January 27, 2006

2006 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

St. Malachy School celebrates 50 years
of ‘learning with Christ’

By Mary Ann Wyand

BROWNSBURG—St. Malachy School is “Celebrating 50 Years of Learning, Loving and Living with Christ” in Hendricks County this year.

The school’s 50th anniversary slogan is displayed on a billboard in Brownsburg with the school’s Web site address (www.saintmalachyschool.org) to invite parents to consider Catholic education for their children.

It’s this kind of welcome that has helped St. Malachy School experience a significant growth in enrollment during the past five decades.

Irish immigrants founded St. Malachy Parish in a rural area of central Indiana in 1869. The parish membership has continued to grow steadily every year as more and more Catholic families move to one of the many new housing developments in Hendricks County.

In recent years, the 2,233-household parish has outgrown the church and school at 326 Green St. in Brownsburg so plans are under way to build a new worship space and later a school on 40 acres at the southwest corner of 750 North and 1000 East near Brownsburg after breaking ground for the church in 2007.

Mary Sullivan, St. Malachy’s new principal, taught fourth-grade classes for 16 years before being named assistant principal three years ago. She was promoted again when longtime principal Mary Margaret McClain retired last spring and moved to Illinois.

“When I first started teaching, we had 200 or 220 students so I have seen the enrollment double,” Sullivan said. “We have 430 students in kindergarten through the eighth-grade with two classes per grade. But even though we have grown large in numbers, we have still maintained a family atmosphere as a parish and school family.”

In recent years, she said, “we have added a full-time Spanish program for kindergarten through the eighth-grade, a computer lab staffed by a computer aide, a music teacher and a physical education teacher. We want to educate the whole child so we present them with all kinds of opportunities to share their gifts and to grow in all kinds of areas—emotionally, socially, artistically and spiritually.”

Sullivan said the faculty and staff have “used every corner, every closet, every space available in the school building, and we look forward to being able to serve even more of our parishioners with the expansion.”

St. Malachy parishioners are proud of their Irish heritage, she said, and the school’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) teams are called the Shamrocks. Green and white 50th anniversary T-shirts promote the school motto of “May God hold you in the palm of his hand,” an old Irish blessing.

“The public school system is very good in Brownsburg,” Sullivan said, “but the students who attend public schools cannot live their Catholic values every day, cannot pray together and staff members cannot use those values in the discipline system. We pray together, work together, learn together and have fun together.”

She said St. Malachy’s student creed states that, “We have been blessed by God and it is our job to develop those gifts and talents to the best of our ability.”

Sullivan said students come from Lebanon, Pittsboro, North Salem and Avon as well as Brownsburg.

“We have dedicated parents who literally go that extra mile to get their children to school here,” she said. “They support us in their children’s upbringing and the development of their work ethic.”

Because of that, Sullivan said, “we have very little turnover of teachers and staff members.”

Middle school mathematics teacher

Larry Hart of Brownsburg has taught at St. Malachy School for 36 years and has seen the enrollment more than double in recent years.

“I’ve seen many physical changes and changes in technology at the school, but the one thing that has remained constant is the support of the parish for the school and parishioners’ involvement with the school and extracurricular activities,” Hart said. “We always have somebody willing to volunteer at the school.”

Hart said he thinks teachers at all the parish schools in central and southern Indiana are dedicated to seeing their students do well in school and in life.

He is “very proud of the fact that two of my former students are studying to be priests—Sean Danda and Eric Hodde—and one student—Heather Danda—is studying to be a sister.”

Kathleen Givan, a teacher’s aide for first-grade students for eight years, said her parents helped found St. Malachy School in 1955.

“It was very important for both of my parents—Patrick and Mary Wynne—to make sure that their five children received a Catholic education,” Givan said. “At the time, the closest Catholic schools were at St. Michael the Archangel Parish and St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis.”

Ground was broken for St. Malachy School on April 3, 1955, and the new school opened that September.

“The legacy lives on and on,” Givan said, “because of the love and care and concern of early parishioners who looked ahead [and planned] so their children could be educated in a Catholic environment.”

Third-grader Donnie Hott said he likes attending St. Malachy School because “the teachers are really nice” and he gets to play on the parish’s CYO third-grade football team.

Seventh-grader Emily Metallic—whose mother, Donna, is the president of the Parent Teacher Organization—said she is happy attending St. Malachy School because she has “a lot of friends and the teachers help you if you have problems.”

When St. Malachy School was founded 50 years ago, the students learned about Haiti and other Third World countries in geography or social studies classes.

Now, St. Malachy students raise funds to help children receive a Catholic education in Haiti.

“Each class sponsors a school child in Haiti and sends money there regularly,” Sullivan said. “We have pictures of the students in the classrooms, and occasionally we’ll send letters to Haiti. The classes raise money for the Haitian students with school fundraisers and free-will donations.”

She said St. Malachy Parish has “a very active medical mission that goes to Haiti twice a year to help the people.”

That’s how an 8-year-old girl named Fredeline Datizan from St. Marguerite Parish in Port Margo, Haiti, was able to attend St. Malachy School temporarily while recuperating from surgery on her arm two years ago.

“It was a very good learning experience,” Sullivan said. “She stayed with the Zielinski family. It was a good experience for Fredeline as well as for us. I think the students realized how much more we have in the U.S., and they enjoyed seeing Fredeline experience that. The kids loved her. She was quite charming. They took her in and she was one of them.” †


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