St. Xavier begins 150th anniversary celebrations

St. Xavier High School began its yearlong celebrate to commemorate its 150th anniversary. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)
St. Xavier High School students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered in the school’s Sterne Gymnasium for Mass on the feast day of St. Francis Xavier Dec. 3. The school began a yearlong celebration to commemorate its 150th anniversary. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

St. Xavier High School began a yearlong celebration to commemorate its 150th anniversary with a Mass Dec. 3.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends gathered in the school’s Sterne Gymnasium to celebrate the feast day of St. Francis Xavier.

In an address before Mass, Dr. Perry Sangalli, president of the school, acknowledged the faculty, staff, students and alumni attending the event.

“Each of you creates the culture, shares the God-given talents and forms the community that embodies today the legacy and spirit of those who have gone before us,” Sangalli said.

Sangalli recalled that St. Xavier High School was created at the request of Bishop Martin John Spalding, bishop of Louisville from 1850-1864, who wanted “quality Catholic secondary education.”

St. Xavier Institute opened in 1864 with about 50 students under the leadership of Brother Paul Van Gerwen, one of the pioneer Xaverians that came to Louisville from Brugges, Belgium, he said.

Following Sangalli’s address, St. X senior Andrew Willett share a student’s perspective of St. X today.

“When I see St. X, I see brotherhood, education, respect, humility, caring and selflessness. These qualities that we so carefully carry out are qualities that have been bestowed upon us from God,” Willett said. “It’s important to take what God has given to us and to help others.”

Father J. Mark Spalding, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Louisville and pastor of Holy Trinity Church, challenged the young men during his homily to read Pope Francis’ newly-published apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” or “The Joy of the Gospel.”

“It’s a tough document; it’s a challenging one. But it’s the kind of document that St. Francis Xavier would have preached and lived for. It’s the same kind of document that Francis of Assisi would have died for,” Father Spalding said.

Father Spalding, who celebrated the liturgy on behalf of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, said that Pope Francis writes that Christ gives us each a mission.

“This mission can be summarized as simple as this — God loves you.”

Father Spalding said Christ fills each of our hearts with a love that can’t be kept hidden.

“It must be shared in the world. And it makes you loving and caring people for others, “ he said. “That’s the ‘Joy of the Gospel.’ That’s the meaning of being Christian and Roman Catholic. That in the center, in the core is about this high school.”

Dick Daniel, a 1960 graduate of St. Xavier, said the Xaverian Brothers had a positive influence on him and he enjoys returning to the school as a way of “paying back.”

Don Nugent, a member of the class of 1946, called his classmates “soul brothers” and although he doesn’t see them often he said they are “dear to my heart.”

Bob Beam, a 1946 graduate, recalled the camaraderie of his classmates and the world-class education he received from the brothers.

“It’s very important to me to give back,” the St. Albert the Great parishioner said.

For much of the school’s long history, Xaverian Brothers formed the majority of the faculty roster. Now only two brothers — Brothers Dan Conaghan and Richard Angarola — teach parttime. But the legacy of educating young men in the Xaverian tradition is still present, Sangalli said.

Sangalli said in an interview Dec. 5 that one of his most important jobs as president of the school is to protect and extend the legacy left by the Xaverian Brothers 150 years ago.

“The brothers very naturally created a culture and atmosphere that wrapped everyone into the brothers’ religious community,” Sangalli, a 1976 St. Xavier graduate, said.

He said the school today still tries to build relationships and create communities, a tradition that the Xaverians started a century and a half ago.

“Our being a Catholic school provides the lens which we think calls students to something outside themselves,” he said.

The school moved to its present campus on Poplar Level Road in 1961. St. X has produced 461 National Merit Scholars, 159 KHSAA state championships and more than 25,000 graduates.

The school will host events throughout 2014 to commemorate the 150th anniversary. They are:

  • Jan. 24 — All Alumni Night at the St. X vs. Seneca High School basketball game.
  • April 24 ­— Dedication of the Theodore James Ryken statue on campus.
  • Aug. 22 — All Alumni Night at the St. X vs. Ballard football game.
  • Oct. 11 — Anniversary Mass and dinner.
  • Nov. 13 — Grisanti Lecture Series.
  • Dec. 3 — Feast of St. Francis Xavier Mass.
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