One day after the passing of St. Joseph H.S.’ first lay-principal since the school was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph more than 100 years ago, a solemn memorial service was held for Caroline Latham at the Oratory Church of St. Boniface in Downtown Brooklyn, Feb. 27.
Students and faculty at the all-girls school, members of its school board and former principal Sister Joan Gallagher, CSJ, attended the prayer service.
“I think we’re all still in shock,” said Sister Joan, who served for 10 years as principal of the Downtown Brooklyn school until 2016.
“As the days pass on, the reality will certainly set in. But this is our faith that even though the person does not walk this earth with us, we carry them in our hearts.”
The sister recalled fond memories of her final years at the school and shared how she was confident in Latham’s capabilities to carry the torch by helping the young women achieve the highest goals set before them through a solid education. She said Latham’s educational foundation was rooted in the sisters’ traditions since her days as a student at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates, where Latham attended and later served on the board.
“For us as a congregation and for all those who have been in our spot – to have a student get an education in our tradition and then become an education leader in our tradition, it’s heartening and humbling,” added Sister Joan. “I thought she would stay longer than that, but I do trust that her spirit joins with all the Sisters of St. Joseph who served there.”
Somber young faces filled the pews as the students entered the church – a stark contrast to when they usually frequent St. Boniface throughout the year for events like the Mass for the new school year or for their Women’s Professional Day event.
Freshman Armani Meza attended the service and said the late-principal’s family were close family friends.
Carrying Her Legacy
“I want to carry on her legacy by being the type of person that she was – being kind, patient, helpful, down-to-earth and always open to help others,” said Meza.
Yet, while the tone of the service was one of mourning and loss, it was still a celebration for the life of an educator that embodied enthusiastic energy for her students and staff, charity and sacrifice that was deeply rooted in a love for her faith, family and mathematics.
Latham earned her master’s degree in Math Leadership from Bank Street College of Education, Manhattan.Before coming to St. Joseph H.S., Latham was the mathematics department chairperson at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and St. Agnes Boys School, both in Manhattan. She also taught at the Hewitt School, the American School in Japan, Bank Street College of Education and Cornell University’s Downstate Campus.
The 52-year-old resident of Rockville Centre, L.I. had a fondness for studying topics that seek and use patterns to formulate new conclusions and resolve the truth by reasoning through numbers. Her systematic method of gaining insight through the use of logic, calculations, space and change benefitted her role as the school’s leaders for the nearly three years that she served there.
Father Joel Warden, c.o., was the homilist for the memorial service. Before Latham started her role in 2016, the pastor recalled the time when he first met her and found out her specialty was mathematics. Father Warden said he was filled with a “deep seated shame and embarrassment because he wasn’t good at math.”
“She said ‘that’s ok, I’m sure there’s tons of things that you know an awful lot more about than I do. Who says you have to learn everything anyways?’”
It was in that moment that he said his shame disappeared.
“I felt, ‘well, here’s my equal. I’m the pastor of the parish and she’s the principal of the high school and off we go.’”
As the news of the sudden passing of the late-principal reached 2018 St. Joseph H.S. graduate Hannah Pierre-Louis, she took to social media to express her grief.
“You were the angel that the class of 2018 needed,” Pierre wrote. “You were our biggest supporter and we can’t thank you enough for not giving up on us.”
The Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre, March 1 and Msgr. William E. Koenig, rector, was the celebrant. President of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Helen Kearney, CSJ, attended the Mass.
Sister Helen remembered when she met Latham at the end of her interview process and asked her why she decided to leave her position at the Convent of the Sacred Heart.
“Her answer to me was it was her time to give back to the congregation – and that is what she lived for – for those girls and for the faculty and staff,” said Sister Helen.
“Every day she gave her all and she modeled that idea of giving for the sake of others. She loved to dance and that reminds me of joy in life. She had that joy in life in her family and her profession.”
Also see: https://thetablet.org/caroline-latham/