Looking back with others who were there almost always is a source of laughter. The hardships, the annoyances and the trials somehow lose their bitterness and become instead sweet nostalgia. What was once regarded as almost unbearable now is worn as a badge of honor. We suffered and survived, and we are proud. We wouldn’t want to return to those days, but we are now glad we lived through them. We see that in some way that what we had to go through has made us better and, perhaps, has made things better for those who have come after us.
There are 34 years of Seton history and 33 years of Seton graduates. There are two opposite ways that those years can lose their full significance. Newer alumni and current students may be unaware of the school’s history: rented classrooms; the “old building” that stood where a parking lot is now; the early teachers, coaches, office staff and parents who could look beyond appearance and see a purpose; the students — some who drove from out-of-state each day, some who boarded from out-of-state and some whose families moved from out-of-state so Seton could be their school. The beginnings, just as the middle and the present, form one Seton.
The other extreme is to have graduated some time ago or a long time ago and not kept up with Seton since then. Maybe some of you still picture the students in jeans rather than uniforms; think students still carry demerit cards; imagine basketball teams practicing on a carpeted half-court; think French class is held in Mrs. Haggerty’s home.
There are some things that have remained, though evolved, perhaps, since the very beginning or very early years: attendance at the March for Life; pro-life speeches; demerits and detentions; Monday Mass at All Saints; the May Crowning; the pilgrimage to Mother Seton’s Shrine; Mrs. Carroll, Mrs. Haggerty, Mrs. Mirus, Mr. Scheetz and Mr.Violett teaching or coaching.
I was thinking of the evolution of the school newspaper that began as The Conquistador, became the 7 Seas, then went through many other names and now is known as the Inquisitor.
The early production of the paper took place in the room above the old carpeted gym. That room is now known as the Cenacle and is Mrs. O’Herron’s office. When it was Seton’s press room, it was, shall we say, climate control challenged. In those variable environmental conditions the paper was typed on manual typewriters or sometimes working electrics; justification of margins had to be figured line by line and appropriate taps of the space bar made to get the alignment right; vinyl peel-off letters were used for headlines; gloves, scarves and hats were worn in the winter — the gloves made typing a little difficult, but it was done; Joe Fegan (now Father Peter, OP) wrote my all-time favorite sports line about a Seton basketball player: “He is improving by leaps and rebounds”; Rob Griffin honed his writing skills before becoming a professional writer; Seton Notes had their beginnings.
In later years we moved to the unheated library. For some reason Wyo-Tech, a Wyoming college featuring a degree in diesel mechanics advertised in our paper. Kathryn McKelvey was in charge of securing the ad, and I kept encouraging her to go there for college. The $100 she got from Wyo-Tech and a similar one from NOVA paid for the paper’s production that year.
I don’t know where the paper is produced now, but it is the work of a volunteer extra-curricular staff. It is a classy looking, well-written monthly complete with color photos. This past school year suscribers read about a Seton freshman winning the regional science fair and a trip to the international fair in Reno (She is there right now — my brother Dave lives in Reno and pixed me a photo of her by her project.); Seton’s swim teams taking state titles; Boomtown chosen as the spring musical; Michael Isenberg’s (’99) road from riches to the seminary. I think all alumni would enjoy reading it. And in next year’s editions you might see names you recognize since there are children of alumni and faculty throughout the school: Skube/Amos; Brien; Vander Woude; Heisler/McCarron; Pogue/Vugteveen; Angsten/Gregory; McCabe; Pennefather; “P”/Brien; Scheetz/Kelly and others.
The plan is for the newspaper to be on-line next year. So between it, ourseton and seton-school.org (a good site to visit often for current info on Seton), we should be able to stay connected and continue to appreciate our Seton.
In a nostalgic mood, here’s some Seton Notes (“notes” is “Seton” spelled backwards) based on this entry.
Father Peter: Order of Preachers! And to think you could have been a sports writer.
Rob Griffin: You have the write to remain a journalist, but no write to let your pen remain silent.
Cenacle Dwellers: Turn off the heat; turn off the air conditioning; turn on the nostalgia.
Inquisitor Staff: You’ve taken off the gloves — this is serious journalism now.
Kathryn McKelvey: If you’d gone there and worked on their paper it would have been: Hunt and peck
Collette: You’re in Reno even though I clearly proved my hypothesis that bean plants grow better with
sunlight and water than without!
Seton State Champs: Lend me your swimmers’ ears for I come to praise you.
To Boomtowners: 5280 feet worth of a standing ovation.
Seminarian Isenberg: Will you be ordained in the Year of the Priest?
Note #1 The first part of this entry is dedicated to all the Seton physics students who had to build toothpick bridges. Special recognition is given to those whose bridges failed to hold even the weight of the bucket despite many hours of glueing toothpicks together.
Note #2 After global warming has run its course and our farm here in Colorado becomes 318 acres of prime Pacific beach front property, I know the next great threat to civilization. Do not fear. I also know the solution.
Note #3 The last part is the important part.
Constructing things is not my forte, so when my high school physics teacher announced that we’d be entering the state-wide building contest, I was not excited. The other four in the class thought it was great. Information was handed out for the balsa wood construction, and I bought the wood and glue and got started. I built a little 12 x 4 x 4 rectangular box that met the dimension requirements. The goal was then to make the box so it would hold a lot of weight. I could think of nothing. I ended up taking a razor blade and making slits along the sides. Not sure why I did that.
