May 16, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Class reunions renew old friendships

Shirley Vogler MeisterLast month, I accompanied my husband, Paul, to his Cathedral Grade School reunion for the Class of 1947 in Belleville, Ill.

That’s not a misprint. This is the 61st year since Paul and his classmates graduated from the grade school. The class reunion was held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Ill., our hometown.

I thought grade school reunions were non-existent until my experiences through Paul’s class. Later, I learned about my St. Bernard School reunion in St. Louis, although I could not attend the party, then found out about other former grade-schoolers who periodically get together to renew their friendships.

If many such events are held by former grade-school classmates, I’m sure that each get-together must be unique to that particular class—just as everyone in each class is surely unique.

Paul’s class was also specially blessed to have not only wonderful women who dedicated their lives to God as nuns, but also a man who was ordained to the priesthood and eventually served as bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kan.

Now retired and continuing his ministry in the Joliet Diocese, Bishop Stanley G. Schlarman celebrated the Mass held before the reunion dinner.

Paul was the photographer for this event. He began studying photography at Cathedral High School in Belleville.

The first Cathedral Grade School there was eventually demolished to make room for the former St. Elizabeth Hospital complex, but a new school was built a block away.

The landscape has changed and every one of the classmates has changed, too—not just because of advancing years, but also through living productive lives and being good citizens professionally and personally.

Most of them still practice their Catholic faith and many are still very active in their parishes. They have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren practicing the Catholic faith, too.

Paul’s classmates who I have met through the years also stayed young at heart and are an inspiration to anyone they meet. I can’t stop smiling just thinking about these wonderful friends.

Through the years, Paul has also enjoyed attending my high school class reunions.

Of course, many older Catholics do still keep in touch with a few of their grade school friends.

Most class reunions are held in the spring, summer and fall. How do I know? Because those are the times when my husband is usually asked to photograph such events for both Catholics and non-Catholics.

Catholic schools still grow and thrive, thank God! Let us pray that this doesn’t change, and that our youngsters will always have opportunities to grow in their faith through Catholic schools.

How fortunate we are to have experienced this ourselves!

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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