St. Clare School pumps out responsible citizens for the past century

By 
  • September 30, 2010
Sr. Anicetus, CSJTORONTO - Maureen Curtis has fond memories as a St. Clare Elementary School student and will be celebrating and reminiscing with other alumni on the school’s legacy of faith and formation over its 100-year history.

The school marks its 100th anniversary this year with an Open House and a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Clare Church celebrated by Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins on Sept. 29. There was also a school blessing and the unveiling of a new statue of St. Clare at the school. And an archival display of St. Clare’s history since it opened in September 1910, including school and class photos, was to be featured. An alumni reunion was planned for Oct. 2.


One of Curtis’ fondest memories was the crowning of Mary each year in May. From Grades 4 to 8, Curtis would place a wreath of lilacs on the statue of Mother Mary to commemorate the month of Mary.

Curtis, who attended the west-end Toronto school from Grades 1 to 8 in the 1950s, also remembers the teachers at the school, including Sr. Agnes Teresa.

“We all remember her coming down the stairs, coming from the office, with her wooden rosary around her waist,” she recalls.

Among the lessons Curtis learned from her teachers was responsibility. After graduating from the school, Sr. Agnes invited Curtis, then 13, to teach catechism class to First Communion candidates on Saturdays. It was about “making us responsible as human beings. It doesn’t get any better than that,” she said.

The celebration is also a family affair. Curtis’ father attended St. Clare and Curtis married a fellow St. Clare student, David, who attended the boys’ school. (There were two St. Clare Schools during that time, a girls’ school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph and a boys’ school run by the De La Salle Christian brothers). Her four children also attended the school, including a son who entered the priesthood, Fr. Ed Curtis.

For Liberal MP Joe Volpe, being at the school from 1956 to 1961 taught him about the idea of Christian vocation.

Volpe, who began at the school in Grade 3, says he saw in the De La Salle brothers how “teaching (is) a vocation, not a job.”

“I think St. Clare gave everyone a sense that we all had a sense of purpose in life,” Volpe said from Ottawa. “It’s about living your life in society, improving it and building society.”

The brothers also taught students about becoming a Catholic leader, playing your role in society and the community, which helped lay the foundations for Volpe’s later political aspirations.

For alumni Judy Brunsek, the centennial anniversary is about keeping St. Clare’s legacy alive.

Brunsek, who attended the school with her older brother and whose son now attends St. Clare, helped organize alumni to fund music and drama programs at the school as well as help support the library.

As a student, Brunsek participated in the school’s celebration for Canada’s 1967 centennial where she sang at a school assembly.

“When you start school, it crystallizes who you are. I realized I loved learning,” she said. “That love of learning was set in those early days.”

St. Clare’s has seen its share of successful alumni, including Tony Gagliano, head of St. Joseph Communications, San Jose Sharks hockey player Jamal Mayers as well as “Ace” Bailey and “Windy” O’Neill of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Connie” Codarini of the popular Canadian male singing quartet the Four Lads attended the school, as did Tony Flaim of the Downchild Blues Band.

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