The last few weeks have been full of emotional special events for those involved with St. Mary’s School in Waterloo and St. Patrick’s School in Seneca Falls. Both schools closed in June, and a new school — St. John Bosco — will open at the Seneca Falls site in September.
St. Mary’s School held a moving-on celebration May 18 to recognize the contributions of the school’s faculty, staff, parents and children. During the celebration, each child was recognized at least once for his or her strength of character or academic achievements.
“The most difficult thing about recognizing someone’s achievement is to have to limit that achievement into one or two categories. They’re exceptional. They all have a gift that they bring to us, and they share it with us,” Principal Fred Smith said during the celebration.
Preschool students were given titles such as the “most kindhearted child,” “best hugger” and “kindest to animals.” Students in the older grades were recognized for good sportsmanship or their achievements in specific academic areas. Several students were also recognized for what Smith described as “Catholic action.”
“It’s putting our faith into action. That’s what we’re all about, ladies and gentlemen,” Smith said.
Smith also thanked the staff of the parish and school for their good work. Their generosity, dedication and hard work impacted not only his life, but the lives of hundreds of people, he said.
The school’s staff and students then reciprocated his affection, presenting Smith with a large cardboard card that read, “You will always have a special place in our hearts. We hope you will have room for us.”
“Are you kidding? Give me a break, of course I’ll always have room for you,” Smith responded with a laugh after reading the front of the card. When he opened the card, however, his laughter gave way to silence as he put his head down for a few seconds after seeing what was inside the card: a heart formed from pictures of all the school’s students.
The closing of the school is heartbreaking, especially for the children, said Julie Snyder, whose daughter Cassandra was in seventh grade at the school.
“It’s a wonderful school,” said Snyder, who noted she was unsure whether she would send Cassandra to St. John Bosco.
Bernie Smith, the father of two young St. Mary’s students, said he will send his children to St. John Bosco for the same reason he sent them to St. Mary’s.
“We want them to have a Catholic education, and we feel the school will provide that,” he said, adding that he and many in his family had graduated from St. Mary’s, and he was sad to see it close.
St. Patrick’s students and staff marked the school’s close June 15 with an aloha party, since “aloha” means both goodbye and hello in Hawaiian, Principal Diana Oravec said.
“We’re celebrating 125 years of St. Patrick’s School traditions that your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents all celebrated with you, and we’re celebrating a new beginning for St. John Bosco School,” Oravec said.
During the party, the students — many of whom wore Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts over their shorts — danced and sang along to many of their favorite songs from the school’s Morning Program, including Ziggy Marley’s “Give a Little Love.”
“We need to tell the world that the message of Jesus Christ is still going to be alive in Seneca County,” teacher Mary Beall said as she started the song. “(Jesus) loved everyone, and that’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to give a little love.”
After the sing-a-long, the students watched a slideshow of photographs from the year and enjoyed a picnic outside. They also participated in a closing prayer service and balloon launch June 17.
Debbie Hall works in the school’s technology lab and sent her three children to St. Patrick’s. Her family has been supportive of the school for a long time, and “I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t do the same with St. John Bosco,” she said.
Fellow parent Margo Ruddy said she’s sorry to see St. Patrick’s close, but she is glad there will still be a Catholic-school presence in the community.
“I just feel fortunate that they’re able to keep a school open (in the area) so we don’t have to go all the way to Geneva,” Ruddy said.
St. Patrick’s students had mixed feelings on the issue.
“I feel that it’s kind of a good thing, but I also feel it’s kind of sad because people have gone to this school for 125 years,” said fourth-grader Morgan Sandlas.
Fellow fourth-grader Jake DeBellis said he’s also sad to see the school close, but he’s looking forward to seeing a lot of his former classmates and new-found friends from St. Mary’s when he starts at St. John Bosco in the fall.