September 23, 2008

An Ascension Tale


To say that I was the most popular student in my class would be a huge understatement.In fact, if I e-mailed any of my classmates, they would more that likely not know who I am. My only claim to fame, sad to say, is that my mother passed away while I was in the eighth grade. That fact might jog a few memories.


I was raised by my mother, since my father passed away when I was two years old. He left us a very small pension which mom put to good use.We lived on 113th street, in a single furnished room. We shared the one bathroom and kitchen with four other people.


But there was a reason that we lived there. Living there meant that she would have the extra money to send me to Ascension school. She loved the idea of the leadership, education, and relegious teachings that was so important to a young mind.


I still remember my enrollment and our first meeting with Sister Julia, who my mother really liked. The instructors included: Sister Mary Aquin (sorry about spelling) for 1st grade, Sister Patrick, Sister Thomas.


The fourth grade had Brother James, then Brother Henry, Brother Kevin, then Brother James for the 7th and 8th grade.


Somehow, mom always found the money to not only pay for the tution, but also to bring cakes for the nuns and brothers. And, of course, flowers for the altar.


She would always take me to school in the morning, meet for for lunch, and meet me again at 3pm. Rain, snow or sunshine, and even when she got cancer, she would still be there for me.


The cancer came in 1956 when I was in the 6th grade. She was in the hospital, St. Lukes, for about a month. They told her brother that it was terminal, which I found out years later. They released her from the hospital, and we went back to our normal lives, so I thought.


One day, in 1958 while I was in my 8th grade class, she fell and the pain was intense. She called for help and was sent to St.Lukes.


Meanwhile, Brother Cohan, our princapal, told Brother James, that he needed to speak to me.I went into the hallway, and I could see that something happend by the look on the good brother's face. He placed his hand on my shoulder and told me what happened to my mother. I lowered my head and started to cry. He placed his hand on my chin and raised my head and told me "Don't worry, God will look after her".That was one of the kindest things, that anyone ever said to me.


Later that month, my uncle came to pay the tuition, but Brother James said "to let it ride". What kindness that was shown in a world where money is everthing. I still don't know who paid that tuition.


After St. Lukes, she was sent to the House of Calvery, then to Belleview Hospital.


December 31, 1958, when she was 36 years old, God finally said 'Enough is enough! Come home" She began her happiness on that day.In January, 1959, Brother James had a mass said for her, and the entire 8th grade was there. They were my family, my brothers.


Upon graduation in June 1959, we all went to pursue our lives and dreams. I did go back to Ascension in the early sixties for a class reunion. I was alright inside the school, but when I left and was walking down the front steps, I looked at the spot where my mother would usually wait, but sadly, she was not there.


We all have our opinions of the years we all spent at Ascension. Some have their own opinions of the teachers, the homework, and punishment for talking. But I think we can all agree that the foundation that they installed would have a lasting effect.


We all have our own stories, during and after our graduation. But, regardless of the year of our graduation, the students and teachers will always be united to Ascension.


And even today, as the 50th aniversary of my mother's death approaches, at times, I still find myself back in 1954, it's 3pm, and I'm walking down the front steps of Ascension, and my mother is accross the street waiting for me.


I share my story, not looking for any sympathy, but just a tale. Another Ascension School Tale.


John P. Ciresi, USAF Ret.

Class of 1959


Wow, John Ciresiís story, posted on our web site, is really powerful; sad and uplifting!

Iíd like to express my thanks to him for sharing that small glimpse into his rough beginnings.

His story should remind all of us that it was a fortunate privilege we shared to have had the opportunity to the excellent education that Ascension offered.


Johnís mother sounds like she was truly a saint and Iím sure, as John indicated, she is enjoying the well deserved happiness of Heaven.


Don McKenna Ď49