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September 12, 2017

St. Mary Academy marks 50th year with brick walkway dedication

REGIONAL
Story and photos by Kathleen Harrington

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Joan MacDonald, principal of St. Mary Academy, and Father C.J. Waitekus, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Longmeadow, perform the ribbon-cutting for the dedication of the school’s 50th anniversary commemorative brick walkway.

 

LONGMEADOW – Celebrating 50 years of Catholic school education, St. Mary Academy in Longmeadow officially opened the 2017-2018 academic year with Mass on Monday, Sept. 11. The day also was dedicated to commemorating the brick walkway outside the school. Etched with tributes, the pavers reflect upon the school’s rich history. The youngest Catholic school in the Diocese of Springfield, the academy has an enrollment of 192 students in its pre-kindergarten-eighth grade program this year, with an average class size of 20.

While the academic year began on Aug. 30th, the first Mass was scheduled for Sept. 11 because Father C.J. Waitekus, pastor of St. Mary Parish was away.

Just before 9 a.m., the children quietly filed into the church accompanied by their teachers, among them Mary Leclair, a popular kindergarten educator who is celebrating her 30th consecutive year at St. Mary’s.

“Teaching is a beautiful and amazing vocation,” Father Waitekus told the students. “Imagine all the lives she (Leclair) has touched in her 30 years.” According to Joan MacDonald, principal of the school, Leclair has taught more than 600 students in her time at the school.  

After presenting Leclair with a bouquet of red roses and handmade cards from all the students, a group shared their favorite memories of their kindergarten teacher.

Father Waitekus called the teachers and faculty forward to bless them. “We ask God to lead us into a faith-filled year.”

Pictured are St. Mary Academy supporters (left to right) Ruth Conway and Arthur and Polly Logan.

Before returning to their classrooms, the students gathered outside the school to dedicate the brick walkway. Joining the students were former students, parents and patrons of the brick fundraiser. “The monies raised supports tuition assistance for students,” explained MacDonald She read the inscriptions on the 144 bricks, noting some are dedicated to the first students of the school.

Among the guests were Arthur and Polly Logan, whose 10 children attended St. Mary Academy, and Ruth Conway, who said five of her children attended the school. The two families say all of their children continued on to Cathedral High School.

“We were the first presidents of the parents association at St. Mary’s,” said Arthur Logan. Polly Logan spent 26 years working for the school, including serving as its first nurse. The couple also started the lunch program.

According to Polly, who is a member of the diocesan school board, Catholic education remains important today. “It’s the foundation of the rest of a child’s life,” she said. “I think children should begin younger, not later.” The Logans’ children have gone on to successful professional lives in medical fields, genetic research, business, and social work.

The Catholic educational tradition continued with the Logan grandchildren. “My son in Westfield sent his children to St. Mary’s Parish School,” said Mrs. Logan.

MacDonald said St. Mary Academy is family.

“Today was important because it brought our first students and our future graduates together,” she said. “We want to continue the legacy of Catholic education.”