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Three area Catholic high schools celebrate 50th anniversaries

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Friday, September 24, 2010
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
ARCHDIOCESE — Hundreds of students, alumni, parents, administrators, faculty and staff from three high schools in the archdiocese came together to celebrate Catholic education at a special Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains on Sept. 12.

 
La Salle, McAuley and Archbishop Moeller high schools celebrated a joint Mass as they marked their 50th anniversaries.
 
Father Thomas Dennemann, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Groesbeck, presided at the liturgy. Students from each school were involved in planning the Mass and led the music during the celebration.
 
Michael Riney
Michael Riney, a student at Moeller High School, does the first reading. (CT/Colleen Kelley)
“We were extremely proud to share in the 50th anniversary with La Salle and McAuley high schools,” said Bill Hunt, president of Moeller High School. “As Catholic educational leaders, all of us are called to encourage a set of lifelong values centered on our faith. We at Moeller are genuinely honored to share in this endeavor with such wonderful collaborators in Catholic education.”
For the Moeller community the celebration was tempered by the loss of one of their own just two days before the Mass. Josh Pflum, a senior, was killed in a skateboarding accident on Sept. 10.
 
“In light of the recent tragic events, it is even more apparent of not only the importance of a Catholic education, but the role that a Marianist version of education serves in our community,” Hunt said. “The five primary characteristics — faith formation; a quality, integral education; an education in the family spirit; an education for service, justice and peace; and an education that facilitates adaptation and change — is seen and lived every day at Moeller and envelopes each and every student that walks through its doors. Even during these tragic times, the Moeller community stands proud, arm in arm, singing the Moeller anthem and truly illustrating the meaning of being a ‘Man of Moeller.’ ”
 
Moeller High School had its beginning in the fall of 1958 when Archbishop Karl J. Alter appointed then-Msgr. Edward A. McCarthy and Marianist Brother Paul Sibbing to supervise the planning and construction of a new school, which was made possible because of the overwhelming response of Cincinnati Catholics to the Archbishop’s High School Fund Campaign. Archbishop Alter named the school Archbishop Moeller High School as a living tribute to the fourth Archbishop of Cincinnati Henry Moeller, who died in 1925.
 
The high school bearing his name opened its doors in September 1960 to students from 15 parishes in the northeastern part of Greater Cincinnati. Marianist Brother Lawrence Eveslage was appointed the first principal, assisted by Marianist priests and brothers and lay staff. Since 1964, when the first class graduated, more than 10,000 “Men of Moeller” have become alumni. The school currently serves more than 900 young men.
 
For Bill Balbach, a 1972 Moeller graduate and member of the school’s music and performing arts department, the anniversary celebration “provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the positive impact made on the lives of thousands of people by all the great Catholic schools in the Cincinnati area. It also seems like a perfect time to thank our parents for the sacrifices they made to allow us to benefit and become part of these special places.”
 
Moeller has proven to be a special place for junior Jack Schlueter, who said, “I think one of the best things about Moeller is how well rounded everyone is and lives out their experiences. Moeller, and the Marianists for that matter, educate the whole person academically, morally, socially and spiritually.”
Thomas Luebbe
Thomas Luebbe, principal of La Salle High School, carries the school symbol during the introductory rites at the 50th anniversary Mass. (CT/Colleen Kelley)
Nate Morabito, a senior at La Salle, is equally enthusiastic about his high school experience. “I have had a number of teachers that have inspired me and taught me a lot,” he said. “It’s that personal touch that makes La Salle such a great school to go to.”
 
La Salle High School was part of a large expansion project of archdiocesan secondary schools under the leadership of Archbishop Alter, who asked the Christian Brothers of the St. Louis Province to establish and staff the new institution. Groundbreaking for the new school was held March 1, 1959, and on Sept. 6, 1960, 260 freshmen began their first day of class with Brother James Camillus serving as the first principal. The school was officially dedicated on May 14, 1961.
 
Since then, students have received an education based on the teachings of St. John Baptist de La Salle, who devoted his life to making schools available to young men who would otherwise have been deprived of this opportunity. He believed a complete education should include the person’s body and mind, and founded the Brothers of Christian Schools to carry out this vision. 
  
Numerous capital improvements have occurred at La Salle since its beginning, enabling the school to better meet the needs of its current 775 students. The renovation of the original classrooms began in 2000, along with the creation of a fourth computer lab. In 2001 a fifth computer lab was added, in addition to the renovation of the entire visual arts learning area. In 2004 a new wing containing the De La Salle Chapel, science labs and Hart & Fasnacht Library/Media Center/media center opened. Other improvements in 2004 included the construction of a courtyard, expanded parking, a new educational resource center and renovated physics labs.
 
