The proud tradition of ABVM will carry on

Some stories have a tendency to jump off the page, grab you by the scruff of the neck and literally shout, "READ ME."

This is not one of those stories.

But I have to admit I was immediately intrigued by the item that appears in our sister paper the Daily Local News in West Chester today.

It notes that two southern Chester County archdiocesan elementary schools will remain open.

That would be Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary School in West Grove, and Sacred Heart in Oxford.

Both places are very close to my heart.


Well, for starters, I happen to be a proud ABVM alum.

Yes, I spent eight years donning a white shirt, blue slacks, and blue clip-on ABVM tie (most likely still splattered with yesterday's lunch).

In fact, I faced one of the great mysteries of life when I approached my first week at Oxford Area High School. And what would that be? What exactly do kids wear to school? It was a question I had never faced. For eight years, I knew exactly what I was going to wear.

Actually, I was a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Oxford. But remember, back in those days (the mid-'60s if you must know) Oxford did not have its own Catholic elementary school. That meant every day for eight years we boarded a bus and made the 10-mile jaunt down old Route 1 (Baltimore Pike) to what we referred to as St. Mary's in West Grove.

That could make for a fairly long day. At one point when they changed the bus scheduled, we did not return home to Oxford until nearly 4:30 in the afternoon, barely beating darkness during the winter months.

I often tell people I credit two things in my life for who I am and what I do. One undoubtedly would be the home I grew up in and my parents, who would not for a second even consider the notion of starting their day without consumer at least one and more likely several daily newspapers. I would sit at the kitchen table and carefully wait for dad to finish the sports section, no doubt carefully creased to his beloved horse racing entries, and undoubtedly stained with his telltale jelly and butter stains. To this day my father remains the only person I have ever encountered who buttered his toast one bite at at time. That probably did not help the heart ills that took him from us far too soon.

The other seminal event that formed the future newspaper editor's life was experiencing eight years under the fairly firm right hand of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Look, I could always talk dad out of a potential discplinary situation.

But I was scared of mom, who was the 'muscle' in the Heron house.

But I was terrified of the nuns.

You want to talk about Holy Hell? Just cross one of these stern women.

The truth is I owe them a lot, even if I still bear some of the scars to prove it.

They instilled in me a love of language and communication that I carry with me to this day. I can do something so many people - especially young people - struggle with today. I can write and speak effectively.

It's no wonder. At times I think we spent 7 and a half hours a day drilling on the Baltimore Catechism and English. Science and math seemed to get pushed to the back of the bus, or perhaps that's just my faulty memory. I was never much for numbers. Take away my calculator and I'm nothing.

But I can diagram a sentence like nobody's business.

I can tell you all about the world's greatest visual education graphic. That of course would be the Baltimore Catechism's handling of a the clear milk bottle to represent a soul free of sin, a spotted milk bottle for venial sins, and the dreaded black milk bottle depicting the poor soul bedraggled with the weight of a mortal sin. What else do you need to explain life. Today the good sisters of IHM are few and far between. Parochial schools are staffed in many cases predominantly by lay teachers.

That makes me sad.

I think every kid would benefit by being under the tutelage of the nuns. And not just for the fear factor, though I'm not sure that would hurt either.

And I'm happy to see my old alma mater will continue that proud tradition.