Monday, May 4, 2009

The Big Day - Reunion Day

The reunion was a huge success! Our final count that was given to the hall was 275 and the alumni spanned those that graduated through the 1930's to the 1980's. This was much more than a grade school reunion. It is so difficult to describe exactly what this event meant to myself and so many others but I will try.....

St. Gerard's Catholic Church was the parish my family belonged to when I was a child. This church was located on the East Side of Buffalo. Buffalo has a large population of Catholics. Within a one mile radius of the house that I grew up there were probably 5 or 6 Catholic churches, each of them having their own parish grade school. Previously each of these schools was able to have enough families in the surrounding city blocks to fully support each of the schools with great enrollment numbers. Previously, St. Gerard's would have 8th grade graduating classes with closer to 80 students (obviously split among a number of homerooms). As population began to fall in Buffalo, families moved to suburbs, and a various number of other reasons, population in these neighborhoods shifted and consequently enrollment began to decline. To this day, the Buffalo Catholic Diocese is still consolidating parishes and schools. However, due to various changes - one of them being a change in demographics of the neighborhood, the church's school closed in 1986.

You must understand that the relationships created in the school and neighborhood crossed generations. St. Gerard's classmate alumni got married, had children and settled in the same neighborhood that they themselves went to school at. Their children played with the children of other long-time neighbors. *Everyone* knew each other.....not just people in your class, but those older and younger than you. These families were huge too! I came from a family of six and that was about average. I went to school with other kids that had 8, 12, or 13 kids! I can't imagine that now, but that was common place. In addition to the school, each of there generations went to church at the parish, which was very active. In the mid 80's the neighborhood began to decline and now it is considered crime-infested inner-city. You would be hard pressed to find a family that remained in the neighborhood. The fixtures of the neighborhood that were important to grandparents, parents, and ourselves are now gone. And even the church itself (which my grandfather and great uncle painted much of the artwork of & where we chose to have Madeline baptized) is now closed - as of January 1, 2008.

Was this a grade school reunion? Yes. A church reunion? Yes. A neighborhood reunion? Yes. A reason to get together with old friends? Yes. In addition to the reunion aspect of the event it was also a fundraiser. Gerard Place is a non-for-profit agency that is housed in 2 of the former campus' buildings -the old primary grades building and the old convent. Gerard Place provides transitional housing and supportive service (GED classes, job training, etc) to homeless single parents. (If you are interested in donating or getting more information check their website at )

Everyone had a wonderful time! In fact, many of us carried the party on afterward to a karaoke bar. Many people I talked to asked if we could do another reunion again next year! What a wonderful opportunity it would be for us to reunite with this "family" of our past. At the same time, what a great opportunity for Gerard Place to acquire a whole new group of support for their organization.

Below are a few more pictures from the evening...

Those in attendance from the class of 1984

Margaret won a basket in the basket raffle

My Aunt Sue and her close friend & former schoolmate, Teresa

Me, Paul, Margaret & Marysia

Me and Kim - We were closed friends in grade school

Me with my friend Tony, his wife Jen and a good friend of my family, Cathy

Me with a group of St. Gerard's friends

Ummmmm......yeah, that would be me on the far left doing karaoke when we went out after the reunion.

No comments: