Catholic School Days

Do you remember your school days? What sort of experiences do you remember from elementary and high school? I had the privilege of attending Catholic school from the late ’60s to 1980.


In the Catholic schools at the time, reading, writing, and arithmetic were stressed. I am glad to have been taught the basics, mostly by religious sisters. In elementary school, the nuns in our parish were members of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, based in San Antonio, Texas. Many of the sisters throughout the U.S. at this time were from Ireland and came to America to teach at Catholic schools throughout the country. Our sisters’ Motherhouse sent out nuns throughout Texas and Louisiana to various parishes and Dallas was lucky to have benefited from so many.


Some of the sisters had conventional names: Mona, Maura, Roseanne, Patricia, Christina, and Teresa. Some of the other sisters had unusual and interesting names: Lourdes, Barnabas, Marie Frederic, Cabrini, and Attracta. Of course, we called them Louie, Barney, Fred, Linguini, and Tractor. Under the tutelage of these women, we memorized, memorized, memorized! I can still recite “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth, I can still quote the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, and I can still say the Our Father in Spanish.


The priests in grade school were Diocesan priests who did not have to take vows of poverty, unlike the nuns. Our monsignor was from a German family from Muenster, Texas, and flew his own airplane. I remember going to the Music Hall occasionally with my mother and we sometimes ran into Monsignor and a guest at the musicals, or we would spot him from the balcony sitting in the first few rows. Monsignor was quite clever and hilarious and now is retired living outside of Dallas. My only other thought about the priests from my home parish is that they seem to reflect the priesthood of today’s world, some really great, some not so great . . . 

Everyday during my long Catholic education (kindergarten through 12th grade), we had religion class. We learned through the years about morals, parables, the Old Testament, the New Testament, church history, and my last religion class my senior year was Marriage and Family Living. Father Marrin, an affable man with a squeaky voice, taught Marriage and Family Living. A few years later, he was married with children! We all thought he knew way too much. Actually, he is now the editor of a Catholic magazine entitled Celebration.

Anyhow, my grade school was named after Pope Pius X. We were the St. Pius Tigers. I liked that particular ferocious moniker. Mainly because when I arrived in high school at Bishop Lynch, run by the Dominican Order of priests and nuns, I became a BL “Friar.” You know, like Friar Tuck. F, F, F, R, I. A, A, A, R, S. I am sure that instilled fear in our opponents! Can you imagine? 

–Tiger on St. Pius X campus donated by St. Pius X Class of 2010

A few years ago I visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and was walking around and came upon the body of Pope Pius X. He died just before World War I. His body remains well preserved despite the fact that he did not want to be embalmed and was not. Apparently, he was a heavy smoker and died of a heart attack. I was quite shocked to see my parish’s namesake displayed so. I still don’t know what to think. He’s not the only pope on display. 

–from Wikipedia by Moshe Ash

I remember most of my teachers through the years. In 3rd grade, it was a joy to get to go to math in Sister Philomena’s classroom. She was such a bubbly Irish lady that made you feel special.  She went back to Ireland and got married. My first speech class was in 7th grade. Mrs. Hudgins worked and worked with me, even at recess, because I could not project my voice, I COULD ONLY YELL! And then there was that new teacher freshman year. He was young, single, cocky. He taught history, algebra, and coached basketball. My fear of math escalated at this time. He would hover over me and others during tests and would yell, “THINK, Miss C., THINK! No SILLY, SILLY mistakes.” Even under such tremendous pressure, I somehow did learn. I actually use my algebra skills every day in my line of work.

The Catholic school uniforms could be a whole posting of their own. Plaid. Blue plaid. Year after year. Brown plaid. Year after year. Today, I do not wear plaid. In elementary school, we attended Mass once or twice a week. If you were a girl, you had to wear a beanie in church. Yes, a beanie. There were two models of beanies. There was a beret type and there was also a stiff type not unlike that of Spanky McFarland. I prefered the Spanky type then, although today I would prefer the French beret version. Both of these models were excellent Frisbees.


In high school, as a senior, you were allowed to wear colored sweaters, solid, but colored nonetheless. Also during senior year, you didn’t have to wear white knee socks. Or black shoes. You could wear any color socks and shoes. You can imagine how the girls expressed themselves through socks. You had your anklet wearers, your fuzzy, neon-colored socks wearers, your argyle wearers (me). One girl even wore knee high hosiery just to be different! The boys expressed themselves through their ties. Some liked wide, some liked thin, some leather, some bow, some paisley. It could get entertaining. Uniforms were a good thing, though. You certainly had no trouble deciding what to wear each day and you didn’t have to go school shopping in the fall, except for non-school clothes. 

All in all, I enjoyed going to Catholic school. I applaud all of the hard work the nuns, priests, and lay teachers and administrators did to make our schools a proper environment for learning, as well as many parents. I am appreciative to have been taught by such dedicated professionals who stressed the importance of family, community, and service.

