Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Cathedral Prep Marks 100 Years of Greatness


When the Salve Regina was intoned last Saturday evening at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in Prospect Heights, about 75 men picked up the chant and didn’t miss a beat for the rest of the hymn. This was their school song, the unofficial anthem of Cathedral Prep, which is marking the 100th anniversary of its establishment in 1914.

These alumni had come for the opening Mass for the school’s centennial celebration. The original school was located only two blocks away, at 555 Washington Ave., corner of Atlantic Avenue, where they had sung these notes so many times before at school Masses and assemblies in the old gym.

As a member of the Class of 1965, I was happy to be among a small contingent of graduates who visited the campus prior to the liturgy. Now the home of Cathedral Condominums, the site is a symbol of the rejuvenation of Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding areas. There are more than 50 apartments there. Where once we paid $150 a year for tuition, there is a waiting list for condos that sell for about $400,000.

Upon entering the complex, we noticed the security desk that sits in front of the niche that housed the oversized statue of Mary the Immaculate Conception that greeted students each morning. We stared in awe at the majesty of the main staircase that led us to classrooms and now ushers residents to the homes. We stood in the inner courtyard and pointed to the handball court, the outdoor basketball court and the location of home plate for so many whiffle ball games.

A tenant came by, said hello, and told us that his mother was so happy that he lived in an “old monastery.” From his description of where his apartment is located, we recognized it as the old science lab on the third floor.

Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, ’66, looked around in wonder. No doubt he was trying to recall the office of The Spire, the school newspaper, where he was my first editor.

Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, ’65, was amazed as he pointed to where the cafeteria was located. We remembered Agnes the cook, who deep fried the potatoes and cooked the frankfurters in boiling water.

Back at the Co-Cathedral, we gathered for the liturgy. The main celebrants were the two bishops who are graduates of Cathedral as well as Father Joe Fonti, Class of ’84 and the current rector and president. He pointed out that the chalice being used belonged to the late Auxiliary Bishop Charles R. Mulrooney, ’22, the first Cathedral graduate to become its rector-principal.

Also on the altar were former rector, Msgr. John Casey, ’48; current faculty members Fathers James Kuroly, ’98, and James Rodriguez; and alumni Fathers John Amann, ’60, Joseph Holcomb, ’71, and Kevin Sweeney, ’88. Assisting at the altar was Deacon James Noble, ’69.

After Mass, a hearty buffet dinner was served in the undercroft of the Co-Cathedral, once the lower church where many class Masses had been celebrated. Men sat around reminiscing about their days in Cathedral.

Father Fonti spoke about the new mission of Cathedral Prep and Seminary, that is now located in Elmhurst. He said that while there is a special track for boys considering priesthood as a vocation, the school is open to all young men to help them discern their roles in the Church and in life.

He read a letter from Msgr. Eugene Feldhaus, who probably taught English to almost everyone in the room, apologizing for not being able to be present.

Father Fonti emphasized that while some things had changed, Cathedral would always remain a school that strives to produce men of greatness. Looking around the room, he pointed to priests and laymen alike who had received their vision of what it means to be a Church during their high school days at Cathedral Prep.

Someone thanked Gene Nebel, ’62, for being present. He said, “I had to be here. This place meant so much to me.”

The 100th birthday party continues with a centennial event at the Elmhurst school in the spring along with the annual Immaculata Awards Dinner, which will be held in May at the school in honor of all past faculty members. The celebration concludes Oct. 4, 2015 at a gala dinner at Gargiulo’s, Coney Island.

More information on all festivities can be obtained by contacting Tim McCleary, director of alumni affairs, 718-592-6800, ext. 137 or at alumni@cathedralprep.org.