St. Catherine school celebrates 50th anniversary

When something is great, it is said to have a gold standard. Saint Catherine of Siena School has reached that standard, in more ways than one, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The school began in September 1965 when the parents at the Saint Catherine of Siena Church wanted a Catholic school for their children. They started the school as a grass-roots movement, said Peter Rogers, the principal of the school.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame came and started the school with just three grades: first, second and seventh grade. They taught the small school of 71 children in the church hall. A school building followed in 1966, and by 1967, all grades from first to eighth were available, and 250 children attended the school.

Rogers said the school has a warm and friendly family atmosphere, with strong relationship between the school and parish. He also said that the school is a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence with a strong academic curriculum and strong communication and technology in all academic areas.

Many things have happened over the past 50 years and no one knows more than Eunice Giaquinto, vice principal. She has also been a teacher at St. Catherine for the past 30 years, teaching first , third, and fifth grade. She shared accomplishments of students, events at the school, her friendships with alumni, and the faith and familiar kinship that weaves throughout the school then and now.

She spoke of the love she has for the children who have passed through the doors and halls at the school for the past 30 years. Although she has no children, her life’s dedication has been to St Catherine’s children.

“I have everyone’s children; this is my calling,” Giaquinto said.

Giaquinto said many of her students stay in touch with her and come back and visit. She has remained friends with them, and has even attended a wedding, supported their careers, and she is now teaching the second generation of children.

Lisa Palmieri is a mother to three of those children. She is an alumna of the school, class of ’93, and has three daughters at the school. They are in pre-K, third grade, and first grade. She said when it came time to pick a school for her children that there was no other choice than St. Catherine.

Palmieri said her closest friends are from the graduating class of St. Catherine’s; she still sees some of them in the pews at Mass. She also credits the teachers, saying they extend themselves to the children. She believes the most important thing is that St. Catherine’s is beyond academic excellence.

“Trumbull already has great schools.” Palmieri said. “So, why St. Catherine? Of course there is academic excellence, but it’s more than that. It’s a feeling; it’s family.”

Another alumnus of St. Catherine is Steve Burke. He attended St. Catherine’s from kindergarten through eighth grade and graduated in 1990. He lives in Trumbull and has three children at the school.

“I have fond memories of my time at St. Catherine’s and the friendships I made there, many of which are still going strong today,” Burke said. “The family atmosphere at the school is hard to describe to those outside the community and is something that has developed due to the hard work of the school administration, teachers and families over the years. There is a certain bond alumni have that you don’t see from other places. I hope the school is around for another 50 years.”

Giaquinto also described the school as always having had a family atmosphere, and being faith centered. She said the children always prayed for intentions and have always prayed for others. She said praying for intentions for others is part of the school’s mission, along with high academic standards in a faith community.

Giaquinto recalled how three students, Ken Martin, Rudy Muritz and Chris Drury, were in the Trumbull Little League that went on to win the 43rd Little League World Series in 1989. They defeated the Kang-Tu Little League of Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).

After the championship game, there was a reception in the school and a parade in town. Drury would later become a national hockey player and retire from the New York Rangers.

Aside from Drury, other students at St. Catherine have gone on to embrace various careers. Ken Martin is owner of the Ken Martin Colony Grill Development, LLC. He and his wife Ailis are co-presidents of the St Catherine of Siena Home & School Association.

Martin recalled that as a youngster, he felt such a sense of support and family-like care, and presence of faith among the faculty and other parents who had children at the school. He said that he still feel that today as a parent of five children at the school.
“Some of my dearest, life-long friends are those whom I met as a young student at St. Catherine, and I believe we share a bond that our Catholic education and mutual experience provided — a recollection of compassionate discipline and deep respect for more than just ourselves in the world,” Martin said.

Father Joseph Marcello is the pastor at St. Catherine Church. He attended the school from 1981 to 1990, when he graduated. Fr. Marcello said he remembers always being happy at the school. He said the school was like Cheers where “everyone knows your name.”

The parish priest and alumni said St. Catherine is important to promote the practice of faith, to teach the children to respect and love others. He also said the school is important for children to learn this world is not all there is.

Although the parish priest said when he attended the school he did not think of becoming a priest, he said the school did give him a good foundation. However, Giaquinto said Sister Anne Marie, who has since died, taught at St. Catherine and told her that he was destined to become a priest. She can recall the memory of the nun telling her this nearly 25 years ago at the school.
The school has history. Although Rogers is a new principal to the school and does not share the same memories as Giaquinto and Father Marcello, he has goals that will keep the school moving forward to make new memories.

“I would like to continue to strengthen the Catholic identity,” Rogers said. “I would like continue to achieve Blue Ribbon status again, and I would also like to continue to build a strong relationship between the school and the parish and continue a sense of community.”