Most people have fond memories of their early school years. The remembrance of favorite teachers, the preparations for the sacraments, the friendships made and those wonderful teacher-student anecdotes embellished the years, remain forever a very special part a person’s life. Even the school building itself becomes a kind of monument of memories as former students and parishioners pass it by.
Such was true of the “old school” built by the Redemptorist Fathers in 1882, whose bell tolled for youngsters and oldsters alike for learning and worship. For almost a hundred years the “old school” served Nativity Parish well in so many ways.
It was a house of learning, a center for parish social activities and banquets, a meeting hall, a soup kitchen in depression years, a club house and dance hall and a haunted house for cub scouts. The “old school” symbolized in many ways the Nativity Parish Family. Let us take a quick walking tour down memory lane through its halls and rooms. Perhaps, we can hear its varied sounds and see familiar faces long gone now. Just to mention a few of the sights and sounds: the boxing matches in the basement, the Children of Mary Room, the Legion of Mary, the Nativity Sewing Guild, the Ninth Grade Annex, M.D.A. Drawing on the first floor; the Nativity Catholic Club with the sound of the eight ball in the side pocket, the shuffle board and card games and the candy store at the top of the stairs, a meeting place for men to solve all the world problems; on the third floor the sound and fury of a typical Nativity-St. Anne basketball game that never really ended at the final whistle. On and on we could go. Yet, the ravages of time caught up with this “old girl” that mothered so many of her people.
Condemned as unsafe, the old school was demolished in July, 1981. All that remains now is and silent—a relic of another time, faith and parish spirit tolled through the Parish.
Father Francis Quinn, first diocesan pastor of Nativity B.V.M. Parish, commissioned the Henry McShane Company of Baltimore to strike up a bell for installation in the original parish church (Old School). The Bell was blessed by Archbishop Patrick Ryan of Philadelphia on Sunday, March 5, 1885. The words of the inscription on the Bell show the indebtedness of the parish to its original founders, the Redemptorist Fathers: -This Bell has been dedicated to Holy Mary under the title of Perpetual Help. While: Pope Leo XIII being at Rome, John Ryan, Ordinary and Archbishop of Philadelphia, Nicholas Mauran, Superior General and Rector of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Elias Frederick Schauer, Superior of the American Province of Baltimore, Ferdinand Aloysius Litz, Rector at St. Boniface, and has been blessed this day in solemn rite.- Sponsors: Martin Ritz Francis Schottler Edward McAvary This Bell was saved during the demolition of the Old School. Robert Michalowski volunteered to restore the bell. The wooden frame and yoke that now support the bell are the original mountings. Mr. Michalowski stripped the wood and metal to their base materials. He treated both with materials and chemicals necessary to preserve and restore it to its present beauty. During Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on the rectory lawn, the restored Bell was blessed and installed in its new location on Sunday, June 20, 1982. May this Bell continue to invoke in us as we pass it by on our way to worship God, a deep appreciation of our freedom, faith and parish spirit.