Advertisements ad

May 24, 2009

Catholic schools were good to him

By Patrick McCaskey


When I was a student at St. Mary’s School in Des Plaines, I was in the Bluebirds reading group. I used to enjoy getting up in front of the class and reading to them. Now I am a lector at St. Mary’s Parish in Lake Forest.

This is just a small example of how the lessons that I learned in Catholic schools continue to impact my life today.

Back at St. Mary’s, the nuns usually seated the students in alphabetical order. Don Nevins often sat next to me. He is now an excellent priest. Don and I often volunteered to serve 6:30 a.m. weekday Mass. One morning I complained to Sister Amata about having to get up so early. She calmly explained that she woke up much earlier than I did.

Later in the day, she gave me a book about St. Isaac Jogues who was a missionary to the Iroquois. Some members hacked off his thumbs with tomahawks, yet he continued to try to convert them to Christianity. I didn’t complain anymore. Lesson learned: Count your blessings. There are others who always have it worse.

After Mass on first Fridays, we were allowed to stand at tables and eat breakfast with hot chocolate that cost 10 cents a cup. Proceeds went to the missions.We were also allowed to buy candy at lunchtime in that hall. Proceeds went to the missions. Another lesson learned here: Give to the missions.

We saw many good movies in that hall for 10 cents that went to the missions. There are different ways to give to the missions now, but this giving spirit was instilled within me through Catholic schools.

When I was in seventh grade, I was in Sister Mary Verona’s class. I trust that the statute of limitations has run out on the person who glued the orange to her desk. Just in case it hasn’t, it wasn’t me.

When I was in eighth grade, I was in Sister Mary Arthesma’s class. We also had our eighth grade party in the school hall. I was president of Class 8A. Before I gave the welcoming speech, Mrs. Siffermann asked me if I was nervous. When I said yes, she told me to take off my glasses then I wouldn’t be able to see the audience. I followed her advice and it seemed to work out fine. Lesson learned here: Don’t be afraid of public speaking.

I was a normal Catholic boy. I wanted to play quarterback for the University of Notre Dame which was named after God’s Mother. When I was a Notre Dame High School senior, I was a Catholic New World All-American quarterback. Then I had to give up playing football because of severe eye problems.

My Catholic education continued into my college years with an undergraduate degree from Loyola University and a graduate degree from DePaul University. Chicago Catholic schools have been very, very good to me.

When I think about Chicago Catholic schools, I hear my father Ed McCaskey sing “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” and I rewrite the lyrics: Chicago Catholic schools contribute to a better world; Chicago Catholic schools give witness to Gospel living; We’ll never forget Sister Mary Paul; she’s the superintendent; Chicago Catholic schools evangelize and educate students; We live by values in harmony, Chicago Catholic schools.

McCaskey is a Chicago Bears’ board member and and chairman of the board of Sports Faith International.