LaSalle alumni today number more than 9,000. Among them is Jerry Doerger, class of 1978, who played football at La Salle, the University of Wisconsin and for five years in the NFL, while also earning a degree in mechanical engineering. He has since returned to his alma mater to volunteer in various capacities, including helping to coach football.
 
“I know what La Salle prepared me for professionally and educationally and have felt compelled to give back and touch someone else as was done for me,” Doerger explained. “I took advantage of daily Mass at La Salle quite a bit, and that really helped root me in my faith and prepared me to handle difficult situations in my life spiritually as I went ahead.”
His two sons, Jerome and Jonathan, who graduated in 2004 and 2007, respectively, also benefited from their years at La Salle. Both young men have participated in and led mission trips, said Doerger, noting that the “Lasallian philosophy of service rooted them in the desire to reach out to others.”
 
According to principal Tom Luebbe, a member of the class of 1973, the school’s 50th anniversary has been an opportunity to “build upon the greatness of our past,” by launching four new initiatives — technology in learning through the use of personal tablet computers; a curriculum enhanced for advanced career and personal success; the De La Salle Signum Fedei Institute, a formalized leadership, scholarship, faith, service and community program; and the Lasallian Institute, a selective advanced honors program designed for highly gifted students.
 
“Our combined Mass in celebration of the 50th anniversary of La Salle, McAuley and Moeller truly honored the mission and legacy of each school while paying tribute to the unity of our excellence in Catholic education,” Luebbe said.
 
Lori Randolf
Lori Randolf, a 1983 McAuley graduate, and her daughter, Jessica, a current student, chat with Sister of Mercy Mary Perpetua Overbeck, who served as dean of students at the high school from 1969-89. (CT/Colleen Kelley)  
Reflecting on McAuley High School’s anniversary, Cheryl Sucher, president, noted that “Catherine McAuley (the school’s namesake and foundress of the Sisters of Mercy) is a vibrant and compelling example of what one woman, with the help of God, can do. We have the privilege of honoring her mission, the responsibility to understand it, the duty to protect it and the honor of living it. May we live it well.”
 
Two centuries later after Catherine McAuley emphasized the importance of education for women, the local high school bearing her name continues to carry out her vision. In 1958 Archbishop Alter asked the Sisters of Mercy to establish a new high school in College Hill. He donated 15 acres of land and handed over the responsibility of constructing the school to the Sisters. On Aug. 28, 1958, ground was broken and in 1960, the school opened with an enrollment of 200 young women. A class was added in each of the next three years.
 
In 2002 seven new science labs, a fitness room, two music rooms, a confer­ence room and an expanded gymnasium and cafeteria were added to better accommodate the growing needs of the students and, in 2008, the school completed its renovation of the original 1,000-seat auditorium. Young women from all over the Cincinnati area and parts of Indiana have found a home at McAuley High School, which has been designated a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
Of particular note at McAuley is the focus on academics and programs centered on careers in medicine, engineering and law, as well as comprehensive sports and arts progams. The school currently serves approximately 720 students.
 
Regarding her school’s anniversary, senior Carley Powell said, “It is simply an honor to be part of McAuley High School’s legacy and the 50th anniversary celebration. I can’t help but just grin from ear to ear as I think about the amazing opportunities McAuley has given me, as it has all the students here. My mother, Karen Powell, class of 1984, and sisters, Krysten, ’05, and Katie, ’07, all came here. The amount of pride we all genuinely feel to be part of McAuley’s past and present is so immense.”
 
Powell, who sang at the anniversary Mass with McAuley’s vocal ensemble along with students from Moeller and LaSalle, expressed her gratitude for her school family and the sacrifices her parents made to send her and her sisters there saying, “for all this, I’ll be forever privileged, honored and above all, thankful to my Lord.”
 
Each of the schools has a variety of activities planned to continue their 50th anniversary celebrations. For more information about events at Moeller, visit http://www.moeller.org/Page.aspx?pid=202; for LaSalle’s anniversary events, visit http://www.alumni.cincinnatilasalle.net/s/541/index.aspx?sid=541&gid=1&pgid=484; and for McAuley’s, visit http://www.mcauleyhs.net/s/537/index.aspx?sid=537&gid=1&pgid=882.
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