By Stephanie Patella '20
On May 13th, 2019, our fellow CSJ school, Bishop Kearny High School, announced its closing at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. The news quickly spread that the reason for our sister school closing is due to declining enrollments over the past few years. It was a very difficult decision for the Sisters of Saint Joseph, but after careful analyzation of the big picture, they felt it was best to close its doors after 58 successful years.
Principal Mary Ann Spicijaric, among other CSJ principals, was asked to attend the meeting where the announcement was made to act as an outlet of support and a shoulder to cry on. Faculty, students, and parents were extremely distraught over the heartbreaking news. Ms. S claims that it was “upsetting to see the girls and their parents in continuous sadness.” This also led Ms. S to worry about the fate of Catholic high schools in general. In an interview with Ms. S, she exclaims that “losing the school is like losing the development of other Catholic schools.” As soon as the news was spread throughout the school and the community, Ms. S realized that she wanted to make the transfer process as quick and painless as possible for the Kearny students.
Unfortunately, during this process, the age-old rivalry had taken over the better of a few FHA students. A small number of Juniors had taken to social media to post rude comments about the closing of Kearny. Luckily, the situation was handled smoothly as Ms. S organized junior classmates, accompanied by Ms. McNiff, to state a formal apology to the Kearny students. This act of kindness made a positive impact and eventually brought over 70 current Kearny freshwomen, sophomores, and juniors to attend Fontbonne’s open house day.
On May 17th, the rising seniors came for a private open house in our cafeteria where Ms. S gave a run down of what it would be like if they choose to become a Bonnie next Fall. Many of the St. John Villa transfers, along with other students who transferred into FHA this year, shared their experience and how they grew to love Fontbonne. The Kearny students asked questions while the transfers took turns answering and explaining what life is like as a Fontbonne transfer student. “Sitting in that room and talking to the girls truly felt forming new bonds of sisterhood,” Villa transfer sophomore Gabriella Salerno exclaims about the meet and greet. Afterwards, faculty chairpersons came down to the cafeteria to discuss classes and share their advice and experience to the Kearny students. It was an informative yet heartfelt exchange that the girls were extremely thankful for. After hearing from the department heads, FHA students split the Kearny girls into groups and sent them on tours around the school. On May 23rd, current freshwomen and sophmores visited Fontbonne to experience the same process.
These two days of meet and greets were extremely beneficial and hopefully made an impact on the Kearny girls’ decision making. Even after the unfortunate incident involving a certain number of juniors, Fontbonne, as a community, was able to rise above the negative behavior and lend out a gentle hand to our sister school. Ms. S hopes that through “our similar missions of unity and love, our differences can be overcome and we can become a stronger sisterhood of compassion and strength.”