SPRING EDITION 2013                                


We are happy to bring you the 15th edition of this newsletter.  The Golden Burrs Committee members are constantly looking for information that would be of interest to our classmates, especially those who are no longer in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 


Each section will bring you information that we have gathered about West Catholic and other newsworthy events that have transpired in the past three months.  In this issue, under the "West Catholic Banner" are articles about West Catholic's comeback; the new branding initiative begun by Brother Richard Kestler and his team; an update on West Catholic's enrollment plans; a report by Rich Buzza on his and Johnny Staiber's visit to West; and the latest West Catholic calendar of events.


The "News Features" section provides a story about Tom McClain's retirement from youth officiating; more information about the 55th Anniversary Reunion of the Class of 1958; Frank Metzler continues his report on West Philadelphia parish closings; a report about the future of St. Charles Seminary; mail received from Classmates and Friends; our closing section:  "REMEMBERING THE GOOD OLD DAYS" and sadly a report on the passing of Jack Roche and Bob McIntyre and Brother Patrick Ellis. 









Pictured from left to right: Mr. John Jackson Assistant Principal for Student Services, Mr. John Jenkins Director of Administration, Sister Mary E. Bur, I.H.M. Principal, Mr. Paul Colistra Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Brother Richard Kestler, F.S.C. President



ANDREW EISER, Daily News Staff Writer 

WEST CATHOLIC High School was the only one of four Catholic high schools slated for closure by the Archdiocese last January that didn't appeal.

That decision by former president Brother Timothy Ahern, based on the school's future enrollment projections, led to much acrimony, and Ahern resigned.

The Archdiocese then decided on its own to keep the 96-year-old school at 45th and Chestnut streets open.

While the school only graduated 106 students last year, officials say enrollment is up and, more importantly, so is fundraising.  New president Brother Richard Kestler said West Catholic is "alive and well."

"We respect our traditions of the past, but the reality is that we understand that we're looking at building a brand new school," Kestler said.  "Our school is in a new mode."

That mode is courtesy of several factors, including Faith in the Future Foundation, which launched this year to support the region's 17 Archdiocesan high schools by covering operational deficits.

The high schools across the five-county area have the largest freshmen classes in more than a decade, according to Samuel Casey Carter, CEO of the foundation.

"Enrollment is up across the entire system, and it will only continue to grow from here," Carter said.  "We want to make a high-quality Catholic education available to anybody in the city of Philadelphia who wants it."

Paul Colistra, vice president for institutional advancement at West Catholic, said the school has raised $250,000 of its annual $1.3 million goal.  That's $100,000 more than expected.

Another donor, meanwhile, has already committed to fund up to $1 million in strategic planning costs.  Colistra said student visits, open-house participation and scholarship tests have doubled.

Aside from individual donors, state tax credit programs like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit are just as important, Colistra said.  The credits allow businesses to receive tax breaks for money they donate for families to send their kids to private schools.

West Catholic has also established relationships with Penn, Drexel and St. Joseph's universities.  These partnerships, Carter said, will bolster growth and better prepare students, allowing the largest and oldest Catholic education system in the country to grow again.










GOWEST - Learn, Compete, Create, Lead - Branding Initiative Now Live with SEPTA


A new branding initiative to promote the good things happening at West Catholic High School has launched and can be found on SEPTA buses and trains throughout Philadelphia.

The campaign, aptly named, GOWEST, has launched recently and will be live for the next 10 months.  The GOWEST campaign can be found on 150 buses and trains heading east-west and north-south, and on both the Broad St. line and the El.

This campaign is designed to ignite potential student interest as well as student/parent/alum morale.





submitted by:  FRANK ADOLF

An article on the front page of the December 30, 2012 Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer entitled "Catholic school year of transition" reported on events in 2012 that lead up to the announcement of the closing of 45 elementary schools and four of the 17 high schools; then the reversals after appeals that resulted in 34 fewer Catholic elementary schools and all the four high schools being spared.  The following is an excerpt from that article as it pertains to West Catholic:

At West Catholic - the only endangered high school that did not file a formal appeal - the numbers were more sobering.  Only 51 ninth graders are enrolled, and the school-wide population totals 248.  But West was without a president for several months after Brother Tim Ahern resigned Feb. 9, saying the atmosphere in the school had become "untenable."


