The Corpus Christi Roman Catholic parish rededicated one of its school buildings at 120 Searing Ave. during a mass in the building’s gym last Sunday where Rev. Malcolm Burns presided.
The gym was filled with parishioners attending the mass that was also held to give thanks to the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville who had taught at the Corpus Christi elementary school until it was shuttered in 2010. The building’s gym remains in use for parish children who participate in the CYO basketball program there and the classrooms are used for religious education classes three times a week.
“We gather to rededicate this building today and to honor the love and truth of the nuns who taught here,” Father Malcolm said during the mass.
The parish, burdened with $400,000 in debt, finalized a deal to sell the former school’s vacant second building, adjacent to the building still in use, to Mill Creek Residential Trust early last year. That building is about to be demolished to make way for a 192-unit apartment complex Mill Creek plans to construct on the site.
During the mass, Burns blessed the building, sprinkling the walls of the gym with holy water.
“What a foundation we received here at Corpus Christi School, the foundation of faith and education,” Deacon Brian Mannix, who graduated from Corpus Christi in 1969, told parishioners during mass. “We became a family.”
Sister Laura Helbig, principal of the Corpus Christi School from 1987 to 2001, recalled the school was established in 1922, with the current building opened in 1954. She said she was attending the mass to represent all of the nuns who taught there over the years. Several of them were also in attendance.
“Where one of us is, all of us are,” Helbig said. “We gave you our all, but you have given us more.”
After mass, she said her most vivid memory as principal was “seeing the children gaining more confidence in who they wanted to be,” as they learned the Catholic values they would take with them.
Susan Anaischik, Corpus Christi’s director of religious education, told parishioners, “We are always heartened when graduates of our religious education program return as ministers, teachers and catechists.”
After blessing the gym, Burns invited students in the religious education program to join him on the stage where the altar was set up.
“It’s about you,” he told them, adding, “It’s about the people of Christ who build up the body of the church.”
At one point, he brought a basketball out from under the altar, and spun it on one finger as he recalled the lessons he learned playing in CYO games when he was in elementary school.
“Basketball taught me about life,” he said. “It taught me we were all with God and we were all one.”
After mass, two Corpus Christi graduates from different eras, spoke about their school experiences.
Al Thiem, 87, a member of the class of 1944, recalled winning a statue of the Madonna at a school carnival by correctly guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar.
In later years, he taught religious education classes at the school and served as a Eucharistic minister.
Kirsten Cunha, a member of the last eighth grade class graduated in 2010, was an altar server during Sunday’s mass. She is currently a pre-med student at Sacred Heart University.
“It was incredible. It was such a family environment,” she said of her years at the Corpus Christi School. “Everyone knew everyone.”