"To serve the cause of America in the role of a teacher is a high calling and a serious responsibility" were the words of Reverend Francis E. Moriarty, SSE in 1952 at the dedication of the new high school in Dunkirk. He further stated, "To impart the fullness of truth is a sacred trust and to promote the honor of God and the sanctification of souls through education demands supreme human effort, unstinting personal devotion, and an abundant measure of generosity."
Where were these words spoken? Of course, no other place than at the dedication of Cardinal Mindszenty High School where Moriarty was the first principal. Whereas the last two previous columns have been devoted to Cardinal Mindszenty the man, a natural follow-up of local interest is about the school. Persecuted, tortured and imprisoned for standing up for rights under the Nazi and Marxist Communists with great courage and faith, it was an honor to have a school in his name in the local area. Considering what Mindszenty the man embodied, it is most certainly a school that never should have closed.
The "Cardinal Mindszenty High School Dedication - 1952" booklet is a wonderful walk down memory lane. A two-page spread with a photo of the new school shows that it was built by Siegfried Construction Co., Inc. They stated that the company was "proud of its part in making this fine structure a living tribute to the name of Cardinal Mindszenty. The Cardinal, a famous victim of political persecution, would be happy to see this completely modern school." The page continues to describe how the new school fills a great need in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area, was built to accommodate more than 500 boys with a completely equipped library, cafeteria, laboratories, gymnasium, showers and lockers. Built of brick with a steel frame, the three-story structure is described as having oil heat and trimmed with Indiana limestone.
Cardinal Mindszenty High School, Dunkirk.
A brief history in the dedication booklet is a reminder of how the school began. In fact, the booklet calls it a "pre-history." In 1950, the Diocese of Buffalo invited the Society of Saint Edmund to "undertake the direction" of a new Catholic school for boys in Dunkirk, New York. This society, originally from France and settling in Vermont in the early 1900s, was known for teaching in schools and colleges. With Mindszenty the school, its stated purpose "unto eternity" was "the promotion of God's honor and glory and the advancement of America's welfare through the Christian education of young men." Consequently, the work began. Picture it if you can. In early June of that year, two Edmundite priests traveled to Dunkirk to view prospective property, interview prospective students, and visit Catholic elementary schools in the area. From there, the work continued.
An entry in the "Chronicle" of St. Edmund, dated 10 July 1950, had recorded some details. In part, it stated that The Most Reverend Francis E. Moriarty, SSE, newly appointed principal, and the Reverend Robert J. Sheehey, SSE, vice principal, left St. Michael's College, Winooski Park, Vermont, to undertake the establishment of Cardinal Mindszenty High School in the city of Dunkirk, New York, Diocese of Buffalo. Furthermore, on the feast of Saint Ann, July 26, the first registration was held in the temporary school building, the former Gross estate on Central Avenue. Twenty-six students matriculated on that day.
Considering this grand occasion was not that long ago, some other "firsts" of the school are interesting, particularly family names from the area:
The new school officially opened for the scholastic year in 1950-1951 on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1950. Forty students made up the pioneer Class of '54.
The first student to enroll was Gerald Seybold whose home parish was St. Joseph's in Fredonia.
Paul Schrantz was elected the first class president.
Robert Hines was the first student to withdraw, reluctantly transferring his "allegiance" to Bishop Duffy High School in Niagara Falls due to a family move.
The first day off was Columbus Day. The school paper, The Herald, noted that students hoped to see more of such days in the future.
The first casualty was Ronnie Rusch, who broke his collar bone in an after-school touch football game.
On Nov. 16, 1950, on the feast of St. Edmund of Canterbury and the patron of the religious faculty, a high Mass was celebrated for the first time in the house at 715 Central Ave. in the presence of the entire faculty and student body.
The Mother's Club was established on Feb. 22, 1951 with Florian Wlodarek as president, and the Men's Club two months later with Stephen Sekula as president.
On the afternoon of Sept. 16, 1951 in the presence of a large crown, Monsignor Michael Helminiak, pastor of St. Hyacinth's parish in Dunkirk, presided at the blessing of the cornerstone of the new building. The Seminary Choir of Holy Cross provided music for the occasion. Then, on Aug. 24, 1952, Cardinal Mindszenty High School was dedicated. Many wonderful people passed through its doors over the years and are echoes from the past that remind us of what once was; that Cardinal Mindszenty was a great man and a great school. Both are still remembered and missed today.
In an effort to honor and remember the sacrifices made by Mindszenty, a yearly scholarship in his name would be appropriate and appreciated by young men who would like to attend Saint Francis High School. Located in the Buffalo area, a scholarship of $2,000 would only require 20 people to donate $200 on any given year. Anyone interested in such a worthy cause, particularly graduates of Cardinal Mindszenty High School, may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make it a good week and think, Mary and Rosamond