By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Students at Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse learned that some lessons are too personal and too important to be written in books. On Thursday, Oct. 10, grandparents came to support and encourage students by attending a Mass and a luncheon presented by the school as part of the annual Grandparents’ Day celebration.
“There’s not many opportunities for the kids to interact socially with their elders,” said Marie Schweitzer-Burgmeier, a parent involved in coordinating the event. “It’s our way of showing respect for life and respect for elders. It’s a fun-filled tradition. There’s nothing else really that celebrates the grandparent/kid relationship.”
Some of the grandparents have the added interest of also being alumni of Most Holy Rosary. “I graduated from the school; my seven sons and 13 of my grandchildren have attended there. This is truly one of the happiest events of the year, everyone loves it,” said Kathleen Byrne, a life-long parishioner of Most Holy Rosary. “I look forward to seeing the other grandparents and the children. They are always so proud to show off their work to us and show us around their school.”
After the Mass at 10:30 a.m., the approximately 320 grandparents proceeded to the school where they were greeted by parents directing them to specific tables for the luncheon. The rest of the day was spent showing the grandparents around the school. Co-chairs of Grandparents’ Day organized parents to prepare for the event by arranging tables and rooms, as well as cooking and serving the meals. Grandparents’ Day is held right before a long weekend to accommodate those from out-of-town.
“A lot of parents and grandparents are used to this tradition,” said Annette Hodgens, a co-chair of the event. “They love just spending time up here.”
Grandparents’ Day has been such a draw for over the past nine years that grandparents from as far away as Florida make it a point to attend on a yearly basis. Schweitzer-Burgmeier explained that all students are included in the event, regardless of whether they have grandparents attending.
“There’s all sorts of reasons why a student wouldn’t have a grandparent around on that day, whether it’s sickness, or because they’re deceased, or that they’re just too far away,” Schweitzer-Burgmeier said. “But all the children are paired with someone to spend the day with. Sometimes it’s a volunteer or a friend of the family.”
Byrne explained that although she has many of her own grandchildren attending the school, she’s always willing to have another student spend the day with her.
“They come and sit with us. We talk with them and include them in the family. The school always seems able to match the children with someone,” Byrne said. “I just love the little children here. It really goes to show that the training they receive at Most Holy Rosary is wonderful.”
Bryne explains many aspects of the school have changed since she graduated in 1943. One of the changes she mentioned was that she graduated from the school when it contained high school grades. Since then, she commented, the school decreased to the eight grades and then to six grades, where it is now.
“It’s also a much more relaxed atmosphere; they group the desks now and the library is so pleasant. The whole building is so much more appealing to children and the teachers seem so innovative,” Bryne said. “When we have alumni groups tour the buildings, they can’t get over it either. Now each class uses two rooms, while when I was there we were busting at the seams and they had to add the extra classrooms.”
Grandparents who attended the event said that they felt very well received by the teachers, students and parents.
“The welcoming here is great. The attitude of the teachers and parents is wonderful,” said Mary Anderson, who attended for her three grandchildren. “It makes you glad your kids are going here.”
Another aspect of the day is that the parents pass out the “pennies from heaven” jars. The jars are part of a fundraiser the school participates in by collecting pennies throughout the academic year and then in May they line the pennies on the walkway of the entrance to show their success.
“Events like these keep grandparents in touch. Grandparents are able to see the value that parents place on their children’s education and it really hooks them in to show them the difference in the school,” Schweitzer-Burgmeier said.