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Father Muench Says...

Remember when: a very special reunion

Aug. 27, 2014

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Remember when!  Remember the time when we…! So, what have you been doing the last thirty years? Tell me about your family…!

I know – sounds like a reunion – and it was. In fact it was called a “mega-reunion.”

I was rather surprised almost a year ago when I received an announcement of this gathering.  One fellow, Ray, in Massena decided to organize a reunion of all the former students and teachers of Holy Family High School in Massena.

Holy Family High School had its start in 1962.  The Diocese of Ogdensburg had been assigned a new bishop, Bishop James Navagh, and he considered Massena a great place for a Catholic high school to complement the two Catholic elementary schools there.  The whole process got underway, the building was built and the faculty found.
Bishop Navagh had ordained me a priest in 1959 and then he decided I would be a perfect chemistry teacher.  So, my teaching career began just shortly after my becoming a priest.  I must admit that my years in the classroom was a happy time in my life.

Holy Family High School had a rather short existence with just 14 graduating classes, but it was a very special place. It was truly an excellent school. 

Holy Family High School had only one principal, Father Griffith Billmeyer, and his leadership made Holy Family the extraordinary school it was.

At this year’s reunion, I heard innumerable great stories: stories about the great start the graduates received at Holy Family – as well as many interesting stories from their high school days.  I was also rather pleased to hear their stories of success in life.

The organizers told me that they were uncertain how many would respond but they were rather successful as this mega-reunion drew more than 600 former students and faculty from near and far. I had a conversation with Denny from San Francisco, Bill from Chicago, Brian from Burlington, Jim from Boston.

The organizers did involve me.  Linda and Dan Case called asking me to celebrate a Mass that was planned as part of the reunion.  One of the activities of the reunion was an open house at the former Holy Family School building, now a junior high of the public school.  They decided to plan a Mass in the gym there just as we use to do when they were students.

The Mass proved to be a very moving experience for me.  I was thrilled to see and visit with so many former students – there were plenty of memories and stories. 

As we talked, another name would come up, names that brought up many more memories and, unhappily, names of some who had died.

As an introduction to the Mass, I shared that my biggest and deepest memory of Holy Family High School was the group of outstanding and talented teachers that I taught with in those days at Holy Family High School.   Sadly, many of them were now with the Lord.  I wanted to make them my intention for this Mass.  I also wanted to remember and pray for the many former students from the school who have died.  Finally, I knew that many there had lost spouses, and some children – they would also be intentions for the Mass.

As a homily for the Mass, I decided to speak about faith – faith in God’s help, support and constant strength, especially in difficult times.  I told them that I was certain that the greatest gift that Holy Family High School gave to all of its students – besides a great education – was a strong faith in God.  I believed that this faith has had a profound influence in the lives of each of them. 

Many at the reunion shared with me many stories, including those of difficult crises in their lives and families, times also of unhappiness caused by sickness and death. Many told with me that they could not have faced those times without their faith in God.

I do want to add that the experience of this reunion was a strengthening moment for my own faith.  The faith of these former students was truly great to experience. 

You know, even at the party after I experienced a unique faith in their lives. I recognized something that I like think began at Holy Family High School.

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