By Phyllis Montague Harris
Sun Contributing writer
ONEIDA — St. Patrick’s School celebrated its 90th anniversary Sept. 25th with great joy and in prayerful gratitude for its accomplished past and promising future.
A Eucharistic celebration was the centerpiece of the day-long celebration that brought Bishop Robert Cunningham, retired auxiliary Bishop Thomas Costello, several area priests, sisters who had ties to the school, former staff, numerous alumni of all ages, and, of course, the current school family together for the joyous celebration.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Cunningham. Concelebrants included retired Aux. Bishop Costello, a former superintendent of schools; Father Richard Kapral, pastor of St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s churches; Father Joseph O’Connor, director of vocations; Father Philip Hearn, vicar for the Eastern Region; Father Timothy Elmer, formerly of Oneida; Msgr. Matthew Luczycki, St. Joseph’s Church; Father Kevin Maloney, St. Agatha’s Church; Father William Mesmer, St. Helena and Holy Family Churches; Father Leo Wimett, St. Mary of the Lake and St. John Church; and Father James Culver of St. Peter’s Church, Rome. Deacon James Chappell also assisted with the Mass.
Christopher Mominey, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Syracuse, welcomed everyone to the celebration and praised St. Patrick’s School for its years of service to the children of Madison and Oneida Counties.
Principal Peg Brown praised the vision and wisdom of the pastors and parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church, who saw the need for a Catholic school for the children of Oneida. She also praised the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who were the first teachers and who operated the school for more than 60 years. They were followed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who ran the school for the next 10 years.
Brown went on to say that over the years the sisters have been replaced by dedicated lay teachers who work very hard to teach academics and instill Christian values in area children.
She also praised parents for their years of dedication to Catholic education and St. Patrick’s School and recognized the sacrifices that are often necessary to continue at a parochial school.
Brown shared her first-hand knowledge of the blessings the school has received from generous benefactors and challenged those in attendance to continue their support of St. Patrick’s School so that it could continue to stand strong and serve children for decades to come.
The students of St. Patrick’s School played active roles in the Mass, often filling the packed church with sweet music as they sang with confident voices and joy in their hearts. The students also led the responsorial psalm, offered the petitions, brought the gifts to the altar and acted as ushers for the Mass. The students also performed an interpretive dance to the hymn ”We Are Called” as a Communion meditation.
Sister Joan Ottman, IHM, of St. Patrick’s Class of 1952, proclaimed the first reading. The second reading was shared by Sister Johanne McCarthy, CSJ, who was principal of the school from 1986 to 1992.
Bishop Cunningham stressed what a joyous occasion the school’s 90th anniversary was in his homily. He said anniversaries are like birthdays, the more years you accumulate, the prouder you become of the accomplishment.
Bishop Cunningham said there are multiple reasons to celebrate St. Patrick’s School’s 90th birthday and many reasons to give thanks.
“It is fitting that the Eucharist is at the center of St. Patrick’s celebration,” he said. “We give thanks to God for St. Patrick’s School and all who have contributed to its success over the years including the sisters and now Peg Brown and the lay teachers who continue the work started 90 years ago.
“We are also grateful for the priests and the parishioners who have supported St. Patrick’s School over the years and the parents who entrusted to us what is most precious to them – their child,” Bishop Cunningham said.
“St. Patrick’s School is a sacred place where the Gospel comes to life every day,” the Bishop said. “St. Patrick’s School is a gift to the parents who choose it for their children and to the Diocese of Syracuse and today we pray that it will remain so for many more years to come.”
Following the Mass, there was an open house at the school that featured historic displays and a power point presentation representing the school throughout the years.
The school then hosted a picnic for all who attended the celebration.
Principal Peg Brown said the day was wonderful and she was amazed by the turnout and the response that the anniversary brought about.
“So many people turned out to help us celebrate and we heard from so many people who could not attend, but spoke so fondly of their memories of St. Patrick’s School,” Brown said.
“We are very proud that 90 years after the school opened its doors to its first students, we are thriving,” she said. “We continue to add programs and improve what we offer to children and we do so with a balanced budget and affordable tuition. We are very blessed,” she said.