Up Front and Personal

Saint Athanasius’ 50th Anniversary Reunion

By Deacon Bruno Schettini

When you’re an eighth-grader with just about all of your life ahead of you, wringing all the enjoyment you can out of grammar school life, you perhaps attempt to excel at sports, fantasize or theorize about what may await you once you transition to high school, and, of course, you make friends.

Chances are, however, that you don’t dwell on whether the friends you make — and perhaps even cherish — as an eighth-grader will still know or even recognize you 50 years later. Such is the stuff class reunions — like the reunion of the Saint Athanasius Catholic Academy’s Class of 1972 — are made of. 

It was a wonderful evening, made possible by a handful of my classmates initiating and following through on an effort to bring us together nearly 50 years after we graduated from the eighth grade. We were each given an ID badge with our graduation picture and name as we arrived at the 7 p.m. reception. For most of us who had earlier attended the 5:30 p.m. Sunday Vigil Mass, we already recognized each other. Msgr. David Cassato introduced me as the assisting deacon, so everyone who was at Mass already knew who I was without having to ask.

But we sometimes had to ask each other “and you are?” Which was usually followed by the answer “I am …” This answer reminds me that we are truly made in the image and likeness of God, whose name (which He had spoken to Moses) is translated into English: “I am.”

Mass at St. Athanasius Church began an evening of people seeing each other for the first time in 10, 25, or 50 years. As I looked at the badges — or as my friends would respond to the question: “And you are?” — memories of our times together were unlocked.

At Mass, we recognized 14 of our classmates who have gone to their rest before us. Mentioning their names individually brought back memories of the times we were together. The word “recognize” can mean “to become aware of again.” As our deceased classmates are no longer visible, our faith teaches us that their souls are still alive, just separated from their bodies. Simply listening to their names made us all recognize them.

None of us looks like we did in our graduation picture. Thankfully, we were no longer wearing COVID-necessitated masks, and the eyes and the smile made my heart say: “I recognize you.” 

Some 64 years ago, my parents found out another child would be born to them in seven months. A few days after I was born, my great grandmother was able to hold me, and she remarked how much I looked like the newly instituted Pope John XXIII with my bald head and chubby cheeks. I don’t think I ever looked like any pope since then.

We all have changed over the years, but we recognized each person at our reunion. I am grateful that the years, filled with joys and trials, smiles and wounds, have changed our appearance but not our love for each other.

It was so edifying to see so many start the celebration at Mass where they had recognized Our Lord represented to us by Msgr. Cassato at the consecration under the appearance of bread and wine.

At the end of Mass, Cathy Varacallo presented Msgr. Cassato with a needlepoint of an icon of our patron, Saint Athanasius, made by another classmate, Patrice Crowley. He will display it at Saint Athanasius Catholic Academy. Interestingly, Msgr. Cassato was ordained 50 years ago while we were graduating from Saint Athanasius. We are grateful that he has managed to help our alma mater thrive through some challenging times.

Even as soon as one day after the reunion, many of us expressed by email that we already missed being with each other. On Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration, Saint Peter told Jesus, “It is good, Lord, to be here,” and he even wanted to build a permanent structure, implying he didn’t want to leave. It was good to be with each other, and the time was indeed too short.

But we are asked to bring the love He has shared with us to the world, as we are also asked to recognize Our Lord in those who need us. I look forward to more reunions. May we all finally be reunited in eternal joy at the banquet Our Heavenly Father has prepared for us.

Deacon Bruno Schettini, MD, (MBA) is a graduate of St Athanasius School’s class of 1972 (and a graduate of Xaverian High School class of 1976). He serves the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, as a permanent deacon assigned to St. Joseph the Worker in Orefield. He is a retired internal medicine physician and currently serves as the state director of the Catholic Medical Association in Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Kathy live in Allentown and are the parents of three adult sons.