Saturday, October 5, 2019

20 years later: October 5, 1999: The new Cardinal Brennan gym dedicated

20 years ago today (as this is written on October 5, 2019), the Cardinal Brennan Jr/Sr High School gymnasium was dedicated by the Bishop of Allentown..

 There was much fanfare of the Middle States audit taking place that school year.. Principal Fr. Frans Berkhout ensured that students were prepped and ready for spot checks .. for the stresses that come with a grand review of an entire campus.. Along with it was a capital campaign aimed at raising money to build a new field house since the existing one had seen its day..

 New computer labs were built in 99, new math classrooms, and the crowning jewel: The new gym.. The stage was set.. the Bishop was in town.. Edward Cullen offered his blessings on the new gym during a school mass on October 5, 1999.. People were "grateful and relieved," the Pottsville REPUBLICAN HERALD reported...


 But the rest would soon become history.. Berkhout was out after the capital campaign.. By August 2000 the football season itself was canceled due to lack of players--a first in Brennan history.. Writing began to form on walls...

 While the Lady Chargers won their first basketball District 11 championship in history in March of 2003 and 2004, the number of students in the school begins to diminish.. In 2006, the entire football program is suspended...

February 2007: Letters were sent to parents inviting them to talk about enrollment i the school..

March 2007: The Diocese did not send the bishop as they did in October 99, but instead a representative to talk to more than 400 people at a meeting about the future of Cardinal Brennan.

No congratulatory applause about $600,000 capital campaigns.. just a quiet and slow death. On

March 25, 2007, the final March in March occurred.. as students cried in hallways, the announcement was made that Cardinal Brennan would close its doors. ( ) .

 All of this melancholy and infinite sadness was captured in stark difference from the hope, hype, and spectacle of the October 1999 moment.. Back during the previous century, as the gym was being constructed, I was attending Cardinal Brennan and concluding my teenage years in the amazing school...

 When I graduated in 1999, prior to the finality of the new gym, the valedictorian of the school had a profound message that could be reconsidered given the circumstances of years that occurred after its delivery,
"Each of us are a single thread to complete the larger tapestry, each one of having different strength, texture, and color. Each one by itself does nothing and exist only as a single strand. Yet when we are all woven together, it will have one strength throughout, one uniform texture, and the colors will blend. Only after each thread is in its proper place will we see the whole picture through different eyes. Let us not stray from the course the weaver wants us to follow."
The valedictorian went on with pros... stating,
"Dried petals lay beneath the sand. Flowers in sand preserve, let our memories be those flowers, and the rest of our lives from this moment forward be the sand, but let us never once forget."
The words mean as much now (or more) as they meant then. The gym is now property of North Schuylkill... All of those tears, hugs.. and long embraces between friends in front of that gymnasium in the summer of 99 are just history... memories are the flowers... forward in the sands of time..

Tuesday, August 14, 2018




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Baltimore files

One of the most important documentaries that has ever existed can now be found on Netflix. It is called THE KEEPERS, and travels down a murky path starting with a nun's murder in the 1960s all the way through abuse allegations made against priests in the 1990s and beyond.

Sister Catherine Cesnik was found dead decades ago. But her murder still haunts those alive and those who knew her or were taught by her.. She was a cutting edge nun of the time, she wanted to work in public schools and also had thoughts about leaving her vows to marry a priest who was equally thinking about leaving the priesthood.

During her tensure at an all-girls school Archbishop Keough High School, there were allegations that Father Joseph Maskell and another priest may have been molesting girls. And even more than molesting, but also raping..bringing in outsiders to do that deed as well, including potentially police officers with the Baltimore police department, and subsequently attempting to cover up records by burying them in a cemetery.. Along with those explosive allegations: The theme of THE KEEPERS is that Sister Catherine was aware and was about to do something... and was murdered brutally with her body left to be maggot infested and rotting in a wooded area.

The documentary stokes ill-will in some. The 1990s and 2000s were a period of dramatic revelations for anyone who was a member of the Catholic Church in the United States. Not only were churches and schools consolidated and closed because of dioceses being forced to pay out high numbers of dollars in abuse settlements, but also a general malaise of church officials and mistrust of the heirarchy of the Roman Catholic institution developed. People stopped fearing and respecting the priestly authority.. instead, perhaps sadly for moral men who pick this as their life profession, a white collar has become a punchline.

The Church inflicted wounds on themselves. Their denials in the face of facts--including in this newly released documentary THE KEEPERS--is what brings a pox on their houses.. It is what creates the 'laugh line'.. and it is what fuels constant conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories, by the way, that has proven to be accurate and unsettling.

And .....for those who reside in Eastern Pennsylvania or surrounding areas in Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, you may be scratching your head like I did after viewing THE KEEPERS. I recall, quite a few times, where my own Catholic school priests seemingly had a strange connection to Baltimore.. where parties and weekend getaways happened with certain chosen boys from schools around me called retreats...
What the KEEPERS. And begin asking questions in your own mind and out loud. The answers may be startling.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The end of an era: An icon of Cardinal Brennan passes away

To my friends who graduated or attended Cardinal Brennan high school, the end of an era has occurred.. The famed custodian Nate has met his demise.

Godspeed Nate. You are in every students fond memories of Cardinal Brennan and made each day better, brighter, and more interesting ...

Including my memories and days.
Rest In Peace.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The former CB building

At this time, there has been no affirmative decision as to what the North Schuylkill School District will do with the former Cardinal Brennan high school. Earlier in 2016, NS purchased and auctioned off contents of the CB grounds. There were rumors churning that the school would have to be demolished due to years of neglect.. at this time the building, though in constant worsening condition, still stands tall through the late summer trees...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The bell tower revisited

It has been some time since I typed out a post on here.. I check my stats now and then and realized that hundreds of people per month are still searching for and finding this blog.. The Bell Tower Blog..

Cardinal Brennan has been closed now for years.. Changes. Lots of graduating classes would have come and gone. And gone.. and gone. The beat went on.
The area has too..

The Bell Tower Blog captured a moment in time, when a school was shuddered and lives were forever changed. And scarred. But the area has received its share of devilish grins, too..

Heroin blankets most streets across the coal region now. And so does depression, joblessness, sadness and grief. The mall, the Schuylkill Mall, appears to be entering its final days. With more stores closing by the moment, the seconds are ticking and time is winding down.

There seems to be an overall feeling of malaise that has swept the land. It seems down lately.. It seemed changed.

Perhaps one can soon look back at recent and soon to be distant history and pinpoint a certain time when the area died away and withered? Maybe it has to do a bit with the loss of church life--priest lawsuits and cases of pedophilia have hurt deep and caused everlasting wounds. Schools closing did not help. They took a sense of security from some. Parents who attended Catholic schools now have a tough choice: Risk spending most of what little extra cash they have on school.. or pick the other school.

Times have changed. The bell has tolled over and over again. And with each new phase of life, the standard and quality of life has been compromised.

Thanks for reading.
I am honored many of you still seem to be checking back...