Northeast Times

Our Lady of Ransom says farewell

— Our Lady of Ransom School, which opened in 1956, held a Mass and a farewell re­cep­tion.

On Sunday, Our Lady of Ransom held a Mass and re­cep­tion to mark the clos­ing of the par­ish school, which opened in 1956. The re­cep­tion took place in the aud­it­or­i­um, where stu­dents, alumni, fac­ulty and oth­ers en­joyed re­fresh­ments, looked at old pic­tures and took a fi­nal tour of the school. (Tom War­ing)

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Katie Ort­iz at­ten­ded Sol­is-Co­hen Ele­ment­ary School from kinder­garten through sixth grade be­fore trans­fer­ring to Our Lady of Ransom.

Katie fit right in with her new class­mates and oth­ers.

“They were very nice, friendly people,” she said.

In Septem­ber, Katie will be on the move again, as Our Lady of Ransom will close for good next week.

An Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia blue rib­bon com­mis­sion re­com­men­ded in Janu­ary that Our Lady of Ransom, at Roosevelt Boulevard and Knorr Street in Castor Gar­dens, close be­cause of dwind­ling en­roll­ment. The stu­dents were be­ing dir­ec­ted to Re­sur­rec­tion of Our Lord, in Rhawn­hurst.

Re­sur­rec­tion ac­cep­ted the mer­ger, but Our Lady of Ransom ap­pealed. The school held a rally to state its case, and par­ish and school ad­min­is­tra­tion met with an ap­peals com­mit­tee, but there wer­en’t enough births and bap­tisms to guar­an­tee that en­roll­ment would hold steady. The par­ish tried to keep tu­ition low to boost en­roll­ment, but it had a neg­li­gible ef­fect.

In the end, Arch­bish­op Charles J. Chaput gran­ted 18 of the 24 ele­ment­ary school ap­peals, but Our Lady of Ransom was one of the six that will see its doors close for good on June 15.

The pu­pils will miss their school.

“All the stu­dents are nice, and we have fun activ­it­ies to do,” said sev­enth-grader Chris Re­is.

Chris, Katie and oth­er stu­dents at­ten­ded a Mass of Thanks­giv­ing on Sunday to hon­or a school that opened in 1956 and is re­ferred to by some as the “Beacon on the Boulevard.”

Af­ter­ward, guests were in­vited to tour the school and at­tend a re­cep­tion in the aud­it­or­i­um that fea­tured old school pic­tures, soft pret­zels, ba­gels, dough­nuts, cook­ies, pastries and drinks. Com­mem­or­ative T-shirts were for sale.

The stu­dents proudly wore their uni­forms, gradu­ation and con­firm­a­tion gowns and Holy Com­mu­nion dresses and suits.

They’ll leave with fond memor­ies.

“The teach­ers help us pass every grade, grow up to be smart kids and suc­ceed in life,” said sev­enth-grader Al­exa Wo­j­ciechow­ski.

“The teach­ers, stu­dents and es­pe­cially the prin­cip­al (Grace E. McGuirl) are so nice,” said Bi­anca Bis­sey.

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Our Lady of Ransom stu­dents will make the trek to Re­sur­rec­tion, at Castor and Shelmire av­en­ues, next school year. Two buses will make the round trip each day.

The 21 sev­enth-graders are all in one classroom at Our Lady of Ransom. There will be three eighth-grade classrooms at Re­sur­rec­tion.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to it, but we’re nervous be­cause we’ll all be split up,” Al­exa said.

The sev­enth-graders might have it the toughest be­cause they spent the most time at Our Lady of Ransom.

“It’s a new school. We have to start all over,” Chris said. “We’ve been here since kinder­garten, and we won’t be able to gradu­ate from our own grade school,” Bi­anca said.

The Rev. Thomas M. Sodano, pa­ro­chi­al ad­min­is­trat­or at Our Lady of Ransom, said the stu­dents seemed to fit in well dur­ing an open house vis­it to Re­sur­rec­tion.

The young­sters will see some fa­mil­i­ar, friendly faces, as eight of their teach­ers have been hired at the new Re­sur­rec­tion Re­gion­al Cath­ol­ic School.

“Over­all, the fac­ulty is very happy with the way it turned out,” Sodano said.

Re­sur­rec­tion prin­cip­al Joan Stulz will re­main in place at the new school.

McGuirl is re­tir­ing after nine years at Our Lady of Ransom and 39½ years of Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion. She was prin­cip­al of Ma­ter Dol­orosa, a Frank­ford ele­ment­ary school that closed in 2003.

While the day was billed as a way for alumni and oth­er par­ish friends to say good­bye to the school, the fo­cus was largely on McGuirl. She was feted on the al­tar by the Rev. Ed­ward Rauch in his homily and later by kinder­garten teach­er Mary Toczylowski.

The con­greg­ants gave McGuirl a stand­ing ova­tion and bowed to her for a job well done, then watched a slide show at the re­cep­tion that chron­icled her nine years at the school.

Though the school will close, the church will re­main open. The school aud­it­or­i­um will con­tin­ue to be the site of in­door soc­cer games, par­ish so­cials, seni­or cit­izen meet­ings and the par­ish re­li­gious edu­ca­tion pro­gram (PREP).

Par­ents have been will­ing and act­ive vo­lun­teers over the years.

“It’s a fam­ily here,” said Rudy Bittner, whose son and daugh­ter gradu­ated from the school. “The kids grew up to­geth­er. We still have our church and youth group.”

Eileen Car­roll, a 1966 gradu­ate, has lived her whole life on Kindred Street and re­mains a pa­rish­ion­er. When she at­ten­ded Our Lady of Ransom, there were 76 stu­dents and one nun in her classroom.

“Times have changed,” she said. “I’m sorry to see the school close. It put out a lot of good gradu­ates. The ded­ic­a­tion of the IHM nuns and the teach­ers pulled us through. The memor­ies are here.”

As the fi­nal school year winds down, the stu­dents will re­mem­ber their fi­nal Spir­it Day and cher­ish their last few days to­geth­er.

“We’ll spend the last week hanging out with each oth­er and do­ing fun things,” Chris said. ••

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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