June 10, 2016
Thanks to Rob Maloof and his visit to Mount Calvary School this week, we have some new photos from inside and out. Hope you enjoy them and we will see you tomorrow, June 12, 2016 at the special 10:30 Mass to Honor the Students and Mount School for its long and honorable service through providing high academic curricula and strong spiritual, community, and citizenship values to thousands of children who passed through its doors on their ways to successful and fulfilling lives. The high volume of positive comments and posts about everlasting memories are a testament to its 66 years in existence. We truly will miss its demise, but will always cherish our memories of the family and friends we came to be.
May 9, 2016
It’s very inspiring to see the number of comments and articles by others due to the word of mouth about Mount Calvary’s closing. Here’s another, this time, written by former student John Nagy, who is now Editor of The Pilot, out of Moore County, NC.
Pennsylvania Avenue runs by the White House and Capitol Hill, but if you follow the road southeast about 8 miles, past the I-495 Capital Beltway, it runs into Forestville, Md.,
An Event Has Been Created
Since this post, Mount Calvary has added a Farewell Mass and Reception Event to be held Sunday, June 12. Please check it out at the link above.
A Sad Goodbye to Our Old Friend, Mentor, Life Coach, and Comforter
On Monday, April 18, 2016, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, Mr. Bill Ryan; Mt. Calvary Pastor Father Everett Pearson, and Mt. Calvary School Principal Mrs. Darcy Tomko held a community meeting for students and their parents to announce the permanent closing of Mt. Calvary School at the end of the 2015-16 school year citing “enrollment and deficit concerns.” On Tuesday, April 19, 2016, Marco J. Clarke, President and CEO of Bishop McNamara High School publicized the closing announcement on its website. Next came a flurry of messages, remembrances, and discussions among the nearly 1,000 Mount Calvary parents and alumni who are members of the Mt. Calvary Catholic School Alumni-Forestville, MD Facebook Public Group, (of which I am a member).
The very first moment I learned of MCS’s closure I felt compelled to blog about a school and church community that had been such a big part of so many family’s lives. My husband graduated from there in 1958. Bob most remembers Sr. Bernadette from 1957. She was short but feisty. He says: “Boys being boys, we used to torment her and when the boys would “get her goat,” she would scream, “you damn boys.” On one occasion her false teeth fell out, hit a student’s desk, and then hit the floor and the whole classroom erupted in laughter. The teen drama club played a big part in his life and from the mid-1970’s until the early 1990’s our three children attended the school and we attended the church, participated in and volunteered in the Teen Club and CYO sports programs, fundraisers, drama club, etc. And when laid off from the printing industry one year, Bob worked in the school as part of its maintenance crew. My parents were church members, too, and my brothers and sons were altar boys.
Individual families with school-aged children did life together as one large family there for the betterment of their community and individual families. Just a few of the family names that stick out in our minds as involved community leaders: Mammano, Piazza, Mazzullo (all with their fair share of children), Antonio, Mundell, Dusseau, Butler, Palmer, Arena, Breslin, Vespoint–and so many more that I apologize to those whose names I may have inadvertently omitted. As evidenced as you read through this post, many who attended Mt. Calvary will always remember and be grateful to the faculty and staff who cared for and taught them or their children–even several decades later the impressions, situations, and names stay firmly embedded in their hearts and brains.
Mount Calvary School before 1961 when the “New” Church was built.
Mount Calvary Catholic School (MCS) first opened its doors on September 10, 1950, to 404 students from what grew into five local church parishes: Mount Calvary and Holy Spirit Churches in Forestville, Saint Bernadine’s in Suitland, Holy Family in Hillcrest Heights, and Saint Phillip’s in Temple Hills, MD. It’s mission has always been “to provide an environment that fosters spirituality and growth in faith, an educational program that builds academic success, leadership that promotes strong character, and a love for service to others.”
