Petruzzelli, principal, speaks to a group of St. John Neumann Regional School students about Kolbe Academy, the country’s first faith-based recovery high school slated to open this fall. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS

Published March 16. 2019 06:46AM

In 1941, St. Maximilian Kolbe was arrested and taken from his monastery in Teresin, Poland. He was taken to a Polish prison before eventually being transferred to Auschwitz.

When Nazi soldiers chose 10 prisoners at random to starve to death — a warning to those contemplating escape — Kolbe volunteered himself, taking a man’s place. After two weeks, almost all the prisoners had died.

But Kolbe was still alive, so the SS decided he would die another way; he was killed by lethal injection in August 1941.

Kolbe’s conviction is still remembered today. In 1982, more than 40 years after his death, Pope John Paul II canonized Kolbe, declaring him a martyr of charity. Because of his cause of death, Kolbe is the patron saint of drug addicts and addiction.

That’s the legacy John Petruzzelli lamented to a group of St. John Neumann Regional School students last week when he came to the Palmerton campus. He wanted to talk about a recovery high school slated to open by the Diocese of Allentown this September named Kolbe Academy.

On March 7, Petruzzelli, who was appointed principal of Kolbe Academy in October, spoke to a class-full of sixth, seventh and eighth graders about the academy’s mission. He told students that addiction is a far-reaching issue in Pennsylvania — one that affects every kind of person.

“It’s (addiction) really something that hits every age group,” Petruzzelli told students. “It’s something that hits every kind of family.

“It’s not just the people that are poor. It’s not the people that are rich. It’s not the people that live in big houses. It’s not the people that live on the streets. It’s all of those people.”

Petruzzelli previously served as principal of Bethlehem Catholic High School for seven years. Before his appointment at Kolbe, he was principal of St. Joseph Preparatory Academy in Philadelphia.

Kolbe Academy will be similar to other schools in the diocese. Students will be taught the same curriculum.

But the way lessons are related to Kolbe’s students, Petruzzelli said, will center on addiction and personal well-being.

“This is the question we’re asking as we’re going through the curriculum: How do we pull in addiction issues, health and wellness and the higher power — the spirituality of addiction,” Petruzzelli said. “We’re looking to weave them in.”

The country’s first faith-based recovery school, Kolbe Academy will occupy the former campus of St. Francis Academy in Hanover Township, Northampton County, outside of Bethlehem.

Potential students will have to be 30 days sober in order to attend Kolbe Academy. Petruzzelli said that the school will enforce frequent and random testing to ensure its students are staying sober.

If a relapse were to occur, Petruzzelli said, it wouldn’t automatically lead to explosion. Instead, students will be put on their own individual recovery plans.

“If we save one life, then everything that we’ve done will be worth it,” Petruzzelli said.

Enrollment for Kolbe Academy is currently open. Tuition will range between $15,000 and $20,000 annually.

For more information about the school or to enroll online, go to

$20,000 for christian indoctrination? The ignorance of the right knows no bounds.

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