By Abigail Cukier, News Staff
The Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School community is holding its first homecoming Nov. 3.
And for Lou Friscolanti, it truly is like a homecoming. Friscolanti graduated from Bishop Ryan in 1966.
He returned as principal from 2001 to 2007. In between, his three children all attended and graduated from Bishop Ryan.
“I taught for 37 years and had always been interested in returning to Bishop Ryan. I was delighted to be there as principal,” Friscolanti said. “It was great to see that the school had the same traditions as when I was a student. Those include a great staff dedicated to the kids, extracurricular activities and to our faith.”
The first Bishop Ryan homecoming will take place Nov. 3 at the school at 50 Albright Rd. All alumni, staff and friends are invited to celebrate with a mass led by Father Ron Cote, a cocktail hour, dinner and dance. Included in the honoured years will be the first graduating class from 1962. Other honoured years will be 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007.
Cote is especially excited to be a part of the event. He was the second principal of the school, serving from 1962 to 1975. After that, he was founding principal at Cardinal Newman before taking on parish work full time. “Our was the first co-ed Catholic school, but we had separate classes at first, separate stairwells, lockers,” he remembers. “It eventually became unmanageable and we integrated.”
Cote also remembers when provincial government funding for Catholic schools only covered students up to Grade 10. After that, they had to pay school fees.
He also recalls the “great jeans strike.”
While girls had a very strict dress code, boys simply had to wear a collared shirt and dress pants. Despite this, about 25 male students staged a protest to wear jeans.
“We had a discussion in my office. I told them, ‘the girls are regulated to the hilt. You have nothing to complain about.’ “After that, most of them changed right away. They still had their dress pants in their lockers. Some had to go home to change.”
Bishop Ryan history
Bishop Ryan was named after Bishop Joseph F. Ryan, a staunch supporter of Catholic education in the province.
Since separate school boards did not receive funding for construction of new schools from the Ministry of Education, the money for building the new Bishop Ryan was donated by the parishioners of the Diocese of Hamilton and was raised in a fundraising drive in the whole Catholic community. The cost of construction was about $1 million.
The board of governors, who financed and administered grades 11 to 13 as a private school, chose a site at Queenston Road and Parkdale Avenue. That first year, the students had to pay a tuition fee of $3 per month to attend Bishop Ryan.
The new school building was officially opened April 16, 1959. Classes began for the Grade 9 students in the new BR on April 17, 1959.
In the four subsequent years, other parts of the school were opened to accommodate students from grades 10 to 13, one year at a time.
Enrolment grew steadily to just under 2,000 students until a satellite school had to be set up at St Francis Xavier Elementary School to house Grade 9 students from Stoney Creek, Winona and east Hamilton.
To relieve the overcrowding at the main campus, the satellite operated from 1971 to 1975. Bishop Ryan moved to a new home at 50 Albright Rd. in 1991 with renovated classrooms and facilities. Because many of the lower-city feeder schools have closed due to low enrolment and due to population growth in upper Stoney Creek, a new Bishop Ryan is being constructed south of Rymal Road. The school is expected to open next year.
For information on the Nov. 3 homecoming, visit www.bishopryanalumni.com or call (905) 573-2151, ext. 3879. The cost for the event is $25 for alumni association members and $30 for non-members.