Ode (Owed) To A School
“Greetings Faculty, Students and all at St. Mary’s:
letter is intended to serve many purposes. Chiefly, it is meant as a
congratulatory monument to St. Mary’s and her hard working staff on her
tenth anniversary as a high school. It also comes as a congratulatory
note to the seniors among you who are graduating. Welcome to the rank
“Ten years ago St. Mary’s institutionalized herself by
turning out to pastor her first high school graduates. This meant a lot
of things to a lot of people. To take you back a few years, let’s stop
and pay tribute to some persons who helped to make the St. Mary’s which
we know today.
“First we could encounter the pioneering spirit
of Sister Eustella, St. Mary’s first principal. Actually, St. Mary’s
was a “one room schoolhouse” during the first year of her existence (as
were so many others in Mississippi during that era), and was under the
sole control of Mr. Fred Williams, a black Catholic layman, who
remained on the faculty and gave out “F’s” in handwriting.
is very possible that some of you graduates of today were just
beginning to start the climb up the academic ladder during Sister
“Next, we remember the contagious joviality of
Sister Jeromina; the engaging personality of Father Paul which gave out
the wonderful feeling that he belonged to all of us; and who could ever
forget the shoulder bruising contacts with Father Stoll! The angelic
gentleness of Sister Marietta; the robust leadership of Father Adams;
the quiet solicitations of Father Flood; the wonderful attention and
advice of Sister Anaclete which all of us drew on so freely.
to be forgotten are the ear tweaking tactics of your very own Sister
Brendan whenever an acolyte was late for a serving appointment! And the
scores of others who laughed with us and served as our comfort through
those wonderful years.
“There should be interspersed here a
commercial so that we may offer homage to the “guinea pigs” of St.
Mary’s first experiment as a high school. You have probably realized
that this letter is not being written in the first person. This is
justified by the fact that St. Mary’s belonged to all of us. The real
reason being that the author of this chronicle, shall we say, prefers
to remain anonymous. This attempt at deception could go awry so we are
asking Sister Brendan to discard the envelope. The typing was devised
to disguise the handwriting (maybe Mr. Williams had something there!).
if this should get to be a bore just remember that St. Mary’s first
alumni took speech under the expert voice of Sister Harold.
Incidentally, the rumor is that speech improvement classes are designed
to help bore the listener by taking much longer and using correct
“Actually, the lives of the first grads were somewhat
paralleled in that we took the same courses, played basketball and
today are parents. Where are we today?
“From all reports one
third went on to graduate summa cum laude from Alverno University and
is now an educator. Another married a school chum and is the best wife
in Chicago. The last corner of the triangle joined the United States
Air Force and turned careerist. Enough of us, let’s pick on you for a
“Before we graduate you from this institution and place
your name and picture in the corridor by the gym, let’s go back again
and look at some more of St. Mary’s history. We know about the sticks
and stones which provide the sheltering comfort. The other, and most
important, is the willingness of spirit that would bring a small band
of sisters and priests to an old antebellum brick building and compel
them to stay on through the years to turn the small acorn of an
elementary school into the oak tree of an institution that St. Mary’s
“Not being satisfied with being mere teachers, our
representatives of St. Francis and the Sacred Heart are real community
additions, who derive their greatest joys from seeing one of their
wards at the First Communion Rail or practicing for a First Confession.
“Part of this history, too, was the happy planning for the
dedication of St. Mary’s first high school building which gave most of
us our initial contact with Mississippi’s own Rev. Bishop Gerow, who
in turn astounded the Boy Scouts saluting his arrival by producing
various membership cards in that organization.
in the athletic field, which brought the first trophy to the school and
prompted the first athletic banquet. The first real school-to-people
program that is known as St. Mary’s Annual Bazaar. The many parents,
other associates and benefactors who must be mentioned in this history
because they contributed, indubitably, to the future.
you who are graduating, as we did, have already become a part of this
history. The season is late spring. The time is 1965, Anno Domini. The
sun is shining. The sadist which the juniors jokingly refer to as their
prophet, has predicted all types of different situations for you. (The
juniors, your successors, are mostly gleeful anyway because they now
have the right to initiate all freshmen!)
“The small piece of
paper which you have sought so diligently for the past four years is
almost within your grasp. Your future awaits just outside the
commencement hall. Apprehension, that nagging fear that keeps prodding
you to ponder your future to try and find out whether you will flop or
fly, is the first obstacle. You are considering the avenues now open.
The possibilities of a continuance of your education. The fact remains
that each of you must decide. Your contract with St. Mary’s has
expired. It is your future.
“Taking a close look at your legacy,
which is today’s world, leaves you with a pretty shaky picture, doesn’t
it? The first thing we see is what appears to be a breakdown in, or
deterioration of, world communication which is resulting in chaos in
all four corners of the globe. Revolutions, struggles for basic rights,
these seem to be the orders of the day. You will find no attempt here
to diagnose the world’s ills because most of us are aware that the
prescription for the cure was written out at Fatima years ago.
our generation has laid claim to some of the greatest leaders of this
or any century. The late great John F. Kennedy for whom the world still
mourns. His Holiness Pope John XXIII, whose accomplishments are known
to all. Our hard working present Chief Executive, the Honorable Mr.
Johnson. The scores of men and women who are not named here, but are
just as busy shaping today’s world for your tomorrow.
banquet for St. Mary’s first grads, a number of gifts were presented to
all three. Among these was a small book entitled “A Young Person’s
Guide” authored by one Father LaSance. A most remarkable book
throughout, but the fourth part would be better suited to our purpose:
“At The Parting of
In life’s bright morn I see thee depart,
I see thee go with a
Farewell, dear youth, so
joyous and free,
God’s blessing ever abide with thee.
When thou dost stand where the ways divide,
May thy Angel-guardian be at thy side;
God grant thou may’st choose the narrow way,
And from it may thou
footsteps never stray.
words taken from Father LaSance’s work, do much to sum up the last
leave taking. The goodbyes to family and friends. Some of you will
elect to stay “hometown.” Others will leave as we did. Harken!
Experience speaks! Take a little of St. Mary’s with you and God will
always be there!
“The season is late spring. The time is 1955, Anno Domini.
“The sun is shining. Won’t you join us?”