Marriage of Convenience

As South Philadelphia's two big Catholic high schools prepare to merge, there's no shortage of regret- and blame- to go around.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Jun. 2, 2004

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"My dad and uncle went here," says Michael Matteo, another student. "I'm closing the deal."

"It sucks that we won't be able to come back here," says Jason Oliveri, who'll be attending Temple University next year. "The whole family feel--it's like one big house. You walk in and you know you're home."

A group of juniors, assigned to hand out yearbooks, huddles in the far corner of the gym.

"We know them all already," shrugs one when asked about going to school with Goretti girls next year. "It's no big deal."

"You can come in here all laid back," says Chris Baldwin, another junior, "not worrying about having to look good for the girls. It's nice."

"It's our home," interrupts junior Anthony Miller. "We're being kicked out of our home."

"And you know the teachers will have to react differently," says Baldwin. "Their whole style will have to change."

"Mr. D'Orazio will probably have to stop practicing his karate during class," someone says dryly.

"I'm gonna miss Uncle Tomy's," someone says about a local sandwich joint.

"And Patty Pretzel," jokes another about a beloved cafeteria worker.


The gym starts to empty. The juniors head back to class. The seniors, finished for the year, take their time drifting out.

After a while, there are only about a dozen seniors left in the gym. They sit in the bleachers, surrounding Mr. DeVelasco, or "D," as the beloved assistant principal for student life is known.

A thin man with a soft Spanish accent, graying hair and an easy smile, Mr. D is a Neumann legend. "Without him, none of our memories would be possible," says senior Stephen Rinaldi. "He manages all the affairs, everything. He's a great man."

D's office, often supplied with donuts and milk, is a student hangout. "Yo, kid," he'll say. "How are ya?" Or "Yo, kid. Come on and help me with this."

The final issue of the school newspaper, The Rocket, printed a front-page tribute to Mr. D.

"All you have to do is walk the halls of the new school and hear Mr. DeVelasco, and you'll immediately feel like you're home," reads the tribute.

DeVelasco makes his way through the last of the yearbooks, taking his time signing each one.

The gym is peaceful.

After a few minuets, Fred the maintenance guy starts folding up the bleachers.

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Comments 1 - 5 of 5
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1. Frank Ferraro said... on Feb 20, 2013 at 08:56PM

“I will never forget Fr. Charles Urban at Southeast and Neumann. He was my greatest scientific infulence. Also, Fr. Feider I Master German enough to study at Heildelberg when I was in Germany. Most of Charlie Urban influenced my Career. Princeton Plasma Physics Labs. NASA near Earth Satellites, Consultant to the US Navy on the Aegis System. I am now retired WOW!! What a career. Southeast and Neumann the greatest Eduacation.”

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2. Frank Ferraro said... on Feb 20, 2013 at 09:03PM


OH! sorry I forgot to add Class of "56" Occupation Electronic Engineer.

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3. Duane E. Tressler, (Baltimore, Md.), said... on Feb 6, 2014 at 02:25AM

“A similar tragic situation ninety miles to the southwest in "The Monumental City" of Baltimore where Cardinal Gibbons High School in the southwestern part of the city was closed in a great controversy, similar to South Philadelphia except there was no merger with anyone. Gibbons was a more recent school, founded 1966 on the site of the old St. Mary's Industrial School, founded in the 1860's where the famous Babe Ruth attendedand lived as a child in the early 1900's and learned his game on a back field with Brother Mathias being his mentor. The field is still there with a suitable plaque about his first home run, although the modernistic Gothic stone buildings of Gibbons were smaller that replaced the old brick Victorian/French Second Empire massive pile that the old St. Mary's structure was. Ruth signed a contract in 1914 with the local Baltimore Orioles which then played in the minor league status of the old International League, later was sold to the Boston Red Sox, then Yankees.”

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4. Duane E. Tressler, (Baltimore, Md.), said... on Feb 6, 2014 at 02:38AM

“The boys at Gibbons had all this as part of their heritage and a newer girls Catholic school down the suburban road a few blocks named Archbishop Keough High School, in a modern 1960's era expansive building which earlier had absorbed the merger of another old inner city girls secondary school, Seton High School, (founded 1865 and in a beautiful brick building in north Baltimore's Charles Village, a Victorian neighborhood), now known as Seton-Keough High School. One historic city girls school is left: the Institute of Notre Dame which is run by the SSND. The saga of the giving Gibbons students went on several months. Those are two of the Catholic high schools that Baltimore lost along with a smaller female Academy of the Visitation in the 1980s. A large number of the elementary and middle schools of the Archdiocese of Baltimore have also been closed or merged along with a number of urban parishes although probably not on as bad or extensive a level that we have read about in other ci”

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5. Duane E. Tressler, (Baltimore, Md.), said... on Feb 6, 2014 at 02:44AM

“The boys at Cardinal Gibbons HS had all this as part of their heritage and a newer girls school down the suburban road a few blocks named Archbishop Keough High School, in a modern 1960's era expansive building which earlier had absorbed the merger of another old inner city girls secondary school, Seton High School, (founded 1865 and in a beautiful brick building in north Baltimore's Charles Village, a Victorian neighborhood), now known as Seton-Keough High School. One historic city girls school is left: the Institute of Notre Dame which is run by the SSND. The saga of the giving Gibbons students went on several months. Those are two of the Catholic high schools that Baltimore lost along with a smaller female Academy of the Visitation in the 1980s. A large number of the elementary and middle schools of the Archdiocese of Baltimore have also been closed or merged along with a number of urban parishes although probably not as bad or extensive a level that we have seen in other cities”

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