Up until several years ago, Jesuit brothers lived in quarters attached to the McQuaid Jesuit High School on Clinton Avenue in Brighton, since replaced by the Wegman Family Science and Technology Center. Now during the pandemic — especially with the brothers gone — all day and all night, an eerie quiet defines the McQuaid campus.
In normal times, the corner of Clinton and Elmwood is a hub of activity. The cross country team runs on the Elmwood sidewalk, always courteously letting me pass on my bicycle. Night football games have an electric feel in the packed stands of the Tom Seymour Field, the gridiron where NFL standouts Bob Thomas and Eugene Goodlow played back in the day.
Right now, the baseball Knights should be defending their Section V title at the Father Richard Noonan, S.J. Field. On warm spring afternoons, like many in the overflowing crowds, I enjoy the Knights’ top notch play.
This afternoon, I saw but a single car in the parking lots, the StudentDriverMobile.
The only person I met was McQuaid junior Paddy Grace. Paddy lives nearby and wanted to see if anything was happening on campus. A polite young man, Paddy explained that McQuaid is conducting classes remotely, mostly using ZOOM. So far, distance learning is going pretty well, but it’s just not the same without everybody around.
Speaking with Paddy triggered a wave of memories from 2010 when I was an ELA student teacher at McQuaid while pursuing an accelerated certification program at Nazareth College. An enriching experience, I taught 9th grade English and co-taught AP Literature with my mentor teacher, Daniel Gorton.
In his reference letter, Dan wrote:
I think Dan meant that I respected the Catholic traditions underlying a McQuaid education. Although I am not Catholic — like others in the faculty and student body — the McQuaid community made it easy. I never felt out of place, finding my immersion enlightening. And, Dan, the varsity golf coach — an excellent mentor who offered constructive criticism without ever hovering — gave me a goldish golf team shirt as a parting gift.
One day a mass was held in the gymnasium honoring the memory of a deceased priest. While not required to attend, I found the ceremony memorable and moving. Sometimes when entering our classroom, an older priest/teacher hurried past me, leaving elaborate handwritten notes and charts from his biblical history class scrawled on the blackboard. I was glad the students had the opportunity to imbibe his erudition. Occasionally, the brothers invited us for a free lunch in their dining room. One kindly elderly priest had spent decades working with addicts in the city. I could picture the man offering faith, support and tough love to the sufferers.
A few times, we went to Zebbs across the way for its free-tacos-and-beer-specials Friday Happy Hours. One priest filled me in on the priestly life, disabusing me of some misconceptions. For example, priests love Happy Hour as much as the next guy, as he downed his half price Molson and overstuffed dripping taco. And, he does own a TV, although he rarely watches. When I asked why he became a Jesuit brother, he related an experience during his first or second year of college. One night when alone in his dorm room, he felt a presence like nothing he’d known before. He couldn’t exactly define it, but for him the moment could only be a divine visitation. And in that moment he knew God was calling him. There was no going back.
Several students remain in my memory banks. Salvadore was from Mexico or maybe Brazil; his parents had moved here to work for an international corporation. Always a very strong student, Salvadore once wrote an essay whose sophistication felt beyond that of the average ninth grader. Dan and I ran the essay through TurnItin.com which found 0% plagiarism. A few years later, I read in the Democrat and Chronicle that for a contest, Salvadore submitted a letter to President Barack Obama. The letter was chosen as one of the very best received. I can’t remember Salvadore’s last name but don’t doubt he’s achieved high level academic success.
Speaking of President Obama, in June 2010, McQuaid science teacher Jeanne Kaidy was named one of the top STEM educators in the nation by Obama. During my time at the school, Jeanne was invited the White House for an award ceremony where she met the president, so far the highlight of her teaching career.
9th grade student Will came to mind when I was writing a review of Geva’s To Kill A Mockingbird, A finely executed performance of Mockingbird at Geva. And on the “white trash” Ewells. The play reminded me of an exceptional essay Will had written for 9th grade English:
About five years ago, I taught Mockingbird to 9th graders at McQaid Jesuit High School in Brighton.
We began by tracing the class or caste system in Lee’s imagined town of Maycomb, Alabama. At the top of the white pyramid are people like the Finches, the gentry or the educated professional elite. Beneath them are the yeomen farmers, represented by the Cunninghams. At the bottom are the white trash exemplified by the Ewells, collecting relief checks and barely subsistent. At the same time, all three castes are granted supposed genetic or innate superiority over the segregated African-Americans. . . .
First showing how the Ewell’s are demonized or negatively rendered, one student, Matt (whose last name I unfortunately forget) took his analysis further by looking at an often buried subtext.
Matt argued that the Ewells — as representatives of the lowest white class — did the “dirty work” of the gentry. i.e. Atticus. In Matt’s reading, the higher class whites, especially the enlightened, noble, color-blind Atticus, could not do the lynchings themselves. The Ewells thus serve as a kind of necessary ingredient in maintaining the racial and social order. Within the universe of the novel, Matt posited a symbolic and real “unholy alliance” between the Atticus Finches and the Bob Ewells . . . Matt’s 9th grade interpretation — to which I really only added details and terminology — is persuasive.
Alas, I can’t recall Matt’s last name but don’t doubt he’s achieved high level academic success.
I remember more what Will Mahar accomplished three years after our class. Will was a solid student and good athlete. He was recruited to placekick for Boston College.
In 2013 against Monroe/Edison at Seymour Field, Will’s last second heroics were so remarkable he appeared in Sports Illustrated‘s “Faces in the Crowd.” Earlier that day, Will’s grandfather Ray was buried, and Will dedicated the game to him.
On its final drive, McQuaid began at its own 24, trailing Edison 21 – 19. In a last ditch play, Will caught a 41 yard pass, getting out of bounds with 8 tenths of a second left on the clock.Will then lined up for the game winning field goal.
McQuaid graduates have written for the magazine. In Bill Peters, author of Maverick Jetpants In The City Of Quality, reflects on Rochester and writing, the McQuaid alum reflected on his debut novel set in Rochester and reviewed favorably by the New York Times Book Review.
Justin Delinois, McQuaid ’15 and University of Rochester ’19, has appeared in the magazine several times, most notably in For Justin Delinois, all roads led to the Liberty Pole Way. And beyond. where Justin gave a riveting account of his arrest following a July 2016 Black Lives Matter rally at the Liberty Pole Way. Describing himself as a “Self-Driven Community Builder,” Justin now works in San Francisco as a healthcare management specialist. I hope Justin comes home. There could be an office waiting for him in City Hall.
For more on McQuaid’s Eugene Goodlow, see Gates-Chili’s Ernest Jackson one of a few Rochestarians who made their football mark in Canada
In the Walk of Honor at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in Highland Park reminders of two McQuaid graduates who made the ultimate sacrifice.
For more on Thomas Way, see HONORED ON PANEL 27E, LINE 79 OF THE WALL THOMAS URBAN WAY from The WALL OF FACES.Michael J. Pernaselli graduated from McQuaid. See On the day to remember its fallen, Brightonian Slagana Avramoska Mitris reflects on what Memorial Day means to her.
SEE ALSO In Search of Irishness Rochester historian Blake McKelvey sees Bishop Bernard John McQuaid as the central figure in the mid to late 19th century Irish community.