Moving On, Leaving Memories

June 10-16, 2004
Moving On, Leaving Memories
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School’s Class of 2004 Leaves Gifts for the School UTICA –– The seniors at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School will leave several gifts behind after they graduate on June 12. The students who are involved in the ministry program, under the guidance of campus minister Carol Troy, are busy creating memories that will last a lifetime. When not sewing the senior quilt, they are remodeling the school chapel and assisting with the plans for building a peace garden on the school’s grounds. They have also purchased a new tabernacle to give to the school to replace the old one that has tarnished. Several of the students worked diligently on their quilt squares that represented their personalities and characteristics. Senior Tom Grace displayed his quilt square made of cow print material with footballs, basketballs and baseballs adorning it. An avid sportsman, Tom wanted all sports he participates in represented. The cow print represents Tom’s love of cows. “Taking part in the making of the quilt was a lot of fun,” said Tom. “It helped me wrap up my high school experience. Notre Dame does a lot for its students and making this quilt was a way to show our appreciation.”

Casmina LaBella has been a campus ministry leader for two years and was instrumental in organizing and creating the senior quilt that will be displayed in the chapel. “The thing that meant the most when making the quilt is that we got to work on it during religion class which gave us the opportunity to share our experiences with others,” said Casmina. “I was able to learn what some of the other students wanted to be remembered for.” Casmina’s quilt square indicates her love of shopping and dancing. On a background of fuscha polka dots were felt decorations that included ballet shoes, purses, born to shop signs and travel stickers. Casmina has been dancing for 15 years.

According to Megan Risler’s square, she loves dances, sleepovers, soccer, track and Ramin noodles. She also included a Navy JROTC patch to show her commitment to that program. The youth renovation plan of the chapel has been an ongoing process for two years. The ministry students have changed the location of the altar, work toward putting a stained glass finish on some of the windows and plan to move the new oak tabernacle to a more respected place. Since last year’s ground breaking of the peace garden, the students have been brainstorming and gathering information on what they would like to see in the garden which will be a memorial to the victims of 9/11. A generous alumni member, who is a landscape architect, will meet with the students to see what they would like featured in the garden, gather ideas and look over the site. She will then donate her time and talents to create the peace garden. Casmina was one of the leaders in the proposal for building the peace garden. “I would like it to be a place for people to go and reflect. Hopefully, what we create will be a part of the school for years to come,” said Casmina.

Included in the garden will be a very precious symbol that the will pay tribute to those lost in the World Trade Center disaster. Troy’s son Larry is a New York City firefighter and was at the site of the destruction. After working at the World Trade Center, Troy’s son went to the landfill every day for weeks and weeks to help out. “I asked him if there was anything in the debris that we could use in the memorial garden. He told me that there wasn’t anything in the landfill that was larger than a nickel,” said Troy. However, after weeks of rummaging through debris looking for personal effects that could be sent back to family members, Larry had a very unusual discovery. “He stepped out of the fire truck and looked up at a huge pile of ashes. He saw something sitting on top of the pile and climbed to see what it was,” she said. He found an iron figurine of the baby Jesus that was completely in tact. The figurine, which is seven inches long, is encrusted with soot and darkened by the heat that engulfed it. For Troy and her students, the icon is a symbol of hope and faith. “We have no idea where it came from,” said Troy. “The statue will be given a place of honor in the peace garden.”

Troy said she has 15 ministry leaders in the school’s program this year and is expecting 30 more next year. In addition to their current activities, the students have participated in making Easter baskets to donate to social services, raised money through bake sales to buy backpacks and school supplies for children in need, and donated cash and clothing to Hospitality Row in Utica. The ROTC service organization at the school also has a very strong contingent of students who volunteer their time and talents. The students recognized several of their teachers who helped them grow spiritually and personally. Casmina said that Mrs. Nemecek and Mrs. Troy had the biggest impact on her faith at Notre Dame. “Mrs. Nemecek guided me in my spiritual direction and Mrs. Troy has been an important part of my growing in faith,” said Casmina. Tom credits his religion teacher Mr. Paul Hanley, for inspiring his faith. “He has helped me develop spiritually, but most importantly, as a person,” said Tom. “I’ve learned a lot from him over the past few years and I thank him for helping to mold my faith and behavior into that of a true Catholic.”

At the end of the year Mass, the seniors will participate in an offertory procession and present memories of their high school years including a time capsule that will be buried in front of the school. A video created and produced by the seniors will be shown after Mass. “It will be a beautiful event,” said Troy. “Because it’s all about them. They’ve done it all themselves.”

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