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Coming Back Home - PJ23

Growing up, my sisters and I went to catholic school. My Great Grandmother was catholic, and she mandated that her granddaughters go to catholic school. Initially, my mom was a little hesitant, but after my sister put a little boys hair in a ponytail at because he had 'girl hair', she went along with my Granny's desire, and we got skirted up and shipped off to Pope John XXIII. Pope John was really just one school in a trio -their was the Primary school, Pope John; the secondary school, St. Dominic, and the middle school, Holy Rosary. When you got to Holy Rosary, you were pretty big time, because you graduated from 8th grade and went on to one of the catholic diocese high schools. This was our life. We went to catholic school and our father was a Methodist Preacher.

Our mother wanted to make sure she selected a catholic school for us that had a nice sized population of black kids. She did her research and found out that Pope John was the place. My Dad volunteered for bingo, drove the sports carpools, and my house was the sleepover house. This was only because we were not allowed to go further than the front porch, so everybody was allowed to come to our house. That's what happens when you are the father of 7 girls. They have to stay within shout distance so you can keep them safe.

My sister and I all graduated from 8th grade and went on to high school. The twins, 5 years older than me, went on to graduate from Father Joseph Wehrle High school. I started out there, but graduated from East High School. The diocese shut down Pope John the year after my 8th grade class graduated, and subsequently shut down Wehrle. Both were closed partly out of a desire to save money, and partly because the kids who attended these schools were predominantly economiclly disadvantaged, and therefore when schools went on the chopping block, these were the first to be shed.

Then Maurice posted that he was thinking about a reunion. Sina and I had been talking about how much fun it would be for a few years. So we posted it on facebook and started putting out feelers for interested parties. And set a meeting date.

You know how you feel when you go back to your childhood home, after you have been gone home for a long time? I had that feeling Monday evening. About 12 of us gathered across the pews of Praise Temple CME Church, meeting to organize
The 1st PJ23 Reunion
- A reunion that is going to span primary, elementary and middle school, and bring back together a family.

The first part of the meeting was spent laughing and catching up, the whole while being videotaped, until we finally got down to business. The magic of the whole thing was that as each person entered the building - whether we saw each other last week or 10 years ago - there was no hesitation. The relationship - the communication - picked up like yesterday.

Yes, the evident maturity of each person was witnessed, but the basic essence of who we were, the structure that catholic school gave us, and the lessons that tied us together - the fraternity of PJ23 - superceded everything.

Then Michael said - whenever I see anyone from PJ23, it's just like I'm already home.

A couple weeks ago, my colleagues and I had a conversation about how you lose track of the people you grew up with, and the people you go to college with. I was amazed at what I was hearing - because I have friends I have known since kindergarten. Friends I love like I love.I credit my ability to develop long lasting relationships to what I learned at Pope John XXIII - this is a family.


  1. Excellent illustration Elizabeth! I attended Pope John during its last 3 years of operation. I share your uncanny experience of feeling that you've gone back home. Having made friends there that I can reconnect with after many years and feel as if no time has passed at all is part of the unique family atmosphere that was our Pope John XXIII!


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