Upon its opening, it had eight classrooms, a principal’s office, a health center, and a large “multi-purpose” room on the upper level that became known as “The Blue Room.” The blue room was the place on inclement weather days where students would gather for recess. In the basement was a similar multi-purpose room called “The Lower Hall.” While construction was underway for the “New” church–both rooms were soon used as temporary spaces for masses on Sundays and holy days. Due to a rapidly growing and overflowing church community, both auditoriums had standing room only at staggered mass times.
The new church was opened in 1959. Later, the lower hall was used for special events and weekly bingo games. The overcrowding at masses required men of the church to direct traffic in and out of the parking lot and parking spaces to and from Marlboro Pike. In the late 1960’s Mount Calvary’s parish was split into three parishes requiring the building of Saint Bernadine’s in Suitland and Holy Spirit on Ritchie Road in Forestville.
Mount Calvary School was the first construction on the future campus that housed the church, school, rectory, convent and Bishop McNamara High School next door. The original and first Catholic Church in Forestville–a frame church that was painted white and built in 1912. The “Little White Church” was located to the left and just behind today’s rectory.
The Little White Church was used as classroom space that included a 4th grade male only classroom (known as the Boy’s Academy), Boy Scout meetings, music lessons, and teen club gatherings. It was accidentally set afire by careless smokers and burned down in the 1970’s.
School Choir, inside the Little White Church, 1957.
Bishop McNamara High School for boys opened its doors for the school year 1964-65. It converted to a coed school in 1992 when neighboring La Reine Catholic High School for girls in Suitland closed its doors.
In 1961, MCS’s peak school population included 19 sisters who ministered to 1,601 students. Most of Mount Calvary’s alumni testify that in spite of having 90 students in a classroom, they received an “Excellent” education. I just can’t fathom the odds against excellence with that many faculty, students, and personalities together all day in what many would consider a small school. Surely God was busily at work there, too.
Today, Mount Calvary’s enrollment is a mere 155 students and it serves a vastly different student population that it did at its beginnings 67 years ago. Only one-third of the student body is Catholic and 99 percent are African-American. (These demographic changes over the past six decades are representative of the local Prince George’s County community.) The all-lay faculty and staff today includes 8 full-time teachers, a full-time Technology Coordinator/Resource Aide, and part-time teachers in the following areas: Art, Music, Physical Education and Spanish. The support staff includes two Instructional Aides, a Receptionist, and a Tuition Bookkeeper. The administration consists of the Pastor, the Principal and the Assistant Principal who also serves as the parish Director of Religious Education and the Director of the school’s Extended Care Program. Beginning in the mid-1970’s, many of our families (senior parents and their children alike) migrated further south to counties such as Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s. As for my parents, they are frail at ages 87 and 88 but insist on living independently (well–semi-independent) in their home in Berkshire that our family moved into in October 1960, 56 years ago.
Mount Calvary’s Leader of Progress and Excellence for 40 Years
Msgr Peter Paul Rakowski
Reverend Monsignor Peter Paul Rakowski (1897-1982), (Msgr Pete, as he was called), served as Pastor of Mt. Calvary Church from 1942 and was Pastor Emeritus at the time of his death on March 4, 1982. When he first became Pastor, he lived with the elderly sisters who owned the house and the property where Bishop McNamara High School now stands. He used to say the sisters were shocked because he took a bath once a week. (Apparently, something about the bathing standards in those days.) It was his wish to be buried at his home where he had lived and worked the majority of his life, and so he was. Just behind the rectory on the land where the “Little White Church” had once stood. There, a prayer garden was also built in his honor. Fr. Pete was the leader of progress and excellence for the church and the school for 40 years–longer than any other priest who had resided there. Everyone loved him and his storytelling (for which he was also known). In May 1973, 50th years after his ordination as a priest, our parish family and honored guests celebrated with him at his Anniversary Jubilee. This was one of the biggest and most festive events our family recalls.
Msgr. Pete loved to brag about his school and its student population. He also worked with financially struggling parishioners to define payment plans to help them pay for their children’s school tuitions.
Before going to diocesan pastors meetings, Fr. Pete would regularly call the Principal, Sister Gabrielle, to see how many kids were enrolled that day. In recent Facebook posts, more than 1 alumni commented that they thought Sr. Gabrielle did not like them and that the sisters of the day were tough! Patrick McDonald in 2010 posted there that “Sr. Gabrielle scared the heck out of everyone. If we had to walk past her office, it was fast paced and eyes straight ahead. If Sr. Gabrielle was in the hallway when we went to or from recess, we all hugged the wall on the opposite side–or, at least I did.” in 2011 posted, “I still have a scar on my right thumb from a metal edged ruler where she whacked me!!”
Not everyone remembers his name and many still call him “the young priest,” but those who knew him will always remember–these are two of our favorites from our Mt. Calvary family life: Fr. Donald P. Worch and Msgr. Pete. Here they are in Hawaii in October 1974 on a Mt. Calvary sponsored trip. Young and old, they were definitely among the chosen ones. Their love of children and family stood out. Fr. Worch in all his humility, and bold and passionate, Msgr. Pete. Fr. Worch is retired and in residence at: Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church
9200 Kentsdale Drive, Potomac MD 20854 firstname.lastname@example.org
The School Sisters of Notre Dame fully staffed Mount Calvary from 1950 – 1961
Angie Lambert Hamm posted on April 21, 2016: “I graduated in 1967. I’m wondering if the discipline changed once the nuns were no longer there. Who remembers the hand slaps with the wooden paddle for not doing homework or worse? Spankings were a normal punishment; chewing gum was stuck on our noses; and, the “milkshake” events!! If these things took place in today’s schools, the nuns would have been jailed!! No wonder they could teach 60+ kids in small classrooms!!
November 22, 1963
The day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX, by Lee Harvey Oswald–Student, Jim Jenkins (14 years old at the time) still remembers it well from his perspective as an 8th grader at Mt. Calvary:
Sister Norman was called to the door of our classroom by another teacher. Then Sister Norman let out a gasp, “Oh no, please Lord!”
Sister immediately turned back into our classroom and began to set up the classroom television that was on a tall stand with wheels – we always had to adjust the antenna to get the reception right. We all began watching Walter Cronkite talk us through the reports filtering out of Parkland Hospital in Dallas. I remember Sister started to cry and asked that we begin to recite the rosary.
Soon the principal, Sister Gabrielle, announced over the “loud speaker” that local government officials were declaring a state of emergency and were asking that students be dismissed from school and return to their homes as soon as possible.
I remember walking home with my brother and we saw police and military vehicles beginning to take up positions at intersections along Pennsylvania Avenue (which extended out into Prince George’s County toward nearby Andrews Air Force Base – the destination of Air Force 1 with the body of John Kennedy). Then, we saw our mother walking toward us. We could clearly see that she had been crying. She took us by our hands and we walked quietly home together. Schools were closed for about a week and everyone remained solemn and watched the news and events unfold as they happened.
MCS kids consistently scored high on the various tests used to measure scholastic excellence. Its curriculum and community life standards were very high–so much higher than the public schools that many non-catholic families started enrolling their children at Mt. Calvary. And, MCS students regularly outscored other archdiocesan schools on their high school entrance exams. Much of the student’s comprehensive knowledge, retention, and test-taking skills can be attributed to the full-time teachers and committed staff and volunteers who worked with students after school and in the evenings, especially Mrs. Mary Cronin (1920-2011), who taught 20 years at Mt. Calvary (1966-1986) until she retired to Heritage Harbor in Annapolis, MD. Mrs. Heron taught math all day and then with Mr. Larry O’Callaghan, tutored the advanced math teams for many, many years.
Sister Elizabeth Sokel was the school’s principal when our children began there in 1974. She always has been a great person and our kids tell us that she ran a tight ship. By the time our eldest son graduated 8th grade in 1980, Mr. Bill Clancy was Principal. Center in this 2010 picture, Sr. Elizabeth is with Jane Perham, left, and Carole Page, right.
In 1989, former student Scott Gielda wrote and produced a very successful musical “Looking Back on Broadway,” whose cast sang and danced their way in the Blue Room to a three-times packed auditorium in mid-October. The performers, musicians and stage crew were alumni–young and older, a couple of staff, family members, and friends (Frank Antonio, Mary Mundell Boyce, Bob Dickinson, Kat Butler, Scott Gielda, Connie Germaine, Rob Isley, Jennifer Dickinson McDaniel, Joe Morrison, David Neale, Lloyd Unzel his daughter Erin Unzel Williams, and Glenn White). David Neale passed away on May 22, 2011. David’s performances as Skimbleshanks–The Railway Cat from the Broadway Play “Cats” embodied Skimbleshanks as played by some of the best broadway performers. David was a graduate of Dematha High School and Brown University, founder of Black Lavender Resources, and co-founder and editor-in-chief of Black LGBT Art Report.
John Patrick Sullivan, April 22, 2016 posted: “My dad and I worked on the boiler system. About a decade ago I did a heating survey on the steam heating system. There was no central air system to evaluate. The heating system had all but given up the Holy Ghost. Replacing everything with individual classroom heat pumps was looked at but the electrical system was not large enough to make the upgrade . . .”
Mary Veazey Clark on April 20, 2016 posted: “There was no AC in the church or the school. School always smelled like sour milk and that stuff the janitors threw on the floor to sweep up sickness and spills. Milk was delivered to each classroom in the morning and sat on the floor in cases until lunchtime . . .”
Washingtonian Magazine’s Washingtonian of the Year 2012: Monsignor John Enzler for pioneering programs for the forgotten. Some of Monsignor John Enzler’s most important work began at kitchen tables. As a parish priest in Potomac, he met in a private home with several parents whose children had developmental disabilities, and he realized that the Catholic Church’s efforts to support them weren’t sufficient. Enzler and the parents started Potomac Community Resources, a constellation of 35 programs that now helps more than 500 people with disabilities and their families. He’s now CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, a job he took in 2011 during what he calls the “perfect storm” of shrinking government and philanthropic resources
and growing community needs. He relishes his role in marshaling resources: “Everything I’ve done has been in preparation for this job. I want to be a change agent for people whose lives are a daily struggle for food,shelter, and clothing.” And, this was the Fr. John Enzler that our family knew when he was pastor at Mt. Calvary. My daughter Jen and I served on a small team of parishioners who were concerned about drug and alcoholism in our families and neighbors. We worked to raise awareness about drug and alcoholism and partnered with other religious ministries to help combat these issues.
Monsignor Michael di Teccia Farina, (Age 86) passed away after a brief illness on February 10, 2010. As he remarked during his last illness, “I have lived a rich life.” When asked why he chose to minister in the Nation’s Capital, Fr. Farina quipped, “Well, that’s where all the sinners are.” Father Farina is fondly remembered by parishioners from Holy Family Parish, Hillcrest Heights, as well as St. Thomas Apostle in Washington. In 1966 he was named the founding pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, Forestville, Md., where he built the present church. He became pastor of Mt. Calvary in 1974. While at Mt. Calvary he spearheaded a cookbook fundraiser because of his love of cooking–“one of the fine arts,” as he was known to say. For all his accomplishments, he earned the title of monsignor in 1984.
Some Personal Thoughts From My Children
We had to carry their own lunches to school because Mt. Calvary didn’t prepare or sell them. Although once a month special Hot dog luncheons were offered. We would scoff them up because the smell of them cooking was “to die for” and this once-a-month at-school treat made them taste the very best! First Fridays were Krispy Kreme donut days.
Free dress day was another fun time. Occasionally, students could wear regular clothes instead of their uniforms. Mom didn’t know this until now, but I would sneak into her closet and “borrow” high heels. I would put them in my book bag and when I arrived before school started I would switch shoes.
My very first job was selling school supplies out of the little closet outside of the girls’ lower level bathroom.
Morning recess was 10:10-10:30 and a buzzer, not a bell, sounded to let us know when recess started and was ending. Thing is, this buzzer even during summer months when school was not in session buzzed at 10:10 and 10:30. On the upper level of the school, students were privileged to carry and ring the bell to indicate class changes. I was so excited the day it was my turn.
In fifth grade, girls got to switch from jumpers to skirts. Peggy Guy shared this picture on August 26, 2012. My sister Mary Lou Bradburn Morawski! (She’s the one to the far right, with Ginger Bradburn Meissner in the center and me on the left. Looks like it’s Ginger’s very first day of school at Mt. Calvary with her “ID tag” pinned to her uniform. This picture was taken in front of our house on Insey Street in Berkshire.
Oh, and, we knew just how cool we were when we advanced enough to transition from recess in the back of the school to recess in the front. We would sit along the brick wall or hang on the fence that was between McNamara and Mt. Calvary. Sister Paulanna was one tough cookie. Others have talked about Sr. Paulanna threatening girls with stories about getting cancer in their bottoms if they sat on those cold and damp walls.
Article from Today’s Catholic Teacher Journal, ca. 1980
Adelaide Keough and Carol Page selected and directed many, many, many school plays with choreography by Dottie Herbert. Mrs. Keough passed away on December 22, 2007. She taught for 26 years at Mt. Calvary and co-led the Drama Club.The sets and costumes were amazing, too.
Dawn Woods and her husband Frank led the teen club for many years and somehow always smiled.
Let’s also remember our very caring nurse for many years, Mrs. Newman.
Mt. Calvary alumni Dee Butler and her sisters Pat and Kat, along with Jeni Stepanek coached girls softball and soccer.
An alumni dinner dance was held in the blue room in the 90s.
Brother Francis always had a coin or pouch to give away. Brother Francis Michael Sullivan, C.S.C. died on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at Archcare’s Ferncliff Nursing Home after a long illness. Brother Francis was 78 years old and was member of the Congregation of Holy Cross for 58 years. He taught in schools in New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Mrs. Heron taught math all day and led the math club at night and you knew when she was coming down the hall by the sound of her necklaces.
Mrs. Keough’s shoes made an identifying rhythm as she walked down the hall.
Mrs. Dixon kept the boys in line and provided wise counsel to many.“Use only blue or black ink,” in Mrs. Pyatt’s English class–no other colors permitted. I uploaded Mrs. Pyatt’s picture from a 1995-96 class picture.
At the time, she was Mt. Calvary’s Vice Principal, serving with Mr. Bill Clancy who was Principal. Mr. Clancy served over 20 years in the United States Air Force logging over 10,000 flight crew hours, with service to his country in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and with the Strategic Air Command and Operation Looking Glass. He also served over 40 years in Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Washington Schools. Bill, a graduate of the University of Maryland, served as a classroom educator and as an administrator at several schools, including Principal at Mt. Calvary Catholic School (Forestville, MD) and Assistant Principal at St. Mary of the Assumption School (Upper Marlboro, MD). Dear to his heart was implementing chapters of the National Junior Honor Society at both schools, because it recognized students for both academic achievement and stellar personal character. Although he loved teaching Math, Bill’s passion was teaching religion. A devout Catholic, Bill was committed to nurturing the faith of his students and encouraging them to manifest their faith each and every day “by living as Christ.”
Fr. George Golden passed away from cancer on
November 13, 2005. He was Pastor of Mt. Calvary in this 1995-96 school year picture.
Mrs. Phyllis Dennant had beautiful handwriting and kept the library in order and a fun place to get a book and begin reading. Be sure to turn your book in on time. Mr. Clancy handed out every report card and would have a chalk line on his clothes from where he leaned against the chalkboard ledge.