Fr. Matthew O'Toole posted on October 02, 2017 16:10
To our many alumni and guests returning to St. Margaret of Scotland School, I am Father Matthew O’Toole, pastor of the parish, and on behalf of our principal, Juliann DePalma Hesed, and the entire community that calls St. Margaret home, I say: Welcome back! Thank you for joining us on a beautiful day with which God has favored us. We are assembled for this Eucharist in front of the original school building, that one hundred years ago, in September 1917, opened its doors to welcome in children in grades one through six. St. Margaret of Scotland School began at the direction of the parish’s first pastor, Fr. John J. O’Brien, and under the leadership first of Sister Mary Pachomia Lacky. She, and her fellow Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, would staff and serve as devoted educators of our school for ninety years, a blessed gift to thousands of students.
In successive years, our school grew in number and grades. For many of us, it’s hard to believe that this building alone served up to and even at times in excess of 600 students! It was not exceptional for fifty kids in a classroom to be managed by a single nun (so we like to think!). But changes in education styles and the necessity to accommodate growth brought the expansion of our school in 1966 with the construction of more classrooms and a gymnasium. Some will remember before this, in the 1940s and 50s the parish use of the old synagogue on Spring and Flad Avenues which housed the short-lived St. Margaret of Scotland High School for girls, and then was used for upper grade classrooms. With foresight and urban savvy, the parish leaders of St. Margaret secured the future well-being of our school by expanding its footprint. During the challenging decades of the 1970s and 80s, virtually blocks of homes, some of them derelict properties, were purchased and razed. We’re assembled now in what was the middle of Castleman Avenue!
Since the turn of the new millennium, St. Margaret School has experienced a steady rise in enrollment, with each year of the last ten seeing a larger student body than the previous year. With the projection of continued growth from the increasing number of families moving into our neighborhoods, our school again made the bold decision to expand, opening in 2015 Purcell Hall, which serves our middle school classes. It is the first new elementary school building constructed by the Archdiocese in the City of St. Louis in fifty years. Today, with three pre-school classes and two classrooms of every grade, St. Margaret of Scotland School has 483 students. They are the descendants of 100 years of Catholic schooling on this hallowed ground!
While we are boastful about how strongly we stand today, what probably is most meaningful to you are the experiences you had inside this school. We share this day with you, our school’s alumni, to celebrate the memories you have. I hope as you walk the grounds and go back into the classrooms, that you revisit your stories with one another – recalling the penmanship you practiced, the times table you memorized, the sentences you diagramed, the books you read, the art projects you made, the pageants you performed, and the countless other things you did and learned.
Some teachers’ names may come back easily, like Miss Alice or Sr. John Mandeville; others you may struggle to recall, but their faces you can picture. These happy memories continue to teach us. Let us make them also the cause of our thanksgiving, especially the sacrifices of our parents and parishioners who made this opportunity for Catholic education possible.
We celebrate all the classes that have graduated from St. Margaret of Scotland. I’d like to get an idea of who’s here today. I’ll work back from most recent graduates. Let’s get a cheer from those who graduated in the 2010’s – that is, 2010 to this past spring 2017. And those a little older, graduates from the naught’s – 2000 to 2009. Stepping back before the new millennium – those who finished in the 1990’s. The big 80s. The far out 70s. The groovy 60s. The swell 50s. Those of the ‘greatest generation,’ the 1940s. Dare I ask, the 1930s?! (The first graduating class would have been 1920. Anyone here from that class?) Thank you all for being here today!
The size of the school has fluctuated over the generations. The curriculum has changed with the developments in academics. The styles of teaching has altered. When this school began 100 years ago students wrote with pens dipped in ink; today they can write with their finger on a computer laptop. Back then teachers wrote lessons with chalk on a slate board; now they use electronic pens on a white screen.
What hasn’t changed over this century at St. Margaret of Scotland is what we are doing now. The worship of our God and the instruction in the ways of our Catholic faith has been at the center of this house of learning. The mission has always been and continues to be the pursuit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the knowledge that God made us to know him, to love him, to serve him, and to be happy with God in life eternal. And our inspiration throughout is our patroness, the namesake of our parish and school, St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, who a thousand years ago modeled for us the role of a teacher and an instrument of charity and justice. We honor her by imitating her example.
Today, a tag line we use at St. Margaret School is, “In the end, it’s the beginning that counts.” Now as grown adults and with many years behind you since you finished your education here, I hope that you share the sentiment that it was St. Margaret of Scotland School which got you started in becoming a lifelong learner; that in the end, you can say this school counts greatly for making you the person you are today.
St. Margaret of Scotland – pray for us!