Pacelli calls alumni homePublished 5:01pm Sunday, June 2, 2013
When Catholic school alumni return to Austin for a massive class reunion in August, they may be surprised to find it bustling with activity.
“The reunion weekend is really starting to gain steam,” said Randy Kramer.
Kramer, who leads Pacelli Catholic School’s 100 Year Committee along with vice principal Mary Holtorf, is fine tuning plans for a the school’s 100 Year All-School Reunion, which runs Aug. 23-25. Festivities include a Pacelli open house, class photos and an all-school Mass. The school has also teamed up with the Austin ArtWorks Festival to organize and sponsor a headliner concert at Marcusen Park featuring performances by Martin Zellar and Cloud Cult.
In short, the fourth weekend in August promises to be a flurry of activity, and Randy Kramer said interest is only picking up.
The day before the ArtWorks festivities, many alumni classes will gather individually. Those from years ending in a three or an eight are the ones most likely to celebrate in August, as those classes will reach anniversaries typically considered noteworthy — fifth, 10th, 15th, etc.
In mid-May, about 4,000 Pacelli alumni received hard copy invitations to the reunion weekend. While social media sites like Facebook made gathering up Pacelli’s former students a little easier, Kramer said it was still a challenge to get a hold of so many people.
“It’s quite an undertaking, trying to find and contact alumni,” he said.
Alumni are encouraged to sign up early, as Kramer said organizers will use their list as a way to get a head count for meals and events during the weekend. Attendance may snowball as the reunion draws closer, thanks in part to a regularly updated posting on Pacelli’s website with a list of who plans to attend from each year’s graduating class.
“As people register, their names are put on a board here,” Kramer said. “People can look at that and see if their friends are coming.”
About 60 people had signed up as of Friday, with the most registrants signed up from the class of 1966. Several supporters, friends and past and present employees of Pacelli had also signed up.
Also on the website is the Pacelli class of 1973’s list of activities for its 40-year reunion, which include snacks, drinks and a live band at the Austin VFW on Aug. 23, the day before festivities begin at the ArtWorks Festival.
Kramer said many classes are organizing individualized events for their alumni scattered in around the other reunion activities.
Alumnus Michael Cotter will lead storytelling that weekend, as classes reflect back on their experiences at Pacelli. Holtorf said the organizing committee tried to ensure a variety of activities would be available to fit the interests of all ages.
“Our hundred years spans the decades,” she said. “Some people may not like to go to a concert, but they might like to do a wine and cheese party.”
People are coming back to Austin from all over, Holtorf said, including states as far away as California and Washington. Organizers decided to line up the reunion with other community events so those traveling to Austin would have plenty to do during their stay.
“We wanted to provide as many reasons as possible for people to come back home for this event,” she said.
So far, the push seems to be working for Pacelli’s other 100-year celebration activities. The annual benefit auction, which took place April 27, drew in a large crowd of parents and alumni looking to support the school by bidding on a whole variety of goods, from student paintings and a Beer of the Month membership to a night watching the Twins at Target Field with Father Steffes and a four-day excursion to wine country in Sonoma, Calif.
“Attendance was up significantly,” Kramer said. “There’s definitely more excitement surrounding these events.”
The turnout also looks to be strong this year for Pacelli’s annual Golf Day, Kramer said, which takes place June 21 at Meadow Greens. Its Hall of Fame Banquet honoring seven new inductees will follow at 7 p.m. at St. Edward’s Corcoran Center, along with a raffle.
All money raised that day will go toward covering extracurricular programs, such as bus transportation to and from events, uniforms and photography equipment.
While August’s reunion is meant to be the last of Pacelli’s three main hurrahs, 2013 holds several more events for the school.
September will bring the blessing of the school buildings, during which local priests will welcome in the first day of a new school year.
In October, Pacelli students will learn about the school’s association with the Franciscan tradition and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. November wraps up the year with Pacelli’s annual spaghetti dinner.
For now organizers are focused on the upcoming summer activities, and gathering Pacelli’s former students for a wide-reaching reunion.
“The excitement factor sure is catching on,” Kramer said.
Pacelli alumni reflect back on school
With the 100th year of Pacelli Catholic Schools in full swing, excitement for celebrating the school is building among its alumni.
