Rochester diocesan schools, alumni have lasting connections - Catholic Courier
Astronaut Eileen Collins, a graduate of the former St. Patrick School in Elmira, speaks to a student during a visit to Elmira’s Holy Family School in May 2022. (Photo courtesy of Joe Kosmicki)

Astronaut Eileen Collins, a graduate of the former St. Patrick School in Elmira, speaks to a student during a visit to Elmira’s Holy Family School in May 2022. (Photo courtesy of Joe Kosmicki)

Rochester diocesan schools, alumni have lasting connections

ELMIRA — How vital are Catholic-school alumni to future generations? Consider student response to pioneering astronaut Eileen Collins’ April 2022 visit to Holy Family School.

A graduate of the former St. Patrick School in Elmira, Collins in 1995 became the first woman to pilot a NASA Space Shuttle; in 1999 she became the first woman to command a shuttle mission.

After her 45-minute talk to Holy Family students last spring, Collins spent an equal amount of time answering questions. The celebrity’s visit made a strong impression on a soon-to-be alumna, Lauren Coseo.

“It inspired me,” the sixth-grader said. “She went to a Catholic school, and it made me feel like I could be successful in the future and achieve my goals.”

Joe Kosmicki, Holy Family’s director of development and a St. Patrick School graduate as well, described Collins’ visit as “an eye-opener for these kids here. Her talk was so positive, that you can succeed at your dream. She connected. ”

Diocese of Rochester alumni contribute in many ways

James Tauzel, diocesan superintendent of schools, said alumni can have a positive impact in a number of ways. He said he encourages each diocesan Catholic school to maintain a database of alumni who could be invited to serve in such volunteer as advisory-committee members, speakers at career days and mentors to students in their areas of professional expertise.

Lauren — whose parents, grandparents and other family members are products of Catholic schools — said she plans to volunteer at Holy Family as an alumna.

“I want to come back and help out. It’s really nice here,” she said.

Alumni also offer monetary support to their former schools. One notable example is Los Angeles music executive Jim Guerinot, who attended Brighton’s Our Lady of Lourdes School — now Seton Catholic School — more than a half-century ago. In 2021, he made the largest donation in the school’s history, which went toward renovating athletic facilities.

In 2022, Holy Family in Elmira conducted a one-time legacy fundraising campaign, contacting alumni going back to 1950. It netted more than $58,000 from 253 donors.

Large or small, Tauzel said any financial contribution toward keeping Catholic schools viable is appreciated.

“They’re paying it forward, allowing a future generation to have the same experiences and memories they had,” he said.

Rochester’s diocesan schools strive to stay connected to alums

Tauzel said another key aspect of alumni relations is maintaining contact via such opportunities as reunions, newsletters and social media. The superintendent noted that he encourages Catholic schools to keep alumni mailing lists up to date, both on paper and electronically.

“Social media has been a huge tool with connecting,” Tauzel observed. “An alumnus can make a comment on a photo — ‘Oh I remember that.’ It re-energizes the voice of the alumni that’s kind of been lost.”

An example of strong online alumni publicity is the Facebook page of St. Mary School in Canandaigua, which in a Nov. 8, 2022, post offered a link to a television feature on Daniel Neubecker, a 2019 St. Mary alumnus.

More recently, in a Dec. 21, 2022, Facebook post, Horseheads’ St. Mary Our Mother School detailed a visit that day from Father Aaron Kelly, a first-year diocesan priest, to his alma mater. And St. Ambrose Academy in Irondequoit is currently using its website to alert alumni about its 100th-year anniversary gala, set for April 29.

Tauzel remarked that these and other alumni connections are ideal ways to celebrate Catholic education and its faith-based offerings.

“The ideals of that experience, the things they were taught, the person that they were shaped into are still carried out in the schools we have today,” he said.

Tags: Catholic Schools, Chemung County News, Monroe County East, Ontario County News
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