Archdiocese reaches out to graduating Gibbons students

Pin with Gibbons insignia serves as reminder

May 06, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Justin Fratantuono is finishing his senior year at Calvert Hall College High School with academic and athletic honors and an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. But he will always consider himself a "Gibbons man."

He and about 70 other former students of the now-closed Cardinal Gibbons High School will walk across the stage at many different schools this spring while holding onto fond memories of the imposing stone Southwest Baltimore building they call their alma mater.

"I missed Gibbons a lot this year, especially its strong sense of brotherhood and family," said Fratantuono, who maintained a 4.0 grade-point average and is captain of the Cardinals' baseball team. "I was welcomed at Calvert Hall and I respect it, but I felt like I lost my school family."

Sympathetic to such dual allegiances, Barbara McGraw Edmondson, superintendent of Catholic schools, has written her congratulations to the graduating students and given each a pin with the Gibbons insignia.

She wrote, "To share a small token of our continued best wishes for you as you complete your high school education. Completing your final year in a new school was a difficult and unwelcome challenge for many, I realize. I hope this pin, emblazoned with the name of Cardinal Gibbons and designed for wearing with your new school's graduation attire, will help you remember your former school at graduation exercises later this spring."

Blaming rising costs and declining enrollments, the archdiocese closed a dozen elementaries and Gibbons last year. The high school's parents, faculty, alumni and students railed against the closing and tried unsuccessfully to purchase the buildings from the archdiocese. Despite the archdiocese's offers to continue scholarships and provide assistance with transfers, many families felt betrayed by the decision and did not enroll their sons in the Catholic school system last fall.

"It has been well over a year, but it still bothers me that the building is vacant and has been for the entire school year," said Chris Schene, whose son, Greg, will graduate from Lansdowne High School. "My son does not need a pin to help him remember Cardinal Gibbons."

Edmondson wrote that the pin "is a very small gesture and one that undoubtedly cannot replace the experience of graduating at Cardinal Gibbons. Nonetheless, I pray you will accept it with the assurance of our continued prayers for you and your fellow Gibbons alumni."

Joe Klima, the only member of his extended family who will not graduate from Gibbons, said the letter is a nice gesture, and he will wear the pin when he graduates from Archbishop Spalding.

Klima, who plans to attend Towson University, also said he doesn't need a pin to remind him of the school. "I will always have those memories with me."

He adjusted to his new environment, stayed on the honor roll and captained the ice hockey team at the coed school in Severn. The significant increase in tuition meant overtime for his parents, he said. The coed Spalding offered one major advantage over the all-male Gibbons.

"Girls were awesome and a great change of scenery," he said.

Keaton Sanders transferred to McDonogh and joined the football team.

"McDonogh students called me before I even stepped in the door," he said. "I think I have finally gotten over Gibbons' closing. I consider myself a Gibbons-McDonogh guy."

He feels grateful for the superintendent's note, which he called "a nice touch." But it does not rise to a keepsake, like the many other mementos from his first three years of high school.

"I will wear the pin at graduation, and around my neck, I will wear the wooden cross Gibbons gave me freshman year there," said Sanders, who is headed to Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa.

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