May 18, 2014

‘Today’s leaders’ honored with Cathedral High School St. Joseph Award



Story and photos by Terence Hegarty

SPRINGFIELD – Eight Cathedral High School alumni were honored as “today’s leaders,” with the St. Joseph Medal at the Cedars banquet facility here May 17.

The 14th annual St. Joseph Medal Dinner to benefit Cathedral High School and honor alumni members hosted more than 300.

The 2014 honorees were: Richard DesLauiers, Class of 1978; Nicholas and Judith Fiorentino, each of the Class of 1957; Patrick Garrity, Class of 1981; Mary Janeczek, Class of 1969; Gerald Keavany, Class of 1948; Michael Warsaw, Class of 1982, and Sister of St. Joseph Joyce Wise, Class of 1959.

“These people truly are today’s leaders in our society,” said Ann Southworth, president of Cathedral High School. She told the crowd that the awardees were “outstanding men and women whose lives reflect excellence and Christian goodness in all aspects of their lives.”

The St. Joseph Medal is bestowed to those who have “exemplified Catholic values in their lives,” according to the award criteria.

“It’s an exciting night,” said Patrick Garrity, who received a St. Joseph Award at the ceremony. “I’m very humbled to be honored this evening,” said Garrity, who is currently the chair of the high school’s board of directors.

In that role for the past two years, he worked hard toward the goal of getting Cathedral back to Surrey Road since it was displaced from there in 2011.

“Catholic secondary education in the city of Springfield is essential,” Garrity told iobserve. “I think it’s critical that we continue. I was very passionate about making sure that Cathedral came back here.”

At the Cedars, people celebrated Cathedral while being just a stone’s throw away from the Surrey Road campus. And, like Garrity, they celebrated with a renewed optimism following a long period of uncertainty about the future of the school. That optimism was fostered by the announcement last winter that the school will be rebuilt on Surrey Road.

On June 1, 2011, the Surrey Road campus of Cathedral High School, built in 1959, was severely damaged by a tornado. For the last three academic years, the school has operated out of the former Memorial School in Wilbraham. The Diocese of Springfield announced last winter that the funds are in place to move forward with rebuilding a facility on the East Forest Park site.

According to Southworth, demolition will soon be underway. She said that the plan is to be in the new school by early 2017.

Judith Fiorentino, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Springfield, told iobserve that she was surprised when she was notified that she and her husband were receiving St. Joseph medals. “When we got the call, my reaction was ‘what for?’” she said. “There were so many in our class, and, we didn’t do anything more than anyone else.”

“We’re certainly honored to be here. We’ve led good, Christian lives,” she said.

Judith Fiorentino said that supporting Cathedral should be encouraged. “I think it’s always important to support something that’s good to our community and Cathedral certainly has been good.

“When we were in Cathedral (with facilities on Elliot Street in Springfield), they were building the new Cathedral High School,” Fiorentino recalled. “Now, hopefully, they’re going to build another new Cathedral High School and all of us alumni can get together and support Cathedral.”

DesLauriers (pictured at left), who recently retired from a more than 26-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told iobserve that Cathedral played a large role in shaping his very successful career.

“The education that I received at Cathedral High School really provided the foundation for my success as a person, as a husband and as a father as well as an FBI agent,” DesLauriers said.

“The principles and the education…were the finest that I could achieve.”

He said that he has carried what he learned at Cathedral with him ever since. “Catholic principles and precepts were instilled in young people that would help them be the best people that they could be, not only professionally, but in their personal lives.”

DesLauriers, who most recently was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, had an extremely successful law enforcement career. However, he told iobserve that the St. Joseph Medal is one of the most special recognitions he has received.

“This is a tremendous honor for me, it means so much to me,” he said. “I’ll always be proud to be a Cathedral panther.”

For a video version of this story, tune in to an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.