A former Washington Post editor, Jeanne McManus, has written a delightful article describing her experience as a student at Blessed Sacrament School, located east of Chevy Chase in Washington, DC. It’s a story that relates the experience of many who attended Catholic parochial schools between 1950 and 1967.
Some of the highlights:
- The black-and-white photo of the Class of 1961 contains mini-portraits of 53 students with their hair smoothed into submission, their collars somewhat straight for picture day.
- Each class was presided over by one Holy Cross nun. Students didn’t shuffle down the halls and change rooms for different classes, fused as they were that one nun and she to her students every day from 8:30 until 3:15, except for a brief mid-morning recess and a lunch break.
- Despite the student-teacher ratio, the students managed to read and write, solve math problems, learn world history and geography and, importantly, how to conduct ourselves in public.
- Under the iron rule of that one nun, tiny Sister Gonzaga, those 53 kids spilled out into the world of high school, from which they might graduate in 1965, then on to college, from which they might graduate in 1969. These are the children of the ’60s on the launch pad of that tumultuous decade, boys with flat-tops and girls with Peter Pan collars.
Sound familiar? Been there? Experienced that?
There’s a lot more in McManus’ article that deserves reading.
The Motley Monk grew up in Chicago, sharing a very similar experience, one that many others have commented they have also experience as well in locales as far flung and different as San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, New York, Boston, Grand Rapids, and Philadelphia. Could it that Catholic parochial schools were as uniform as were the uniforms that students wore?
But, The Motley Monk also happens to know personally about Blessed Sacrament School. In the late-1990s, he conducted a faculty in-service program for the school’s dedicated faculty.
When someone made an announcement over the loudspeaker system, The Motley Monk’s attention was drawn to one of the speakers. He noted the school’s letters emblazoned on on the speaker and as well as on all of the other speakers in the hall and, quite likely, on patches sewn onto every uniform.
Thinking back nearly four decades to seventh grade at Our Lady of the Wayside School in Arlington Heights, Illinois—where The Motley Monk was a student and the speakers and uniforms were similarly emblazoned with “OLW”—The Motley Monk asked the faculty if they ever wondered whether everything that blared over those speakers was “BS.”
Sister Gerald Francis, O.P., would never have approved of The Motley Monk’s observation. But, she surely would have laughed, just as the faculty and principal did.
To read Jeanne McManus’ article, click on the following link: