Update II: The pastor of Holy Spirit School has cancelled an Alumni Mass that was previously scheduled. Don’t let the great people, the building, and the values that shaped so many young people to fade quietly into the dark. Sign the petition today to have a Mass rescheduled: https://www.change.org/petitions/his-eminece-cardinal-timothy-dolan-and-rev-ricardo-fajardo-hold-an-alumni-mass-for-holy-spirit-school
Today, I found out that one of my last vestiges of my childhood will be closing. Holy Spirit Catholic School in “Da Boogie Down” Bronx, NY will be closing its doors to the children of the community at the end of the current school year. Holy Spirit has educated hundreds of children for almost a century from the Great Depression to World War II to the Civil Rights Movement to the dawn of a new millennium. From Pope to Pope, Cardinal to Cardinal, President to President it has stood as a beacon of learning, refuge, and hope to children on University Avenue.
Holy Spirit and Cathedral Preparatory Seminary (closed in 1999) were pivotal times in my life. Those two schools are forever juxtaposed; in lock-step with and ancillary to my parents in forming the man I have become.
From my first day of first grade; uncontrollably crying, hanging on to my mother with a death grip, fearing abandonment with a bunch of strangers my age and strangers who were adults to my last day in 1982 the staff and faculty of Holy Spirit supported me, taught me, mentored me, and loved me. Holy Spirit has done that year after year after year. In eight years, I made life-long friends whom I treasure and to this very day regularly speak with. They are friends who have grown to be not just friends; but family. Holy Spirit fostered those friendships.
Teaching is a vocation. It is no different from being a police officer, a fireman, or a member of the clergy. Teaching is a calling. The faculty of Holy Spirit took that calling seriously. The faculty embraced all of us as members of their family and as members of a new larger family. A family that was not created thru DNA but a family created out of love.
Holy Spirit School and her teachers gifted Catholic and non-Catholic children an ethical, moral, and spiritual template to grow into ethical, moral, and spiritual adults. A gift, I hope we are passing along to our children. Holy Spirit School was and still is a refuge; a place of safety. A place removed from the dope dealer and others who toil in the life of the street (at least in the late 70’s and 80’s). A place where despite the neighborhood, we were told, “You are valued. You have skills. You are great. Your dreams are your future. You can do and be anyone you want to be.”
Holy Spirit School through its longevity proved that no matter how the times may change the foundation in forming spiritual, responsible, productive, socially and morally aware individuals is extremely simple: To be a positive example in the lives of the children in her care. That example came from every single member of the clergy and lay person that has ever taught in the building.
I am saddened that the Archdiocese of New York has decided to close Holy Spirit and the many other schools whose mission was achieved in such an exemplary way. I am saddened that a beacon of hope has been extinguished in a neighborhood where beacons of hope are an endangered species. Above all else, I am saddened that another generation of young children will not experience the magic that the faculty of Holy Spirit performed with me and her other students and graduates. A Beacon has been Extinguished, indeed.
Update: The pastor of Holy Spirit School has cancelled an Alumni Mass that was previously scheduled. Don’t let the great people, the building, and the values that shaped so many young people to fade quietly into the dark. Sign the petition today to have a Massrescheduled: https://www.change.org/petitions/his-eminece-cardinal-timothy-dolan-and-rev-ricardo-fajardo-hold-an-alumni-mass-for-holy-spirit-school