The early school years amount to a pretty forgettable time for a lot of adults. For Kerry Trotter, those were her glory days. Well, glory days with braces. Today she extolls the virtues of her little Catholic school education, and the friendships born out of shared, uniformed experience.
I preened in the mirror one last time, fluffing my 34-year-old flattening hair to capture some of its early-90s hugeness. My husband stood and watched, flummoxed.
“So, wait, who again are you meeting tonight?”
“A bunch of folks from my Sacred Heart Class of 1992,” I said, squinting to gauge the severity of my crow’s feet. “Grade school.”
My husband shook his head in disbelief. “Grade school? I so cannot relate to that.”
His is the reaction of many with whom I’ve shared stories of my kinship with these classmates. I’ve found the norm is not to keep in touch with the majority, if any, from one’s elementary school era (Facebook reconnections notwithstanding). High school? Sure. College? Definitely. But a small K-8 Catholic school? Our abnormal closeness tends to confound outsiders.
The nineteen of us ‘92 grads, give or take a few, have not only kept in touch, we’ve grown as friends. We’ve been in each other’s weddings, attended our children’s birthday parties, shed tears at parent’s funerals. Even when we go months without speaking, the reunions effortlessly pick up where we left off, our goofy humor and good-natured ribbing a portal to our innocent, insouciant shared past.
Maybe it’s a Catholic school thing, maybe it’s a Sacred Heart thing, maybe it’s a Sacred Heart Class of 1992 thing. I don’t care what it is, I’m just glad it’s a thing...
In wrapping up Catholic Schools Week, Word on Fire staffers and contributors share some memories and reflections of our experiences with Catholic education. Tyrannical nuns and uninspired uniforms? Hardly. Think inspiration, dedication and life-altering guidance, today on the Word on Fire blog.
Rozann Carter, WoF Creative Director: My first encounter with formal Catholic education was at the university level when I began my freshman year at Notre Dame. Transitioning from a graduating class of 47 members in a one-stoplight town in rural New Mexico to the sprawling metropolis of South Bend, America, meant that there were "holy moly!" moments occurring quite often for the 18-year-old me ("What? This movie theater has 10 screens? What are these things you call 'pedestrians'? Where is the bonnet store at this mall?"). However, the most significant of these were within this newly-experienced, Catholic educational setting.
Chapels in every dorm, the campus' Grotto constantly glowing with candles representing endless prayers and late-night-study petitions, students gathering for class Masses and small-group rosaries, discussions about things-of-ultimate-importance over a tall cone of fro-yo from the dining hall dessert bar—the environment at ND was the the perfect juxtaposition of the daily-ness of life, relationships, studies, and the task of growing-up, and the transcendent call to lift our hearts and minds to the things of God. Theology was a requirement there; Philosophy filled a couple of spots on every transcript. But, within this comprehensive educational context, theology and philosophy presented themselves as far more than simply disciplines. They infused our prayer, informed our service, gave meaning to our vocational pursuits, and provided the foundation for relationships that will last a lifetime (and one particular Relationship that will take us directly into the next). I'm so grateful for my Catholic education.
Peggy Pandaleon, WoF Marketing Director: Our children did not attend Catholic elementary schools. However, they did attend Loyola Academy, a Jesuit college prep school. The “hidden” value from a Catholic high school is that just at the time your kids are becoming independent and sometimes rebellious, Christian family’s value’s are reinforced by the whole environment of the school. Even though our kids have had questions, drifted a bit and are still making the Faith their own, they have never abandoned Christ.
Kerry Trotter, WoF Content Manager: Candles and Carols, the annual Christmas pageant, was a highlight of our year at Sacred Heart School in Winnetka, Ill. Not only was it a festive showcase of cute little songbirds dressed in our uniformed best, we got to miss class for practice. And the closer we got to the big night, the more class we missed. It was glorious. Practices moved from the school basement music room to the adjacent church, the sounds of children singing about Jesus' birth filling every inch of the sacred space and infusing it with this energetic innocence, as though cherubim had been heaved in with fireplace bellows.
Then someone would throw up...