Michael McGouran looks at his Grade 3 report card from St. Monica Catholic School with his 92-year-old mother. Photo courtesy of Michael McGouran

It’s all about family at St. Monica centennial

  • October 13, 2016

TORONOTO – For Michael McGouran, attending the 100th anniversary of Toronto’s St. Monica Catholic School this month is much more than a pleasant trip down memory lane.

“It sounds like it is going to be more of a family reunion than anything else,” said McGouran, 62. “I’ve got about 12 to 15 people coming. We were a big family.”

McGouran, one of 13 children, spent his early years as a student attending the school in the Yonge and Eglinton neighborhood surrounded by brothers, sisters and a long list of cousins who doubled as school-yard chums.

“All of our family lived there … (and) our whole family went there,” he said. “We had a long walk to school because we lived on the other side of Avenue Road and walked literally through the city streets crossing Yonge Street by ourselves more or less. We weren’t a wealthy family so taking the TTC, that was a luxury if you had a dime to spare.”

Foregoing that luxury never much bothered McGouran, who attended the school from 1958 until 1962.

“After school was typically when you could get into trouble,” he said with a boyish chuckle. “We’d walk pass the stores and try to swipe a pop bottle or something small ... or we would try to hawk an apple or a pear or a peach. Little mischievous things, nothing serious.”

To McGouran, those were the good old days.

“There are a lot of memories, family memories,” said McGouran, who estimates that at least 12 of his cousins also attended St. Monica. “We were really lucky in that way. We really were.”

His days at St. Monica’s came to an end half-way through Grade 3, when his family moved to Port Credit.

“That was a culture shock,” he said, “especially with the two older kids having gone to high school by that time. It was difficult to leave because we left all of our cousins, which was huge.”

McGouran, eventually went on to spend about 45 years in the grocery business before going into semi-retirement in Keswick, north of Toronto, with his wife. They have three children and are grandparents to four more. His mother Johanna, is 92 and lives once again in the old neighbourhood.

All that makes the 100th anniversary on Oct. 15 especially sweet as the McGouran family gets to reconnect with each other as well as the school. There is also a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Thomas Collins, followed by a dinner and reception.

The school’s principal, Vince Tanzini, notes that the McGourans won’t be the only one well represented at the event.

“It is not only going to be a school reunion for K to Grade 8, it is like a family reunion, too,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been learning from talking to some of the alumni that have dropped in to purchase tickets.”

While the size of McGouran’s family was especially large — eight girls and five boys — it wasn’t unusual for many families who immigrated to the area following World War II to have four or five children. That boomer generation placed such pressure on St. Monica’s capacity that the school expanded twice in less than a decade, in 1955 and then again in 1963.

Today there are 283 students studying at St. Monica’s, and Tanzini admits the building is showing its age and in need of “some repairs.”

For McGouran, however, the memories will never grow old.

“You’ll see something in a classroom and something will just flash in your brain,” he said. “The memories just pop up. It’ll be a treat, like coming to a family get-together.”

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