I am currently in my 15th straight year of Catholic education, and I can’t say it’s been easy. Since it’s Catholic Colleges week, I feel compelled to reflect on my journey through the diocese’s parochial education system.
When I was 4 year old, I landed a coveted half-day preschool spot at Erie’s finest establishment, Our Lady of Peace Church, where my only memory is having to stand in time out for getting caught throwing miniature plastic bears between two plastic plates and shaking them so excitedly, as if I just invented the world’s first maracas. I was my own one woman-mariachi band, until Mrs. “T” interrupted my rhythm and sentenced me to five minutes of staring at the wall in silence.
After preschool, I ditched my play clothes and baby toys and threw on a navy blue skirt, tucked in a white polo, stepped into saddle shoes, and was ready to start big kid school, also known as kindergarten. I spent the next nine years of my life within the walls of OLP, growing up alongside the same people I went to preschool with, and walking the same halls my mother and her brothers did.
Looking back on my grade school days, I am very pleased that my parents decided to send my brothers and me to OLP. Getting through those awkward adolescent years would have probably been worse had I been elsewhere. As frustrating as it was at times, I am happy that OLP sheltered its students as much as it did. I don’t know what it’s like there now, but I’m hoping still it’s still a protective, strict, faith-centered institution.
I’ve witnessed how hard it is for kids in our current world to simply just stay kids. It seems like every generation grows up so much faster than the previous one, and naïveté and imagination fade away just as quick.
Grade school years are critical when it comes to shaping a child, and there were so many positive influences in my life at OLP, and I have memories and friendships that I will surely never forget.
When it came time to choosing a Catholic high school, I couldn’t have been more torn between Villa Maria Academy and Mercyhurst Preparatory School. I loved the familial atmosphere and the tradition Villa offered, but I couldn’t shake the incredible arts program Mercyhurst was known for. I also happened to make the Varsity cheerleading squad as a freshman, so I opted for an oxford and a green tie for the next four years.
On Tuesday, I was able to have lunch with Mercyhurst Prep’s President Sister Mary Ann Bader and the school’s assistant principal, Deborah Laughlin, in a diocesan celebration of Catholic Colleges week. As I brought the two up to speed on what I’ve accomplished so far at Gannon and what I plan on doing after graduation, I made it a point to tell them what I missed the most about Mercyhurst Prep. I played the flute in orchestra and at every Mass. The best part of the entire Mass and the song everyone looked forward to was the “Our Father.” I had never heard that version of the prayer until I went to Mercyhurst Prep, and I have yet to hear it performed anywhere else.
This prayer is so powerful, beautiful and extremely fun to play with an orchestra. It is sung a cappela in the green room before shows and the sports teams would sing it before big games. If nothing else, this is Mercyhurst’s tradition, the truly awesome prayer that will stick with its grads forever.