October 29, 2017

Heritage night at St. Michael’s Academy honors past and looks to future

Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

St. Michael’s Academy in Springfield hosts Heritage School Celebration, celebrating the history of Catholic education in the city.


SPRINGFIELD – It was an evening to walk down memory lane at St. Michael’s Academy in Springfield, Saturday, Oct. 28, as the school held a Heritage School Celebration, honoring the history of Catholic education in the city. The evening included food, live and silent auctions, and a chance to view memorabilia from the 14 original Catholic schools in Springfield.

 “She was a wonderful nun. She had a big, white collar in front of her. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’ When my mom picked me up, I said, ‘Do you know what? They don’t have any feet.’ The black skirt went all the way to the floor,” recalled Madeline (Quillici) Flanagan, of her first day of school at Cathedral Grammar School in Springfield, in the 1940s.

St. Michael’s Academy opened in September 2009, when the Springfield parishes of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Holy Cross, Holy Name, and Our Lady of Hope merged their elementary schools into St. Michael’s Academy.

Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph M. Andrea Ciszewski, superintendent of schools, meets with Madeline Flanagan of Wilbraham. Flanagan attended the former Cathedral Grammar School in Springfield.

Going back about 70 years, Flanagan has many fond memories of Cathedral Grammar School. She later went to Commerce High School and had a successful career in business. Her husband, Frank, attended Holy Name School in Springfield and Cathedral High School.

“All of my nieces and nephews, they all went to Cathedral High School. It was a great education. It was very nice. It was wonderful, really. I think it makes you well equipped to get out into the working world,” added Flanagan, who said she had been looking forward to this evening for a long time.

Although Flanagan did not meet any alumni that graduated with her as she had hoped, she still was very glad to meet Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph, M. Andrea Ciszewski, superintendent of schools.

Tables bordering the gym wall displayed memorabilia from the original schools, with some items dating back to 1900.

“This is our first signature event. We wanted to take the opportunity to honor our heritage, to celebrate our present students in our school today, and to shape the future. We want to ensure that there is a strong, Catholic education available for students in the future,” said Phyllis Lund, director of advancement for the school.

“Tonight, we do have a silent auction. We also have a wine wall and a craft beer basket raffle. We will raise the paddle after dinner. There will be an opportunity to pledge and make a donation to St. Michael’s Academy for a specific amount,” said Lund.

Middle school students volunteered to serve as wait staff and spotters for the event. Eighth-grader Morgan Collins has had a Catholic education since preschool.

“This is like a big family. Whatever people donate will help us get closer and to excel more,” said Collins. She added that she enjoys dance and soccer and that her favorite subjects are art and math.

Joel Ramos, also an eighth-grader, said he’s proud of his Catholic education.

“What I like about the school is the education. They really treat you well. They teach you everything you need to know for high school. I feel protected here and I would recommend this school to anyone,” said Ramos, who plans to attend Pope Francis High School next fall.

In addition to alumni, many clergy members, past and present faculty, families of current students, and city officials, including Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, attended the event.