Margaret Bailey, a parishioner at St. Anne Church in Rochester, remembers her stomach growling every Friday just before lunch at Rochester’s St. Monica’s School. Yet she had to suppress her hunger pangs because a parish priest always lectured the class right before lunch on those days, she said.
A member of St. Louis Parish in Pittsford, Lucille Clair said she remembered the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught her and fellow classmates.
“We never knew they had legs under her habits,” she said with a laugh.
One kindhearted woman religious, Sister Jane, however, shared a secret with Bailey, and once revealed to Bailey the bright red hair under her veil. Bailey said that she liked the sister so much she took the name “Jane” for her confirmation name.
These and other memories were the stuff of conversation at the 75th-anniversary reunion of St. Monica’s Class of 1929. Several of the former schoolmates, along with other people with ties to the group, gathered for a luncheon at LaRocca’s Restaurant & Party House in Gates Oct. 22.
Clair noted that the group never had a reunion until its 50th anniversary, yet had gathered twice a year ever since then. Out of a class that graduated 76 students, the St. Monica’s alumni estimated only 15 are living. They noted that they recently lost another classmate, Robert F. Weingartner, a Brighton poet and lawyer, who died earlier this year at age 90.
“We think we’re lucky that we all get together,” said Marion Rigney, a parishioner at Holy Cross Parish in Charlotte.
Their friendship began early in life, according to Bailey.
“We all got along so well, we used to walk home from school together,” she said.
“Remember, on first Fridays, we’d go across the street to the bakery and buy sweet buns after attending Mass?” Clair asked the group.
One woman said she recalled buying mint candies. “I always got five for a penny,” she said.
“Lucky we had a penny,” another one added with a laugh.
Clair recalled it was a more innocent time then.
“We were closely watched, and in those days, we didn’t have the terrific temptations of television and so on,” she said. “We relied on each other for socialization.”
That socialization included a graduation boat trip to Canada for eighth-graders and other activities. The graduates recalled praying the Stations of the Cross and going to Mass together, and Bailey said she sang alto in the St. Monica’s choir during Masses. All of the graduates spoke fondly of the parish priests and the sisters who had taught at the school.
“They gave us a good bringing-up,” Rigney said. “You didn’t get away with anything.”
That would apparently include having a father that one of the sisters didn’t particularly seem to enjoy teaching. One of the graduates said she remembered an older nun telling her “I hope you’re going to be a better student than your father was,” a remark that brought chuckles from the graduates.
On a more serious note, Clair said the St. Monica’s alumni appreciated all that their teachers had done for them, educating not only their minds but their souls as well.
“We were firmly grounded in the faith,” she said.