  13 comments for “Catholic School Days

  1. Anonymous
    September 5, 2010 at 5:02 AM

    I relived every moment with you. Only I had Sr. Philomena for homeroom – and to this day ADORE her, Mrs. Kotrany, Sr. Christina and Mrs. and Coach Persinger. Love this Denise!

  2. September 5, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    Thanks! I adored the ones you listed and a few others, too.

  3. Anonymous
    September 5, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    Brings back memories… I too am appreciative of all the nuns and lay teachers.. (Patricia T)

  4. Theresa
    September 5, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Nice job bringing back the nightmares! Well actually I too feel lucky to have had all these dedicated adults in my life. If it wasn’t for their constant guidance…no telling where I would be today! I can thank them for a 25 year career in teaching! I believe it was Padre Kolzow, Mr. Scott, Mrs Persinger and Mr Turner who got me through Lynch!

  5. September 5, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    I enjoyed this post so much. It is not easy to afford having our children attend Catholic school and sometimes others question our priorities – we could send them to the public school and have nicer cars and more vacations and a bigger house….! But they just don’t understand what a Catholic education means to our family. Fun to read about your memories and success.

  6. September 5, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Thanks for the comments Patricia and Theresa. And Theresa, thanks for reminding me of some of those other great teachers! Memories . . .

  7. September 5, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    Thanks, Just Mom! It is a sacrifice for sure! But it does pay off in the end . . .

  8. Anonymous
    June 29, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    Denise,

    I greatly enjoyed this post. Many of the sisters who served at St Pius X also worked at Good Shepherd Catholic School in Garland TX.

    I am a graduate of Good shepherd, and hope to compose a history of our church/school, as St Pius X has done.

    Although I attended Good shepherd, I did not have the privilege of attending when our school was staffed by the Holy Ghost Sisters.

    Perhaps you can help me…

    Do you have any memories of Sr. Attracta? (She was principal of Good shepherd before coming to St Pius X.) I would like to know more about her as a principal. Did she teach any classes; was she a strict disciplinarian, etc.?

    Sr. Celestine also taught at both Good shepherd and St Pius X, any memories of her would be appreciated.

    Thank you for your help, as I work to learn more about our former faculty.

    Best

    • June 29, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      Anonymous, Thanks for the comment! St. Pius X has an alumni site that has memories of many of the nuns listed. You might have to go through the years line by line but I remember reading things about Sr. Attracta for sure and maybe Sr. Celestine. I don’t remember Sr. Celestine myself, but I did know Sr. Attracta and I think she was a well-liked principal. I remember her being really fair usually and my mom worked in the office at times and liked her very much. She was a nice lady. I remember he being from Edingburgh,TX, too, if that helps, and I think at least one of her real life sisters was a nun as well. Here’s a link to the memories —
      http://www.spxdallas.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=215

    • June 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM

      Oh, and to answer the questions: I don’t think Sr. Attracta taught at St. Pius, she just was an administrator mainly. She might have filled in if she had to. I didn’t consider her a strict disciplinarian, but I would not have crossed her. She had a tougher bark than bite, but you know, it was so long ago. I am sure there are varied opinions on this subject, however!

    • Anonymous
      June 29, 2012 at 10:10 PM

      Denise,

      Thank you for your reply. I have previously seen the memories page; however it is currently not working. Hopefully someone at St Pius X will put it back up, as it did provide many very interesting memories from the standpoint of a student during those days.
      Tell me, did the sisters ever use corporal punishment at that time?

      Anything else you can remember about the Sisters of the Holy Ghost would be much appreciated.

      Thank you very much for your interest.

      Best

    • Anonymous
      June 29, 2012 at 10:30 PM

      Denise,
      Thanks for your reply. I am curious who are some of the other Holy Ghost Sisters you remember? Any memories would be appreciated.
      Perhaps they taught at Good Shepherd, before or after their time at St Pius X.

      P.S; Do you remember the name of Sister Attracta’s biological sister who was also a member of the Holy Ghost Sisters? Did she also serve as a teacher administrator in the area?

      Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s always great to find someone who remembers, and is willing to share with others, the history of their parish and school.

      Best.

    • June 30, 2012 at 3:14 AM

      I had no trouble with the link. I got caught up again reading the memories.

      The sisters did use corporal punishment at times–mainly with rulers. I never was in trouble much, but they did swat some kids with rulers. One even used a 3-sided ruler once. This was the late 60s to early 70s. I think the principals had a paddle. I never got spanked by the principal.

      There were some lovely nuns and then there were some I really didn’t get along with very much. Just like with any other people you encounter in life.

      Here is a link to another post of mine that talks about one of the sisters:
      http://mdenisec.blogspot.com/2009/03/slainte.html

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