In Your Midst


Spring 2002

In This Issue:
It’s five to eight on a Wednesday morning, and students in bright blue sweaters are streaming through the doors of St. George Parish School, trying to beat the eight o’clock bell. As the kids hurry down the hall, they give high-fives to teachers waiting by classroom doorways. The rush of small bodies sets a cluster of brightly colored paper handprints fluttering on a hallway bulletin board.

A favorite St. George event is the blessing of the pets on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Father Fausto Kanyonyi sprinkles holy water on a wiggly puppy.

This bulletin board filled with these colored-paper handprints is probably the best symbol of the spirit of St. George School, according to Irish-born Principal Bernadette O’Mahony. Each hand is labeled with a student’s name and represents that student’s service in the community over the past week. “We try to live the Gospel values here,” O’Mahony says, “and we work hard to help the students understand what that means.”

St. George Parish was established on Beacon Hill in 1904 to serve the needs of immigrant railroad workers. The parish school was opened a block away in 1921 for a mixture of Austrian, French, Irish, Belgian, Italian, Bavarian, Polish, and Mexican families.

Eighty years later, many things have changed. St. George still has a sprinkling of second and third generation students from that 1921 mixture, but today the school is predominantly made up of a new wave of immigrants from Asia and the Pacific Islands, as well as many students from the local Hispanic and African-American communities. And the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who founded the school and served it well into the 1970’s, see their legacy continued today by lay teachers. 

Every year the football team from Eastside Catholic High School visits the first and second graders at St. George. They bring story books as gifts and read from them to the pupils.

Yet the school continues to thrive as it adapts to these changes. St. George offers after-school lessons in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, for students who want to understand their parents’ heritage. School talent shows showcase music and dance from around the world. And school and parish staff make sure to push the school’s Italian dinner every year, gathering some 300 hundred alumni and friends to reminisce about past school days and cherish the Italian flavors that have become such a big part of Beacon Hill’s history. 

Another reason for St. George’s continued success is the Rainbow School Program, through which parishes such as St. James that do not have schools of their own support a group of five inner-city parish schools (St. Edward, St. George, St. Joseph, St. Paul, and St. Therese). Children from St. James can attend any of the Rainbow Schools for the parishioner tuition rate in recognition of that support. This year, 12 children from St. James attend St. George, adding their names – and their handprints – both to the school’s bulletin board and to its mission of service in the community.

By the time those 12 students graduate from eighth grade, they’ll have a good sense of what Principal O’Mahony means when she asks them to live by the Gospel values.

And as the children say “Pamamaalam,” Tagalog for “Farewell,” to friends and teachers, and move on from this tight-knit and loving community, they will be well prepared for the academic and emotional challenges of high school.

Mary Bourguignon is a Cathedral parishioner and a member of the Pastoral Vision Committee.

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