The symbol of the Salem Catholic Schools Association incorporates elements of symbols of the 11 current and former Catholic schools located in the town. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Salem Catholic Schools Association
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SALEM -- Something exciting is happening in Salem.
“It’s an event more than a century in the making,” declared Father John Sheridan, pastor of St. James Church and St. Joseph school, who is among those planning the event.
For the first time ever, Salem is planning a Catholic Schools reunion -- one unlike any other.
On the weekend of Nov. 8 and 9, anyone who has ever attended any of the 11 current and former Catholic schools of Salem is invited to participate in the first Harvest Homecoming of the Salem Catholic Schools Association.
The weekend-long gathering will include a dinner reception, a special Mass and a host of other celebratory events all aimed at celebrating Catholic education.
“I know people have very fond memories of their Catholic education,” said Lou Ann Melino, principal of St. Joseph School in Salem, who is also helping to plan the event. “This is a chance for all to relive those fond memories, to get together with old friends, and to celebrate the legacy of Catholic education,” she added.
According to Melino, the event is still in the planning stages, with most of the effort currently going to “reach as many former students as possible.”
One difficulty the committee is facing is that hers is the only Catholic school that remains open in all of Salem, she said. However, in order to reach everyone, all the Salem parishes have announced the reunion in their Sunday bulletins -- beginning on Easter Sunday.
Even though it has only been a few weeks, “those bulletin announcements has stirred up quite a buzz,” she said. “It seems people are excited about this.”
Melino hopes the enthusiasm continues.
“I’m excited,” she admitted. “I really think that it’s going to make people excited about Catholic education again, especially in Salem.
“These schools instructed so many people’s hearts, minds and souls,” Father Sheridan added.
“We’re really hoping to fill the hall. I’m looking for hundreds, if not thousands, to come and celebrate the legacy of Catholic education,” he said
“This legacy is very much present in our school today,” continued Father Sheridan. “It’s not just what Catholic education was, but what it is and what it will be.”
According to Father Sheridan, the idea for this homecoming reunion came out of a series of meetings with the school and the Lynch Foundation, a foundation that primarily provides assistance to the religious and educational efforts of the Catholic Church.
“The Lynch Foundation has blessed us with financial support, but also they have helped us to find new ways to promote Catholic education,” he said. “They work with us; they work beside us, encouraging our ideas.”
Although he admits that the task ahead is rather daunting, Father Sheridan is up to the challenge.
“I’m thrilled to do it,” he said. “I can’t wait to be a part of it.”