St. Margaret Mary turns 75 - Catholic Courier

St. Margaret Mary turns 75

IRONDEQUOIT — Jack Kreckel, a member of the Monroe County Catholic Schools Board, has apparently traveled a long way from his days as a student at St. Margaret Mary School.

“I wouldn’t say I was a troubled student,” Kreckel said, sitting in the school’s gymnasium. “But I wouldn’t say I was well-behaved.”

When pressed to disclose his past crimes, Kreckel confessed to “the basic stuff — spitballs, noises.”

Kreckel no longer makes disruptive noises in a school setting — in fact, he voices his support for his alma mater, from which he graduated in 1970. Catholic schools such as St. Margaret Mary impart values, he said.

“I think (Catholic schooling) gives you a self-respect that you were made in God’s image, and that’s still taught here today,” he said.

Hundreds of people apparently agree with Kreckel, as evidenced by the turnout for St. Margaret Mary’s 75th anniversary celebration Oct. 14-16. On Oct. 16, the gymnasium was filled with alumni, students and supporters looking over school memorabilia and catching up with one another.

One family, the Bamanns, had several generations represented at the celebration. They traced their family’s presence at the school to its founding in 1930 when Art Bamann and his wife, Virginia, began sending the first of five sons there, including their youngest, John, a 1955 graduate.

John Bamann’s own children attended the school in the 1970s, and he toured the third-grade classroom of his grandson, Daniel, during the celebration. All told, 13 members of the Bamann family have attended or are currently attending St. Margaret Mary. Bamann had fond memories of the school, and particularly remembered one nun, Sister Victorina, who taught him in fourth and seventh grades.

“She always made it feel as though you were getting some individual attention, even though there were 60 in the class,” he said.

Kreckel echoed that sentiment about all the women religious.

“I think they treated each kid as an individual,” he said. “I remember being made to feel special.”

Michel Major-Melidona graduated from St. Margaret Mary in 1979 and has sent her own children to the school. She particularly remembered participating in Catholic Youth Organization activities such as softball and soccer.

“We had that balance of friendship, sportsmanship and athleticism,” she said.

She added that she and her husband, Mario Melidona, thought it was important to give the gift of St. Margaret Mary to their children.

“They are able to hear about Jesus every day,” she said. “They’re able to pray in a safe environment, and they’re surrounded by Christian friends. It’s important for us to give them this strength so that when they go out into society, they remember it’s not all about them. God is first, and they’re able to make ethical and moral decisions.”

Less weighty concerns were at the forefront of the students’ minds on the first day of school on Sept. 7 when they gathered in the gymnasium to sing a birthday song to St. Margaret Mary. Afterward, they enjoyed pieces of a birthday cake and shared their thoughts about the school. Michael Marvel, a sixth-grader who has attended the school since kindergarten, said he likes his fellow students.

“It’s a nice, quiet school,” he said. “There’s not a lot of bullies like every other school.”

First-grader Akili Blahyj-Nix also said she likes the school because she gets “to do homework, and you get to play.” Fifth-grade teacher Debbie Ritz has taught at St. Margaret Mary for 13 years and noted that the school enjoys a tremendous level of support from its families.

“I think the children are full of energy and very dedicated to their learning, as are the families,” she said.

St. Margaret Mary currently has 180 students in grades pre-kindergarten to sixth and is marked by a tight-knit sense of community, according to Amy DeYaeger, chairwoman of the alumni development committee. She noted that she’s always impressed by the way the school’s community supports St. Margaret Mary.

“The connections these people have to each other are amazing,” she said.

Kreckel probably offered the best testament about the school when he said his son, John, a 2000 graduate, recently told him what he planned to do if he ever made a lot of money.

“He said, ‘If I ever make it big, I’m going to give a lot of my money to St. Margaret Mary School,'” Kreckel said.

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