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Deacon John Starman of St. John the Baptist Parish in Petersburg shows seniors a computer tracking a drone at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School in Elgin.

High school in Elgin celebrating 50 years

Some things have changed over 50 years at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School in Elgin: students, teachers, buildings, rules, technology, uniforms, course subjects.

But the most important things have remained constant: strong support from parishes, parents and alumni and a school spirit rooted in faith and service, staff members said.

The community will celebrate that legacy of spirit and support, created since the school’s founding in 1967, beginning this month when students bury a time capsule and pose for an anniversary photo. On Oct. 4, Archbishop George J. Lucas will bless the school and celebrate Mass.

The celebration culminates with an all-school reunion in July, welcoming back some of the 1,385 graduates and former teachers and staff, said Betty Getzfred, principal.


Landmark year

The school’s 50th year "is quite a landmark," she said.

Anna Meis, the high school’s development director and a school parent, said she better appreciates the generosity of school supporters since she began looking at school photos from 1967. The pictures showed members of the six parishes that formed Pope John XXIII involved in construction and laying carpet.

Parishioners today are equally involved, Meis said, especially during the summer keeping the school building up to date. And the six parishes – St. Boniface in Elgin, St. Bonaventure in Raeville, St. Francis of Assisi in Neligh, St. John the Baptist of Deloit Township in rural Holt County, St. Theresa of Avila in Clearwater and St. John the Baptist in Petersburg – are still partners in the high school today.

Sister Patricia Hoffman, a School Sister of St. Francis who has taught at the school for 45 years, said the parents and others are dedicated to the school – active, involved and proud.

"That’s always been the case," she said.


Alumni involved

Alumni are particularly loyal, with many sending their own children to the high school. Eleven of the school’s 13 seniors have at least one parent who graduated from Pope John XXIII, Meis said.

"Our alumni believe that what they received here they want to pass on to their kids," she said.

The school’s spiritual environment – evident in prayer, kindness and service to others – also sets Pope John XXIII apart, Meis said.

"It’s ingrained in every act throughout the day," she said.

Pope John XXIII has faced challenges, Sister Hoffman said, as enrollment declined from a peak of almost 200 students to the current 59 students in grades seven through 12. But the high school has adapted by being creative and frugal, adding the junior high school students in 1990, more recently sharing building space with elementary school students, and joining with Elgin Public Schools to field sports teams.


School sisters of St. Francis

The School Sisters of St. Francis have helped staff the school since it was founded, and Sister Hoffman is the last sister serving at the school. Now Father Kevin Vogel, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Elgin and St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville, serves as the school’s president and helps fill the void left by the sisters with his teaching and involvement, Getzfred said.

Technology and classes continue to be modernized. Students use donated ipads and Chromebooks and participate in distance learning programs. New classes focus on environmental science and other areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

School staff "want the children ready for the future, and that’s why we’re adapting to those needs," Sister Hoffman said.


Sept. 19: Each class will put items in a time capsule and bury it in front of school. Students will form the number "50" for a school photo.

Oct. 4: 11:15 a.m. blessing at school by Archbishop George J. Lucas, Mass and lunch. Recognition of original school board members.

Oct. 21: 50th school day. Students will make and release a balloon rosary.

November: Students will write a 50th anniversary prayer for the school and vote on one to recite throughout the year. And the high school will increase its annual fundraising goal to raise 50 percent more than last year.

December: Each of the four student "houses" will collect 50 pounds of food for the Antelope County Food Pantry. Also Dec. 2 there will be a Memorial Mass honoring alumni who have died.

May: Graduation of the 50th class with a release of 50 balloons.

July 22-23: All School Reunion

Other: 50th anniversary display in the school gym. And Share a Memory on the school’s website -

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