High school in Elgin celebrating 50 years
April 18, 2019
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.
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 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.