GREECE — Since graduating in 1971, Eileen Bubel Lill had never returned to the school building at St. Charles Borromeo Church. Kathy Schaber Mastrodonato had only stopped in fleetingly. However, knowing they wouldn’t have another chance, the longtime friends made sure to get there on Sunday, June 8.
Lill and Mastrodonato were among numerous alumni who walked the halls one last time during a four-hour open house. The former St. Charles Borromeo School, now known as Catherine McAuley School, is closing later this month.
Lill and Mastrodonato enjoyed the day by taking a thorough tour of the school. How thorough? They even viewed the girls’ bathroom, which they decided hadn’t changed in appearance over the past 40 years. The classrooms were a different story: They were surprised at how sparsely the desks were situated, noting that there had been as many as 50 per room during their time.
"We sat close enough that we could cheat off each other," Lill quipped.
"That was when each class just had one teacher — no aides or anything," Mastrodonato added. Another note about the faculty: She and Lill still recall their initial surprise when teaching sisters changed from full habits to comparatively casual clothing.
Lill and Mastrodonato were classmates all the way from first through eighth grade, then for four more years at Cardinal Mooney High School. They have remained friends ever since, and said that similarly close friendships were the norm among their St. Charles peers.
"We spent eight years with these people," Lill said.
"You knew everybody in every class; you ate lunch with them," Mastrodonato said, adding that there was very little turnover of students.
The open house’s largest concentration of people gathered in the gymnasium, where class portraits dating back to 1930 lined one wall and many more photos and other memorabilia were displayed on tables. Attendees eagerly scanned pictures, occasionally chuckling at images from yesteryear of themselves and classmates. Hopes for revisiting such memories at a future date were expressed by a sign-in book at the entrance, requesting contact information for alumni events, and notices announcing a 50th-anniversary reunion two years from now for the Class of 1960.
St. Charles Borromeo School opened its doors in 1926, one year after St. Charles Borromeo Parish was established at the corner of Maiden Lane and Dewey Avenue. The school changed its name to Catherine McAuley School at the start of the 2005-06 school year, as the result of a merger with Greece’s St. John the Evangelist School, which was closing due to enrollment losses.
Few students actually came over from St. John the Evangelist, however, and enrollment continued to decline at Catherine McAuley. This past January, halfway through the consolidated school’s third year, Bishop Matthew H. Clark announced that it would be one of 13 Monroe County diocesan schools to close at the end of 2007-08.
Having also experienced the closing of Cardinal Mooney in 1989, Lill lamented the loss of her other childhood alma mater. Yet, she remarked, "I think it’s been coming for a long time."