Will Philadelphia’s Catholic Schools Be Resurrected?

For thousands of Philadelphians, parochial school was more than just a place to learn to read and write. It taught students right from wrong, shaped their character and bound them together. But can the schools survive in an age of lost faith?

As the reunion of the Resso Class of 1977 winds down, I find myself mulling an internal barrage of questions: How much of a loser do I feel like, knowing that Katie McGinty worked in the Clinton White House and is now running for governor? Or that John McIntyre became a bishop? (Overachievers.) Why did I not go into general contracting, like Denny Davis? And is it me, or is Ursula O’Reilly now a dead ringer for one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?

Of course, our graduating class also includes a registered sex offender, a well-to-do tax evader, and a guy who once staged a six-hour standoff with police on his front lawn. None of them showed. What can you do? Catholic school isn’t a panacea.

But it worked for me. I can see that now, looking around at the faces kissing and hands shaking goodbye. In an age in which the ties that bind us are being
rendered asunder with almost frightening ease, in which our political culture insists we only see how we are different, and in which technology has made us more isolated than ever, our quirky Catholic-school days keep us part of an odd but endearing club. We survived the nuns and the discipline, and we were better for it. In the end, that’s all you can ask for from your school, isn’t it? The future of Catholic schools rests on how a new generation of parents answers. And whether the archdiocese can do something it has never done before: change with the times.

I go up to Ilona Gawin Goanos, who started the Facebook page that led to this reunion, and thank her for doing it. I tell her it was so nice to see everyone again, to relive the memories.

“Oh, we’ll do it again,” she says, hugging me. “We’re already talking about the 40th.”