This June, our school is sending forth its 100th class of graduates! I often tell our young people that they stand on the shoulders of the many West Catholic “giants” who have come before them.
I am very proud of our seniors for the contribution that they have made to the West Catholic legacy. In a recent visit with our seniors, I told them that only in the future will they begin to realize the foresight and wisdom of our school’s founders, the commitment and support of their teachers and coaches, the sacrifices of their parents, and the generosity of our alums, all of whom collectively are the foundation to their high school experience.
In preparation for graduation, I took a look back at the first yearbook for graduates of 1920. I came across a letter to the graduates from Rev. Walter C. Tredtin, S.M., the school’s principal. Our school at the time was brand new as was Catholic, parochial education. The reason Catholic schools like ours were founded is because Catholics, many of whom were immigrants, felt great inequity and injustice and therefore decided to go so far to protect their beliefs and norms as to begin their own school system separate from the public system. While Catholic schools like West Catholic were being erected in Philadelphia and across the country, many took aim at them (sometimes in the form of federal legislation) in an effort to destroy the movement.
Father Tredtin, S.M. wrote to his graduates:
“In some states, the forces of intolerance have organized and are making a united and vigorous effort to destroy the parochial school system. The movement is gathering strength and popularity among our purblind and benighted fellow-citizens and threatens to sweep like a hurricane through the country.”
He goes on to encourage the new West Catholic graduates that they are needed to combat the societal forces that threaten Catholic education.
“You shall live in those days and be a witness of her triumph. More than that, your love of truth, justice, and liberty will prompt you to do battle for your (school).”
Times have changed. The 1920 message to the graduates was obviously relevant to that time in our school and societal history. But there’s a message here for our graduates today that “. . . your love of truth, justice, and liberty will prompt you to do battle for your (school).”
In June, I will share with our graduates that it is my hope as the 100th class of graduates of West Catholic Preparatory High School, above everything else, that they will bring their love of truth, justice, and liberty, to a world that needs it now more than ever. Should they do this, they will bring great pride to their alma mater, and for that I and all those who came before them are forever grateful.
Paul Colistra, President
See the full letter and others like it in the Spring 2019 Alumni Magazine, West Notes.