The day came to test our constructions. The others were giddy to see how their arches and triangles and other ideas would do. I tried to hide my box and its slits. The teacher, however, asked us each to explain what we had done to make the box strong. So I said, “I put in slits so that the box’s sides would compress and so hold more weight.” To their credit, no one laughed, but their looks of disbelief spoke volumes.
The teacher picked mine to be destroyed first — sure as I was that it was the worst. The amount held was divided by the weight of the box. As it turned out, mine both held the most and was the lightest, so I won by quite a bit. As school winner, I had to rebuild and go on to state. The others could rebuild if they wanted to, and the teacher encouraged them to do so, I think, because he was embarrassed to be sending the slit box as the school’s only entry. The others did rebuild.
One day in class weeks later, the teacher announced that he had the list of those who finished in the top 1/3 of the state in the building contest. Then he said, “One of you made the list and even made the top 20.” I think everyone’s heart was beating quickly except mine. Then the teacher said, “I guess Westhoff’s slits were a good idea.” Never have I been so unjustifiably proud and so undeservingly rewarded.
The next great threat? It’s Global Compression. To all buildings, just add slits and we’ll be fine!
The top project that the alumni is undertaking is a construction project that everyone can be excited about whether or not he or she knows anything about construction. I think it is the Jesuits who put above the entrance to their chapels: House of God and Gate of Heaven. That’s what we are out to build, a bigger chapel for Seton which will house Our Lord and serve as a gate to heaven for students and teachers and all associated with Seton. There are several ideas being considered including renovating a part of the existing school, extending the current chapel onto newly purchased property, or making the chapel a separate building on the new property. I like the current chapel with the statue of St. Joseph that alumna Mary Van Scott sent from Poland; the Fatima statue that was originally a gift to Presdident Reagan; the Stations of the Cross that Mr. Scheetz made in part from the old cedar tree that has itself become a cross outside the school; the altar railing that Mr. Buser made; the renovations that Mr. P made, the stained glass of Mother Seton that a graduating class gave as its senior gift. The list goes on. Most of these parts of the chapel will still be a part of the new chapel, but there are many times when the smallness of the chapel is a handicap. I remember being at several Holy Hours for one cause or another and the closest one could get to the chapel was the hallway.
We can all be a part of the building of the chapel in one way or another. We need to continue to build our association first which is the main purpose of the Gala. Then, together we will be ready to build a House of God and Gate of Heaven.
It was the middle of the afternoon on a 65 degree February day when the phone rang. It was Sean O’Hare. After friendly greetings and the like, he got to the question: Would I blog on the Seton alumni website? Here’s how the conversation went from there.
Sure, Sean, that would be great. What is a blog? [Thus began Blogging 101]
It’s like a bulletin board. You put up a message and people respond.
It can be 300 words or 100 words or a couple sentences. [I think Sean was already losing confidence in me.] You don’t even have to use full sentences. In fact, you can just use abbreviations. For example CU ltr. [He had definitely lost all confidence in me.]
If you have things of interest people will respond. You can also expect hate mail from students who flunked logic.
You can write about nostalgic things or current events and when people start posting comments, you can respond to them.
We’d have Mrs. Carroll do it, but she is way too busy. [This was the second time that day and the third time in two days that I was reminded that I am not too busy. A friend had written, “You don’t sound busy.” A neighbor came over and said, “When one is busy the days go by quickly – your days must go by very slowly.” And now Sean from 1800 miles away, could even tell that I am idle.]
How often would I do this?
Might be hard. [Not because I am busy, mind you, but when one is doing basically nothing, during long, dull days, what is there to write about? To make matters worse, we do not watch TV or listen to the radio and do not subscribe to a newspaper, so Sean’s current events idea is hardly possible.]
We then discussed the need for me to have the internet, the March for Life, Sean’s businesses [he is very busy], the economy and then Sean had to go to a conference call, and I had to rest before resuming doing nothing.
But I am a quick learner, I think. Take the abbreviation thing. Let’s say I was finishing a text conversation with a former boxing great. I’d end it poetically like this: C U ltr. M____A__gtr.
Now it is time for a sense of seriousness. I want to thank Sean and Jim Koehr for the work they are doing to unite Seton’s alumni and for inviting me to do this. My 8th grade English teacher said many times through the school year, “The simple are easily amused” so I will be entertaining myself if nothing else. Sean emphasized to me the sense of community that Seton is and that this alumni website is here to promote. With all the attractions and detractions of the world, hope can ebb. So we need not even consider hate mail but instead devote ourselves to increasing the virtue of hope among us. What our Holy Father wrote about in Spe Salvi. Here in Lent, we might consider praying for the Gift of the Holy Ghost known as Fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is that Gift which fortifies the virtue of hope and increases our desire for the happiness of heaven by weaning us from the false goods of the earth that might allure us into sin. Besides rendering easy the practice of hope, Fear of the Lord also perfects the virtue of temperance by begetting in us the dread of the penalties and ills issuing from the illicit love of pleasure. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, we will be weaned from false goods and come to detest inordinate pleasure and grow in the hope that Pope Benedict XVI says will enable us to “face our present: the present, even if it is arduous.” Toward this end, I will be praying the noon Angelus for all alumni of Seton and your families. (It will give me something to do.) Please pray for Mom and me.