Dec 1, 2013

Hundreds turn out to celebrate Holyoke Catholic's 50th anniversary



Story and photos by Stephen Kiltonic

SPRINGFIELD -- On Nov. 30, Holyoke Catholic High School celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala banquet  and inaugural Awards of Distinction ceremony held at the MassMutual Center, here.

More than 350 Holyoke Catholic alumni and guests attended the festivities, which included an auction and video presentation of honoree interviews as well as a retrospective of the school's history. Springfield Bishop Timothy McDonnell gave the invocation.

The 46 award recipients, including alumni, faculty, athletic and performing arts supporters and friends, were chosen because of their dedication and service to the school community.

"Holyoke Catholic is known as a big family. That doesn't happen accidentally," said Theresa Kitchell, principal of Holyoke Catholic.

"There are a lot of people who go out of their way, who do special things, who are especially helpful, and those were the people we wanted to recognize," Kitchell said. "Our Awards of Distinction winners have been instrumental in creating that family."

Jeffrey Trask, one of the award recipients from the class of 1998, said Holyoke Catholic has a unique personality that sets it apart from other high schools.

"It's a special place to be. It inspires people to want to commit their time and want to help out and see it grow and thrive in the future. So, there is just a special atmosphere," said Trask. "I've always tried to maintain my commitment to Holyoke Catholic, whether it be volunteering for performing arts or serving on the board of trustees. It's a great institution."

Another award recipient, Sister of St. Joseph Marlene Mucha, has taught literature and composition at the school for 45 years.

"We're a real community and the students are a joy. It is not work to go into teach every day. Every class, I honestly have to say, is totally delightful. I just love teaching at Holyoke Catholic," said Sister Mucha.  She added that although the school has been at three locations (downtown Holyoke, Granby and now Chicopee) during its 50 years, the building itself never mattered.

"Our spirituality has remained constant. The closeness of the student body and the faculty have remained constant," said Sister Mucha. "Everyone feels so welcome, whether it be the visitor who might chat with us for a day or alumni that might come back. It's always the same. They feel the close-knit camaraderie that's always existed."

Eva Stockhamer, the school's performing arts director, was another award recipient and was honored along with with her husband, Harvey, and their two children, Brianna and Sam, for their contributions over the past 16 years to the drama program. 

"It's not just the faculty and administration. It's the students themselves who support each other and for me that's what makes it so special," said Stockhamer. "I know that when a cast list is posted, it's as if a varsity sport was announced and that means that everybody is just as important as everyone else and that is really very special for the children who participate and the children who support them."

Holyoke Catholic High School was founded in 1963 by the Sisters of St. Joseph when Sacred Heart, St. Jerome, Precious Blood and Holy Rosary schools merged.

Watch for more on this story on an upcoming edition of the Springfield Diocese's weekly newsmagazine, "Real to Reel," which airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.