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Mary Holtorf, Austin Catholic Elementary principal, is spearheading the Pacelli Catholic School's 100th year celebration that will include an alumni invitation back to Austin in August.
Mary Holtorf, Austin Catholic Elementary principal, is spearheading the Pacelli Catholic School's 100th year celebration that will include an alumni invitation back to Austin in August.

Archived Story

Pacelli celebrates a century

Published 11:55am Sunday, April 14, 2013

—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.

Pacelli Catholic Schools celebrates its history this year as a small school inside St. Augustine Church that transformed into a powerhouse private school in the 1900s and 2000s

Mary Holtorf is glad Pacelli is just as much a bedrock of faith in the community as it was when she was in school.

The Pacelli Catholic Schools vice principal attended the school, after all. A 1984 Pacelli graduate, she appreciates how special Pacelli is to the community, and how many alumni have gone on to do good in the world. Holtorf is not alone, as she and many other local residents will celebrate Pacelli’s 100th year anniversary throughout 2013.

“We want to get the students involved, we want to get the parents involved, we want to get alumni involved,” Holtorf said. “We want it to be an outreach to everyone.”

After 100 years, Pacelli Catholic Schools still centers around its message of faith, something Holtorf knows all too well.

“My mom and dad wanted me to have a firm background in my faith,” she said, explaining why she attended Pacelli.

After graduation, Holtorf earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Mary’s University, a private college Holtorf described as similar to Pacelli in its focus on faith and education.

”I just always knew that I wanted faith to be part of my job,” Holtorf said.

She worked briefly with Winona Catholic Schools as part of her undergraduate and graduate work before accepting a teaching position at Pacelli in 1991. After that, she served as an administrator for six years, briefly acting as president of Pacelli Catholic Schools before accepting her current position.

She now serves as one of the main organizers for Pacelli’s year-long celebration of 100 years of memories and service. There will be monthly events highlighting Pacelli’s educational commitment, its alumni’s record of postsecondary education and career accomplishments, and the school system’s commitment to its faith and volunteerism. The highlight of the event will come when Pacelli alumni come back for a special Pacelli show at this year’s Austin ArtWorks Festival.

For someone who has known Pacelli from all perspectives, from student to teacher to principal and parent, Holtorf carries a deep respect for the school’s history.

“It makes me appreciate why it was started,” she said. “I know test scores are really important and getting into a really good college is really important, but at the end of the day, if I don’t have the faith that was instilled in me as a younger child, and through middle school and high school, I don’t have much.”

St. Columbia High School, 1913 to 1923, the start of what Pacelli is today.
St. Columbia High School, 1913 to 1923, the start of what Pacelli is today.

Pacelli Catholic Schools will commemorate its history throughout 2013, staging one event a month throughout the year

March: Pacelli celebrates Eugenio Pacelli’s 1939 papal ordination

Students will make banners for all three catholic churches in the area and take part in a special Mass on March 1.

 

April: Benefit auction

Pacelli will host a benefit auction April 27 to raise scholarship money for students.

 

May: Spring concert

Pacelli alumni will be invited back for a special concert on May 16 or 23 to sing with the school choir.

 

June: Graduation

Pacelli graduates will also celebrate the school’s 100 years of history at the school commencement ceremony June 5.

 

July: Fourth of July float

Pacelli students, parents and volunteers will have a special school float for Austin’s Fourth of July Parade.

 

August: All-school reunion

Pacelli graduates will be invited back to Austin during the second annual Downtown Artworks Festival Aug. 24-26. Pacelli will also be involved in the Mower County Fair, running Aug. 6-11.

 

September: Blessing of the school buildings

Pacelli students and staff will watch as local priests bless the school buildings on the first day of school.

 

October: Recognition of Pacelli’s Franciscan tradition

Pacelli students will learn more about Pacelli’s association with the Catholic Church’s Franciscan order in the beginning of the month, around the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which takes place Oct. 4.

 

November: Spaghetti dinner

Pacelli families will celebrate the school through its annual spaghetti dinner.


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