Some look forward to reconnecting with old friends, while others, like Austin City Council member Steve King, are already in touch with former classmates and anticipating the August reunion.
“We have a real close-knit class,” King said. “We still communicate regularly.”
King, who graduated from Pacelli in 1984, was the second of three generations of his family to attend the school. His parents graduated in 1959 and 1960, and his sons Carter and Sam are finishing fifth and third grade, respectively.
In addition to the connection King keeps to the school through his sons, he is also a Pacelli trustee and attends events like the annual benefit auction. King was asked to be the homecoming coronation night speaker this year, too.
Colette Chaffee, an alumna and historian of Pacelli with extensive knowledge of the school’s roots, said she recalls a few ways the school was different years ago.
During her time at Pacelli in the 1960s, Chaffee said the school had large sports teams, along with big orchestra, choir and band groups. Extracurricular activities included glee clubs, the school’s newspaper “Shamrock” and a model rocket club.
Chaffee said there was a point when the school had no yearbook. The bishop had banned them among Catholic schools, reportedly because teachers had complained students were not doing the work and the task instead fell to the teachers.
“That would never have been the case at Pacelli,” she said. “Our students were very involved.”
Since his graduation in the 80s, King said the school’s student body has decreased, as have the total number of students in Austin’s public schools. Deep down, though, little has truly changed.
“It has held to its core values of providing a Catholic education,” King said.
Mary Holtorf, vice principle of Pacell who herself graduated from the school in 1984, said the main principles of the institution remain.
“Our mission has always stayed essentially the same: To continue to provide a Catholic education here in Austin, and to build up that kingdom of God here,” she said.
The school looks to encourage students to be good citizens and good people, Holtorf said.
“It planted the seed of my faith … of discipline and self control and all those qualities that I see in our students,” she said, adding she was excited to celebrate the milestone of Pacelli’s 100 years and to share stories with other former students.
“I think it’s great for anything to last a 100 years and be significant in the community of Austin,” he said.
King said he recommends parents interested in Pacelli for their students to call the school and set up a tour. The option of a Catholic education is an asset for Austin.
“I’m a firm believer in Catholic education and what Pacelli has to offer,” King said. “It continues to have a big impact on my life and who I am.”
Pacelli through the years
December 1871: Rev. Claude Genís of St. Augustine Parish purchases the Lamoreaux residence in Austin and makes it into a girls Catholic school with two teaching sisters. A boys school is established around the same time, on church grounds approximately where St. Augustine stands today. Tuition is about $123.
1890: An Austin Register newspaper article lists Austin as having a total of 120 Catholic school students.
September 1909: Columbus opens, a $35,000 three-story brick building staffed by the Sisters of St. Francis in Rochester. The following year, a news story lists the school as having “eight teachers with crowded classrooms.” The first students would go on to graduate in 1913, a year recognized as the start of Pacelli’s 100 years.
1920: The Lamoreaux residence is purchased again and moved to the west of Columbus School, mostly to serve as a dormitory for students attending from rural areas. The basement was renovated to provide classroom space.
1927: St. Augustine High School opened at its present location.
1933: The school starts charging tuition at $1 a year.
1938: St. Augustine wins its first state title in basketball after defeating Mankato Loyola 22-14.
1951: St. Augustine High School is renovated and enlarged to accommodate 150 more students.
1956: Construction begins on a new St. Augustine Grade School. In November, work starts on The Chi Rho, which would become Pacelli’s first yearbook.
July 5, 1957: The Columbus building is torn down. The new grade school opens nearby with 18 classrooms for grades one through eight. St. Augustine High School is renamed Pacelli after Pope Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, who was pope at the time.
1973: Catholic school students from Queen of Angels and St. Edwards consolidate to form one school, which includes early childhood and kindergarten.
—Information provided by Colette Chaffee
Students celebrate 100 years
While many of the centennial celebration’s activities are focused on alumni, current Pacelli students have been getting in the spirit through their curriculum. Older students taught younger ones about the origin of the name “Pacelli,” and the spring concert was built around the theme “100 Years of Harmony.” Students also enjoyed donuts on the 100th day of the 100th year of school.
On Wednesday, the 100th class of Pacelli students will graduate.
For more information on Pacelli’s reunion