Let’s Hear it for Cathedral!

June 23-July 6, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 24
Let’s Hear it for Cathedral!
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Returning alumni from as far away as Japan and California were among the 350 people celebrating the 90th anniversary of Cathedral School on June 17-18.

A variety of activities had been planned for the returning alumni. The activities began with tours of the school on Friday morning and Saturday afternoon. On Saturday evening, a Mass honoring the Daughters of Charity was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Sister Maureen D’Onofrio, CSJ, honored both Sister Anne Marie Graham, DC, who serves as director of Emergency Services at the Cathedral and Sister Donna Smith, DC, who serves as principal of Cathedral School.

After 153 years of serving the Syracuse Diocese, their community has decided to withdraw their ministries in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish.

Changes in the external environment have been a major influence in the decision to withdraw the services of the Daughters of Charity from the parish. Like most apostolic religious communities, the Daughters of Charity are experiencing a period of aging and diminishment.

After the Mass, alumni and their guests gathered in the reception area of the OnCenter for a cocktail hour accompanied by Mario DeSantis playing the grand piano.

Approximately 350 people gathered in the area, which was decorated with clusters of dark blue and white balloons. Picture collages, which were displayed on easels, were scattered throughout the room. The collages included pictures of the sisters who had taught at Cathedral School, the priests and bishops associated with the school, students, the sports of the classes of the 1940’s – 1970’s and the activities of the classes of the 1940’s – 1970’s.

Bob Quirk, from the class of 1970, was looking forward to meeting his schoolmates from the past. “It’s going to be a fantastic experience,” said Quirk. He was on the committee that was responsible for planning the event.

Last March, Father Joseph Champlin asked him to serve on the committee and Quirk was more than willing to help out. “The OnCenter is a great spot,” Quirk remarked. “We’ve reached people from the classes of the 1950’s. It’ll be great.”

The alumni and their guests then proceeded into the Grand Ballroom for dinner, where the Mario DeSantis Orchestra was performing. Each dining table was adorned with an arrangement of dark blue and white balloons.

Father Champlin welcomed everyone, and then Father James Carey, from the class of 1957, led a prayer for those in attendance.

Many of the former students enjoyed viewing a Power Point presentation during the dinner hour. It was comprised of scenes from school life at Cathedral School and it had been created by Sister Donna.

Frances Johnson, from the class of 1954, had traveled from Rochester to meet up with old friends. “It feels good to see them again,” said Johnson. Reflecting on her school years spent at Cathedral School, Johnson said the nuns had made a big impression on her. “The nuns had a lot of time to spend with me,” explained Johnson. “I learned how to persevere.”

As dessert was being served, Father Champlin gave an update on the Guardian Angel Society. The program awards scholarships to children who are unable to afford to attend Cathedral School. Father Champlin reported that the children who had received scholarships are all doing well academically. A video entitled You Raise Me Up was shown, explaining how the Guardian Angel Society benefits the students.

Father Champlin also explained how Sister Donna had encouraged the students to reach out to help other people by participating in the Pennies for Patients for Leukemia campaign last March. The students brought their pennies to school for a collection that was being taken to help leukemia patients. They raised $441 for the campaign.

Father Champlin then introduced Sister Donna, who remarked that the faculty and staff are dedicated to the 91 students of Cathedral School. The students also benefit from the 32 mentors who volunteer their time to help them with their schoolwork. Sister Donna said the student body is comprised of children from various cultural and economic backgrounds. “That’s what makes it unique,” said Sister Donna.

Sister Mary Francis Martin, DC, and Provincial of the Daughters of Charity then took the podium, expressing gratitude to all the sisters who had ministered to Cathedral School in the past. “The testimony to their effectiveness is in all of you gathered here tonight,” remarked Sister Mary Francis. “It’s very humbling to see how esteemed we are.”

Father Champlin then introduced alumni Bob Smith, who had traveled the farthest — over 12,000 miles from Japan to attend the celebration. “My wife advised me to come tonight because she explained that this might be the last chance I’ll have to see these people,” said Smith. “I love Cathedral and all you guys. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Development director of the Guardian Angel Society Kathy Fedrizzi then took the podium, thanking the committee that organized the event. She remarked, “Sister Donna has made Cathedral a better place. I’m going to miss her.”

Father Champlin concluded the celebration by informing everyone that Le Moyne College has proposed using Cathedral School as their teaching school for future nurses, teachers and social workers.

Alumni Joseph Bagliere, from the class of 1972, enjoyed the gathering. He traveled from California because he wanted to see his friends. Bagliere vividly remembers the large wooden door of the Convent when his mother took him there for an interview with the sisters when he transferred there from Clinton Elementary School in Syracuse during fourth grade. “I have many great memories of my teachers,” said Bagliere. “The nuns taught me how to be polite and compassionate.”

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