Monday, May 31, 2010

See Our Banners Wave Proudly Before Us!

Spent a bittersweet morning at North Catholic. When I was young, my father took me every year to the Memorial Day Mass and service there. Mass was in the Faculty House chapel followed by a ceremony/wreath laying at the Shrine of Our Lady Of Fatima on the front lawn- the site of the large stone memorial to those from North who had died in WWII. I learned the Alma Mater way back then.

This morning I took my Mother to the ceremony. Mass was a collection, mostly men, of ages from approaching (if not in) their 90s to young men who are recent grads, and families with young children. The Shrine now has two large memorials, including on the second one names from Korea and Viet Nam.

I was happy to see one of my father's classmates there- he was someone my Dad remained close to all his life, and he and Mom had a joyous reunion. I met people who knew, or were related to, some of the priests I had known as patients in my father's office, and who were later patients of mine. I got a chance to finally meet Fr. Vince Smith, the President of North, who has done such a wonderful job of focusing this year on the incredible history and tradition of North, and made this year a mix of sorrow and great celebration.

I spent a lot of time when I was younger at North. Rode the buses to the Sunday football games. Spent a lot of Friday nights in North's iconic gym, "The Pit". Saw a lot of shows in the auditorium. And, those Memorial Day mornings with Dad.

Like my beloved Cardinal Dougherty, North is being closed in a few weeks. My family has sent 4 generations of young men there, from my Great-Uncle Leo who was in the first 4 year graduating class of 1930 to my nephew, who is in the un-graduated class of 2011. In between those two, my father, his brothers, my mother's brothers, and my brothers went to North. My family includes the classes of 1930, 1934, 1936 (two grads), 1940, 1942, 1946, 1972, 1975, 1978 and 2011.

Today was the last time this Memorial Day service will be held at North Catholic. The singing of the Alma Mater after Mass was particularly difficult. The words I've known all my conscious life, but getting them out today was not easy. Looking around at men of all ages struggling to sing, many getting somber and some openly crying, was heartbreaking.

I am very glad I went, even with all the sadness. It gave me a chance to say goodbye to North Catholic, which, although not *my* Alma Mater, was an integral part of my life and my family's life for its entire history. It gave me a chance to look around one last time at the place that I remember so well. I was able to do this in company where I felt comfortable- with people who understood that my grief was real even though I never attended North as a student. I am especially glad that I got to say goodbye in a way that brought back happy memories of special times with my father.

Hail Alma Mater of North Catholic High.

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