For me, Spirit Week sums up my comfortability at Southeast Catholic/Bishop Neumann High School (Sept. 1953 to June, 1957). Spirit Week began the Monday of Thanksgiving Week. The school schedule was adjusted to enable staff and students to celebrate the holiday more personally, and to get ready for the annual South Philly football classic between Southeast Catholic/Neumann and Southern High School, the neighborhood public high school. Activities like a pep rally, seniors vs faculty basketball game, and special homeroom events helped put us in a friendly and competitive mood. Later Thursday evening occurred the annual Turkey Trot Dance in our school gym, to which Southern’s football players were welcomed to attend.
Spirit Week, overall, helped me appreciate the valuable and enriching atmosphere I experienced at Neumann, a Catholic School where I felt happy, safe, and cared for, as well as a place to learn basic and wholesome values for living and earning a living. I felt we received a solid education in academic preparations for a someday professional career of choice. Engagement between staff and students was good; our teachers, counselors, and administrators were both caring and competent. This daily interaction in the classroom and outside, be it on the athletic or in the cafeteria, etc., reinforced in me the primary reason I was in a Catholic school, namely, to know , love and to serve God better, especially by relating to others, be they family, friends, or mere acquaintances, in the way God was asking me to do in Imitation of Jesus Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son. Daily prayer and frequent Mass at school helped keep these goals in mind and plant seeds of spiritual growth, laying the foundation in me for a vocation to the Catholic priesthood.
Participation in extra-curricular activities, e.g. J.V. & Varsity Football, Student Council (VP my senior year), as well as Saturday Night Dances in the gym helped broaden my perspective of education: that it’s meant to develop the whole person, and to refine in me skills of self -confidence along with respect for my peers and all persons. Basically a shy person and one prone to be a loner, high school helped me become more assertive and engaging; new friends were made from neighborhoods outside my immediate one (10th/11th- Catherine/Fitzwater). Football, in particular, helped me mature in standing up for myself when I felt threatened or put upon.
Overall, the faculty and school staff conducted themselves both professionally and hospitably. I felt at home when I needed to engage teachers or counselors/coaches for assistance; they were kind and understanding in their attention to me & my needs. Coach Paul Bartolomeo, especially, and Assistant Coach Bob Matthews were men, among many, whom I admired and looked up to. They, along with other faculty and staff treated me with respect and sincerity.
In conclusion, may I say that my four years at Southeast Catholic/Bishop Neumann laid the seeds for my eventual entrance into the Consecrated Life and pending ordination to the priesthood. The Norbertine Fathers & Brothers there were caring and welcoming: they themselves seemed comfortable with and cooperative with each other. I would say that should I choose the priesthood, I would choose their community of priests.
Catholic high school represented for me a safe environment of hospitality and learning to aid Catholic (and non-Catholic) teenagers in their lifelong quest to feel good in & about life and to make it into eternal life after death. I was very fortunate to have had this good experience, for which I am deeply grateful. I pray that present students of Neumann Goretti will see their present-day experience of schooling in Catholic school as a blessing from God and tremendous gift made possible by many benefactors of Catholic education, their parents and school staff especially. Thanksgiving is the time to be grateful for the many blessings God has endowed us with. Thank you, family, church, and nation for enabling the favor of a Catholic educational Experience to exist and to continue.
(Rev.) Maurice C. Avicolli, O. Praem. (1957, Bishop Neumann High School)