Approaching the winter of my discontent, I find myself thinking more often about the springtime of my life, and yes, you’re right, that sounds disturbingly like one of John-Boy’s mawkish opening voice-overs for “The Waltons,” and so I’ll get a grip right now and get right to my point:
I never knew the name of the order of nuns who operated the grade school I attended in Yonkers, N.Y., the now-defunct Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Anthony School on Linden Street.
Occasionally those days will come to mind, and I’ll remember classmates and teachers, and I’ll wonder what ever became of them, but I’ll leave it at that — still wondering.
This time, though, I actually acted on my wondering, wandered through the Internet a little bit, doing Google searches for nuns and Yonkers and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, sent off an emailed inquiry to a promising address, and, behold, I have received tidings of great joy — unto me, surely, has come an email from Sister Suzanne Fondini, provincial of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters, who tells me that sisters from her order did, indeed, open, operate and teach at my old grammar school.
I emailed her back just now, thanked her, and told her I was among the first group of pupils in the school’s first year — it opened with only first through fourth grades, adding one grade and one teacher per year until it reached eight grades; so I was in the first third-grade class and in the second class of graduating eighth-graders. I asked about a few teachers I remembered — Sister Aileen, who I heard a few years ago was doing some kind of mission work in lower Manhattan, and Sister Carmine, our fifth-grade teacher who told us a memorable story, over the course of a full school year, about one her former pupils, a boy named Carl, and his valiant but losing battle against leukemia.
Here’s hoping I hear more from Sister Suzanne about my former teachers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Anthony School.
The school’s clumsy name had to do with the fact that there were two “rival” Roman Catholic churches in the neighborhood, literally a block apart. One (St. Anthony’s) was started on Willow Street in the late 19th century or early 20th century by an early wave of Italian arrivals in Yonkers. The other (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) was started maybe in the 1920s, and was bigger, and had a larger congregation, and was where my father was baptized and my parents had their wedding, and was on Park Hill, a few blocks up from Waverly Street, where my father grew up and where my Italian grandparents lived for more than 50 years. Waverly was a block away from Linden Street, where my old school was located until the New York diocese shut it down a few years ago.
Anyway, one last thought: Pax et bonum.
Sister Suzanne ended her note with those traditional Franciscan words of greeting and farewell, supposedly used by St. Francis of Assisi himself to begin and end his sermons. The Latin words mean “Peace and all good (be with you).”
To which I respond to Sister Suzanne: Et cum spíritu tuo.