By Gloria C. Endres
South Philly Resident
Little over a decade ago, I submitted an op-ed to the Philadelphia Daily News: “The Golden Girls of Saint Maria Goretti.” I wrote “golden” to indicate that the class was about to celebrate 50 years since graduation. The unique thing about that Class of 1958 was that it was the first class to graduate from the all-girls school on 10th and Moore streets.
So the reunion that October was historic on many levels. Stop and think. Every single milestone in the history of that class was a first among many firsts. As one of those original Goretti girls, I remember proudly the many initiatives my class enacted. We entered the brand new building as sophomores with one class below. For three years, as each new freshman class entered, we remained the senior class. Regardless of what year, all students felt empowered in the climate of an all-female school.
Our classrooms were crowded because the tuition was paid by our parishes. Our teachers were all Sisters, except for the gym teacher, Mrs. Kane. Our school was named after an 11-year -old Italian virgin martyr who had been canonized in 1950. Saint Maria Goretti became our patroness of purity. Our mascot was a lamb. Every girl in the school was Catholic. Our principal, Father Tracey, insisted on ladylike decorum at all events. (Once, a poor boy accidentally wandered into our cafeteria and the girls screamed.)
By the time of that golden reunion, a lot had changed for many reasons. In September 2004, Goretti merged with the all-boys’ school, Saint John Neumann. They put Neumann’s name in front of Goretti – and the whole character of the school changed.
Last October, nearly 70 graduates from ’58 gathered once more for the diamond anniversary of our graduation. The event was recorded by Grace Maiorano for the SPR. We realized that this would probably be our last chance to recount those “happy days” between wars and filled with accomplishments.
Recently, I had a great conversation with two present-day Neumann-Goretti students, Jenna and Dante Liberi. Jenna is a senior; her brother, Dante, is a junior. Both of them are scholars and were glad to share stories of how their experiences at school compares to my memories. I was happy to learn that some things have not changed. There is still an emphasis on academics, the arts, sports and extracurricular activities. (In my class, even those students who took the commercial track were required to take some college preparatory subjects.)
But today, they have something that did not exist in the ‘50s – advanced placement courses. Jenna took AP English and Biology this year and earned a partial scholarship to Neumann University. Dante will be eligible for AP courses next year because of his score on the PSAT. He also needed a teacher recommendation and good grades.
I avoided all math after two years, but today’s students have choices of Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus. As a student on the academic track, I was able to take four years of Latin and three years of French. The students at Neumann-Goretti have a choice of Italian or Spanish. They do have four years of English, but diagramming sentences is a thing of the past.
They have the history and science courses I enjoyed but with more choices like kinesiology or how the human body moves. Of course, all technology is advanced.
Religion is still taught, even though some students are non-Catholic. Molding character has always remained a vital part of the school’s culture. Go Saints!