This Saturday evening, I will gather with my high school classmates as we mark the 50th anniversary of our graduation. A few weeks from now, I will attend my son’s high school graduation, 50 years after my own.
Fifty years seems like such a long time, but it doesn’t really feel like that. I used to think that golden jubilarians were old guys. Now, I have a different perspective.
There are huge differences between the high school I attended and my son’s high school experience. The first, of course, is the tuition. When I went to Cathedral Prep in the early 1960s, tuition was set at $150 per year. Compare that to the more than $13,000 a year fee at my son’s school.
One big difference is that lay teachers have to be paid. At Cathedral, every teacher was a diocesan priest, with the exception of gym, so I’m sure those stipends weren’t coming out of tuition.
There’s no comparison between education of then and now. It’s like talking oranges and apples. Techniques have changed. Methods are new. Courses are not the same. Not saying better or worse, just noting two distinct eras.
When I attended Cathedral Prep, it was a six-year program that included the first two years of college in the building at Washington and Atlantic Aves. (Now a condominium complex.) For some reason, I’m still not sure why, we went to school on Saturday and had Thursday as a free day.
My class was the last one to complete the six-year schema. Cathedral College, Douglaston, was built and opened in 1967 and the system was changed to the traditional four-year high school and four-year college.
In high school, we received a classical education that contained four years of Latin, but also studied two years of French and one year of Spanish. In the college, we were introduced to Greek and philosophy.
Also while I was in Brooklyn Cathedral, the Cathedral, Elmhurst, branch was built. My class was split after sophomore year, with the Queens residents going to the new building. But it was considered to be one school, one varsity basketball team, one graduation, etc. That lasted a few years until the reality of two schools set in.
Cathedral Prep was the minor seminary and the philosophy of the time was that every student was supposed to be on the road to priesthood, otherwise he should not be there.
The academics were demanding. I can remember doing four hours of homework every night just to get by. I was no scholar but it was quite an achievement just to make it through Cathedral. Those who didn’t do well were dismissed. Each fall when we returned to class, we would look around to see who had survived.
There were 120 students in my freshman class. Of them, about 10 percent were ordained priests and several serve in the diocese to this day. While the great majority did not become priests, no one I know has ever regretted attending Cathedral.
Some of our high school professors still live in Brooklyn and Queens. I think of Msgrs. John Casey, James Hunt, Conrad Dietz, Vincent Keane, Howard Basler, William Flood, George Deas and Father Charles Matonti. They continue to be our heroes and are spoken of in reverential terms.
Some members of the class have gone to their heavenly rewards. Others live out of state which will not allow their attendance this weekend.
When we get together, we catch up on things, but we still talk about the way it was 50 years ago. We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to have experienced Cathedral.