June 18, 2008
At St. Kevin's School, the final day was celebrated with a special mass for the school. Tears and laughter and plenty of song carried off the students inside the chapel on Columbia Road.
Fr. Tim Kearney, a former St. Kevin's seventh-grade teacher, celebrated the Friday morning service. Thirteen Sisters of Charity, the order that ran the school, were in attendance, most former faculty members. Alumni crowded the back pews behind the students, and afterward re-introduced themselves to their former teachers. There were fond memories and hopes for the future.
"I remember Fr. [Joseph] Kierce used to say 'I want to die with my sneakers on, want to die running,'" recalled Pierre Monette Jr., class of 1978, speaking of the former pastor who was so integral into the success of the school. Monette served as the commencement speaker at the school's graduation the night before, and remembered his graduation fondly. "We had the song Always and Forever as our graduation song, and that's what we said, we would come back here always and forever."
One of the more unique perspectives of the bittersweet day came from Sr. Maryann Sherlock, a member of the very first graduating class from St. Kevin's, and a former 13-year teacher and principal of the school.
"It was just a wonderful experience and to look back at St. Kevin's, I just feel that I have been certainly blessed," she said. "It is shutting its door in one way, because it is closing, but never fully. They will continue to be a part of providing a Catholic education to children in the inner city, and that is very important."
Kearney's homily captivated the students with props and stories, as he tried to tell them how much their education at the school would matter. As the altar in front of him filled with students and blow up rafts and boats, snorkeling gear, beach chairs, and a large inflatable shark, Kearney told the children what the school had already taught them.
"They have taught you directions, taught you to go out and have some fun, to explore new things, and that you have great expectations," he said. "Bring the good lessons you learned here where you go. Remember all the wonderful things you were taught here and St. Kevin's will continue for years to come."
The children belted out the music and clapped enthusiastically, even at some inappropriate times, but showed that they were celebrating not just the start of their summer vacation, but the legacy of their school.
"It's been like my family and I've grown up here," said Jasmine Thermitos, a seventh grader who will go to Pope John Paul II Academy next fall, though she said she will always remember the teachers she had. "It's going to be fun, a new beginning."
As the students filed out to the buses and their parents for the last time in the 62-year school's history, there was some sadness, but mostly celebration.
"They may be shutting the doors on it," said Monette, "but St. Kevin's will continue to live."