August 28, 2015

Memories and fun will flow at 50-year ‘All-City, All-Catholic’ high school reunion on Sept. 11

The joy of being together shows in the interaction of the organizers of the upcoming 50-year reunion involving all nine Indianapolis Catholic high schools that had graduating seniors in 1965. Steve Gutzwiller, left, Dottie Powell, Nancy Whitfield Rasmussen, Kevin Farrell and Carolyn Perrin McMahon share a laugh on the steps of the old Cathedral High School, now the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

The joy of being together shows in the interaction of the organizers of the upcoming 50-year reunion involving all nine Indianapolis Catholic high schools that had graduating seniors in 1965. Steve Gutzwiller, left, Dottie Powell, Nancy Whitfield Rasmussen, Kevin Farrell and Carolyn Perrin McMahon share a laugh on the steps of the old Cathedral High School, now the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

The stories flow easily. So does the laughter—especially when it comes at their own expense.

And the humor is definitely apparent to the organizers of the upcoming 50-year reunion involving all nine Indianapolis Catholic high schools that had graduating seniors in 1965.

When they held this first-ever, one-of-a-kind “All-City, All-Catholic” reunion 25 years ago, it was an extravaganza—complete with a buffet dinner at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, video presentations, and four hours of dancing that continued into the early morning hours.

When the 50-year reunion is held on Sept. 11 at the biergarten of The Rathskeller restaurant, 401 E. Michigan St., in Indianapolis, it will begin at 5 p.m., and the loosely-formed committee will just provide name tags and some balloons for the tables.

“It’s a reflection of another 25 years,” says a smiling Carolyn Perrin McMahon about the more low-key, informal celebration where people are asked to just show up. “No one is responsible for everything. They can just go and enjoy the people.”

Steve Gutzwiller, another organizer, laughs and adds, “Even though we still have energy, we don’t have that much energy to do it like that again.”

If the energy level has declined just a little for the members of the Class of 1965, the enthusiasm and appreciation for the high school period of their lives continue to grow—even though only three of the nine high schools involved are still open: Bishop Chatard, Cathedral and Father Thomas Scecina Memorial.

St. Agnes, St. Mary, Sacred Heart, Ladywood, Our Lady of Grace and The Latin School have closed since 1965.

“The kids who went to those Catholic schools feel bonded to those schools,” says Kevin Farrell, a 1965 Scecina graduate. “Catholic school kids all have a common bond. I’m still friends with all the guys I went to school with.”

Dottie Powell, a graduate of Sacred Heart, nods in agreement: “We had a club we formed when we were sophomores. To this day, I still go to lunch with some of those friends every month. We’ve stayed together.”

“The word that comes to my mind is ‘pride,’ ” says Nancy Whitfield Rasmussen. “There was a pride in what we accomplished in high school. There was that pride in walking down the aisle on graduation. I was proud to be a Catholic. I thought our life was simple and happy.”

Their high school years were also a time of change.

Masses in Latin were no longer the norm as they were celebrated in English, just one of the changes from the Second Vatican Council. The reality of the first Catholic to become president of the United States—John F. Kennedy—showed them their dreams could come true. And the assassination of Kennedy revealed the loss and the heartbreak they could feel—a sense of loss that continued when some of their classmates were later killed as they served during the Vietnam War.

As the years have passed, more classmates have died, but the memories of them live. When members of the Class of 1965 have reunions at their respective high schools, there is often a time set aside for remembering deceased classmates.

“The bond was so special that you think of the people who are missing when you get together,” Rasmussen says. “We memorialize them in a ceremony. It’s very much in people’s minds. It speaks to the bond that exists and doesn’t go away.”

There’s that same feeling for their Catholic faith and education.

“It’s helped me to always try to deal with people in a Christian way,” Powell says. “It taught me to value people in the way the sisters taught us to value people.”

Farrell notes, “When people say, ‘I used to be Catholic,’ I say, ‘Oh, no, you’re still a Catholic.’ They may not be practicing the faith, but I don’t think you can stop being a Catholic. It’s your background, how you were raised, your life.”

Rasmussen, a St. Agnes grad, adds, “Faith is the most important thing in my life. It has sustained me through all the things that have happened in my life. I don’t know what I’d be without it.”

The members of the Class of 1965 also don’t know where the years have gone.

“We’re beginning to realize how mortal we are, how fragile everything is,” says Gutzwiller, a Cathedral grad. “Because of that, all those silly reasons there were cliques in high school, all of that goes away.”

What stays are the memories that come rushing back when the radio plays a song from the 1964-65 school year—such as “My Girl” by the Temptations, “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, “Help Me, Rhonda” by the Beach Boys, “A Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles and “Stop! In the Name of Love” by the Supremes.

What also remains are the friendships that were formed in those high school years—the bonds that endure.

And that alone is worthy of a celebration.

“I love to see these people,” Farrell says.

“I think the miracle of it is that in an instant, you’re re-connected,” Rasmussen notes. “It’s the bond that developed, and it all started in your faith.” †

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