Mary statue gets new home as archdiocesan schools repurpose former JFK items

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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On that day in August, St. Mary's High School principal Kevin Hacker was on a scouting mission at the former John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in Manchester.

The archdiocese, which closed Kennedy in May and owned the property, had invited archdiocesan high school officials for a walk-through to claim items for use in their schools: office and sports equipment, student desks, classroom supplies — whatever wasn't nailed down. But something caught Hacker's eye outside.

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus Christ, and namesake of St. Mary's High School.

"By chance, I looked out front door: 'I gotta take a look at that!'" he said.

Adorning the front yard of the old convent, the statue's pedestal may have been crumbling and its paint peeling, but overall was in pretty good shape for having been outside for decades.

"This is a really good statue," Hacker said. "We wanted her, for sure."

Now St. Mary's has a twin for the Mary statue that has been on its front lawn for 63 years. With a new pedestal and fresh coat of white paint, the 850-pound statue now presides in the R.V. Wagner Courtyard overlooking the Pathway of Excellence, symbolically acknowledging the accomplishments of the Marianist school's alumni. St. Mary's Alumni Association underwrote the statue's move from Kennedy, its installation and restoration.

"She looks lovely," Hacker said, simply.

The statue of Mary is among many former Kennedy items that have been repurposed in archdiocesan schools. Celtic Pride lives on.

Whereas Kennedy athletes built strength and fitness in the Celtics weight room, Trinity Catholic High School athletes will use the same equipment to do similarly in the Titans weight room. Cardinal Ritter College Prep students will have firm footing on snowy or icy days, just as Kennedy students did at their campus on Woods Mill Road; Ritter snagged a pickup truck that will clear snow and spread salt ... and save money, too.

"Over the years, we have contracted out for snow removal," Cardinal Ritter principal Michael Blackshear said. "Now we'll be able to do it in house, saving that expense."

The pickup also has tool boxes on the sides and rack on top for ladders, etc.; it's an actual work vehicle and replaces an old 15-passenger van with the seats removed that had been pressed into duty for the maintenance crew.

Beyond big-ticket items such as Mary, the truck and weights, archdiocesan schools obtained much useful gear. Rosati-Kain received a room's worth of student desks, plus science-lab, theatre and fine arts supplies and more. Duchesne also landed theatre and fine arts supplies, while Bishop DuBourg got about 80 light fixtures. St. Pius X in Festus picked up two rooms of student desks, equipment for its science lab and a "lot of things that were very beneficial," president/principal Karen DeCosty said.

Trinity Catholic athletic director Dan Grumich described Kennedy's weight-room equipment as "definitely an upgrade for us. Our weight room is adequate and does the job. Over the years, we've been gifted a few things and we mixed in newer equipment but a lot of things we have are much older and outdated compared to what was at Kennedy. We're very appreciative."

In return, Trinity Catholic will donate its old equipment to benefit "whomever might be needing stuff," Grumich said. "We've been given a gift and we would love to pass on what we have to someone else who can use it."

Of course, the usefulness of Kennedy's old equipment ranks a distant second behind the quality students, families, faculty and staff inherited by the schools. Bishop DuBourg marketing director Danielle Pipitone praised the "great impact" they have had on the school community, a sentiment echoed by St. Dominic president Jim Welby: "We are thrilled (they) are part of our community." 

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