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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Catholic School May Become A Memory

The other day I visited an elderly person who resides on the west side of Chester so I decided to drive  a couple blocks and go pass St. Hedwig's. For those of you that remember, St. Hedwig's was one of schools and then eventually the churches in Chester to be closed down in the early 1990's (I think).

The parishioners there decided they were not going to let that happen and went out on their own and raised funds and did whatever they had to do to keep the church open. As I drove by it I remembered attending elementary school there and walking that building everyday for 9 years - from kindergarten through eighth grade. When I started there the kindergarten was in the building across from the church on Highland Avenue, the building that I believe is connected to the convent. Eventually over the years, they moved the kindergarten into the main school which is separated from the church on 4th street by large parking lot type area that used to be for the kids recess time. The nuns and teachers separated the kids out so that the older kids were in the fenced paved part in the back of the church and the younger kids were in the middle between the school and the church. The first graders I think were in the alley in the back.

Amazing how I remember all that but I am sure you too have memories if you attended one of the Catholic Schools in the area. Each of them seem to have their own culture, their own identification in the community. For example, St. Hedwig's culture was primarily that of the Polish people. Foods, language and traditions were from brought from the immigrants of Poland to Chester and then to the parish.

This is not the first time Catholic Schools have closed. You see in about 1975, St. Anthony's School in Chester and Immaculate Conception in Marcus Hook closed.  All the children were sent to St. Hedwigs so many of us from Italian families were sent to St. Hedwigs. It was something of a culture shock I think for both the families who were already there and the families coming in. Children from Italian families were not necessarily fed perogies while Polish children were not acquainted with finer points of sauce or gravy whatever it was called in your house.

For the kids like me who started fresh from kindergarten, it was just a school. We had no real reference of being in this school for 4  years and now being told you have to go to this one. No sense of school loyalty or even some of those ties to teachers or building that many of our siblings did.

It sounds like the same thing still happens in 2011. Kids who are in the schools that are scheduled to close do not feel any different than kids did in 1975 or later. The emotions and the loyalty are still the same. It is sad that schools continue to close. Sad that small schools that probably give children with needs extra help or attention will no longer exist.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any memories to share about your school that closed?

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