Brother Richard Kestler who had been West's president from 1999 to 2005, returned July 1, after serving as president of La Salle Catholic High School in Wyndmoor.


Kestler said he was using strategies he learned at the private Catholic boys' school.  The school is now emphasizing its music program and strengthening the rigor of its academic program.  Kestler said he would add a second admissions staffer next month as the school aims to nearly triple the ninth-grade enrollment next fall and to have total enrollment reach 500 students in four years.


"I'm hoping to demonstrate ... that we are a vibrant institution and deserve the opportunity to move forward," he said.  "It's not the same old West Catholic they're used to."


Editorial note:  As of March 5th, enrollment for the Class of 2017 has reached 106.  This is double the current frosh class and is well on the way to meeting the goal of 140!




submitted by:  RICH BUZZA


On a fine Autumn day in October Johnny Staiber and I had occasion to visit West Catholic High School (I won't tell you the reason at this time for it would spoil the surprise) anyway, Johnny and I met at his house, and by the way, very nice hard wood floors in his living room, for the trip into Philadelphia.  Now, you have to understand I have not been in Philadelphia for 30 years so I asked Johnny if he would not mind driving.  Johnny is not only a great driver but a talented tour guide.  The trip through Upper Darby into Philly via

Marshall Road brought back many memories and Johnny and I relived them as we passed them bye.. "We used to go to the Hot Shoppe out here" "Oh, yeah there is 69th Street, boy that sure has changed."  As we came up Marshall Road to make the left hand turn on to 63rd Street I said "There is the old Walnut Street Plaza Hotel, Jim English and I used to be in the Ground Observer Corps spotting airplanes from the roof of that hotel."  Johnny said, "My best friend was in that group, Clarence Phillips, perhaps you knew him?" "Sure I did, a very nice guy."  Anyway we talked about Clarence all the way down Chestnut Street, it seems Johnny had kept in touch with him and he was living in California.  As we arrived at 49th Street there was the site of our old alma mater, only it was not old anymore, there stood a brand new modern building called "West Philadelphia High School" beautiful but at the same time sad.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                On to the new school, turn left on 46th Street and a quick right, say, this is alright, we have our own parking lot right at the school, things are looking up.  John and I parked and proceeded into the school.  Our destination was George Light's office and we did not know how to get there, we met a student and she graciously directed us to George's office.  As we went up the stairs we kind of got lost again, but we saw a secretary typing on a computer so we asked again for directions to George's office.  Johnny, being a very personable fellow got into a conversation with the secretary only to find out we are in discussion with Sister Mary Bur the Principal of West, anyway we got our directions and bid a hasty retreat to George's office before we had to write 500 times "We will not disturb Sister when she is working." 




 George Light and Rich Buzza in George's Office


George gave us the royal tour of the entire school, it was evident that he was very upbeat about the future of the school under the new leadership of Brother Richard Kestler.  George pointed out the many planned changes in the physical appearance of the school and especially the new interior paint job which was just completed.  I must say the place looked great, just then the bell sounded signaling the change of classes, I pulled Johnny out of the way, remembering how it was in our days at West as I was expecting the mad rush of students heading for their next class with only 5 minutes to get there.......but nothing happened, no mad rushing students,, no mob of kids, nothing...a sign of the times. 




Johnny Staiber in the WEST Gym


We concluded our business and thanked George for his hospitality and continued on our tour of S.W. Philly.  Out of the parking lot, quick left on Market Street and right past the old Arena and WFIL TV studio, a quick trip around the old catch a quick smoke walk after lunch course at the old West Catholic and back to our world in Delaware County.


As I said at the beginning I can not tell you the reason for our visit at this time, but it will be disclosed at our up coming 55th Reunion in May of 2013, but we were indeed successful in our quest, thanks to George Light and the entire West Catholic High School staff and students.                                                                                                                                       







For more information contact George Light at 215-386-2244 ext. 260 or georgelightwchs@hotmail.com

cell 610-996-2015







The 55th Anniversary of the Class of 1958's graduation from West Catholic will be celebrated at a Dinner-Dance to be held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center (formerly the Ramada Airport Inn) on May 18, 2013, starting at 6:00 PM.  Invitations, including details of the buffet dinner menu, per person pricing, and a discounted hotel room rate, have been postal mailed to all classmates for whom we have mailing addresses.  An "after dinner party" will be held at the hotel until the wee hours of the morning.  The full package of information is also available on our Website at:  www.goldenburrs-1958.com.  


Time is marching on, so don't miss out on this opportunity to renew old friendships and to reminisce about the great times that we had together at West Catholic in the fabulous 50's.  Get your friends together and come to this special every five year event.  We hope to see you in May. 


The deadline for receipt of your payment is April 29, 2013.  We are not in a position to accept payment at the door. 




Reprint of Nov. 20, 2012 article by Ted Silary, Daily News Staff

Passing along some city high school football tidbits . . . 

TOM MCCLAIN's 52-year officiating career will end Thursday morning when Northeast hosts Central for the schools' annual Thanksgiving tussle.

He can't help but think, however, that a better way to go out might have presented itself 3 weeks ago, when he attended a youth game involving his grandson, Declan Martin-Connaughton, a member of the Upper Dublin Cardinals' 75-pounders.

"At youth games, they only have two refs," McClain said. "One guy didn't show up, so I wound up doing the game.  I didn't have a ref shirt with me. I wore a rain jacket.  But that was fun.  Declan, his eyes lit up to see me walk out there to get the game started.  Having me out there probably added some luster for him."

The popular McClain, 72, is a West Catholic grad ("best 7 years of my life").  He began working youth ball in 1961.  His first varsity assignment came late in the '64 season, and he went full time in '65.  His early spots were field judge and back judge, but he has long served as a head referee.

"My first Public League game was Roxborough-Edison, down at 29th and Chalmers," McClain said.  "After the game, [Roxborough coach] Fred Hauser came over and asked me, 'What's your name, son?'  I was thinking, 'Is my first varsity game gonna be my last?  Did I make a bad call that really hurt his team?'

"Turned out he liked my work and made a call to Gus Geiges [Pub football chairman].  I always think of Fred Hauser as the guy who gave my career the great early boost."  And he always laughs when he thinks of Geiges' sense of humor.  "One night at one of our meetings, he told me, 'They want good officials at Bartram this week.  You go to Lincoln.' "

McClain has built great friendships with comrades and even enjoys warm interaction with former coaches whom he sometimes angered.  All part of the job.

"All you can really do is try to govern the game," he said.  "I've gotten accolades, and I've also hit bumps in the road.  I've always appreciated having the best seat in the house to watch these kids play football, and I've worked with so many tremendous partners."

The play McClain remembers the most occurred in a 1983 Catholic League quarterfinal at Veterans Stadium.  Cardinal Dougherty lost to Father Judge, 27-21, in overtime, when a touchdown catch by Andy Garczynski was disallowed.  McClain, the back judge, signaled a TD, then was overruled. 

"Anytime I see [Dougherty coach] George Stratts, he tells me, 'You still owe me six points,' " McClain said.  "After we saw the film, I felt good that I'd gotten it right, but bad that I'd been overruled."

McClain is retiring because of a nagging heel problem.  "Doing the games has always been fun," he said.  "This year, that just hasn't been the case as much."



submitted by:  FRANK METZLER


By Lou Baldwin

UPDATEAs announced at parish Masses on Jan. 5-6, six West Philadelphia parishes located mostly in Parish Planning Area 600 will merge as three parishes. The closures are the latest result of the ongoing strategic planning process in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

St. Callistus, at 6700 Lansdowne Ave., will merge with Our Lady of Lourdes at its location at 63rd St. and Lancaster Ave.

Our Mother of Sorrows, at 48th St. and Lancaster Ave., will merge with St. Ignatius of Loyola at its location at 636 N. 43rd St.

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, 345 N. 63rd St., will merge with St. Cyprian Parish, Cobbs Creek Parkway, at St. Cyprian.

The three remaining parishes will be considered new parishes although they will retain the name of the receiving parishes – Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Ignatius and St. Cyprian.  The former St. Callistus, Our Mother of Sorrows and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament will remain as worship sites for the time being.

According to 2011 statistics compiled by the archdiocesan Office for Parish Service and Support, St. Callistus, founded in 1921, had 181 worshipers at weekend Masses; Our Lady of Lourdes, founded in 1894, had 819 worshipers.

“I was through this before in Buffalo where I had to close three parishes,” said Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Mercerdarian Father Michael R. Rock.  So far the transition seems to be smooth, he thinks.

“It is really like a marriage; both churches bring their best attributes together. We will have to be welcoming and sensitive. It is not easy, it is very emotional and we will have to work on it.”

On the surface, the two parishes would appear different. While St. Callistus, a largely African-American parish has been losing members, Our Lady of Lourdes, which also has some African-American members, has been growing, largely because Latin and other traditional liturgies bring people from all over. Nevertheless, the English language liturgies are also well attended. “We will make the people as comfortable as possible,” Father Rock said.

Our Mother of Sorrows, founded in 1852, had 99 weekend worshipers; St. Ignatius, founded in 1893, had 140 worshipers. Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Ignatius were already twinned parishes, sharing a single pastor.

“It will be a change for those at Our Mother of Sorrows,” said Father Jeffrey M. Stecz, the pastor of the parishes. “We have been dialoging together on this over the last year or so and we will try to come together and build anew together with the rich traditions of both parishes.”

Bernadine Hawes, a 20-year member of St. Ignatius and a member of the parish finance council, said of Our Mother of Sorrows, “it’s stunning, the physical size of it.”

However, the smaller St. Ignatius is probably more suitable for the numbers in the parish today, she thinks.

With that said, “I’m more saddened that Our Mother of Sorrows is closing than I am glad St. Ignatius is not. In a parish you begin to develop a sense of spiritual community and it is difficult when it closes.”

Although the Archdiocese has directed the receiving parish’s name be kept, Hawes said, “We are going to petition to have this changed. We think it is inappropriate for us to keep our name when Our Mother of Sorrows doesn’t. Our school is called Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius.”

As it is the two parishes have been meeting to make a smooth transition, she said. “This is not a death but a new life going forward.”

Patricia Brown, a member of Our Mother of Sorrows’ pastoral council, is third generation in the parish. “My mother went to school here and I went to school here,” she said. “It broke my heart when I heard the news. I cried. We have so many memories.”

But because the two parishes held joint committee meetings and shared a choir, the combination should be a bit easier, thinks Brown, who is secretary in the school.

“We will work together, but I love my parish,” she said.

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, established in 2005 from the former Our Lady of the Rosary (founded in 1886) and Our Lady of Victory (1899) parishes, had 296 weekend worshipers; St. Cyprian, which is located in PPA 610, had 441 worshipers.

The archdiocesan strategic planning process began in the fall of 2010. A pastoral letter issued by then-Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali announced the start of an in-depth examination of all parishes.

Merger recommendations are based on a combination of factors including demographic shifts in Catholic population, concentrated density of parishes in a limited geographic area, history of declining Mass attendance and sacramental activity, increased economic challenges that threaten sustainability, a decrease in the availability of clergy, and the condition of the facilities.

In the affected PPAs pastors and usually parish representatives meet with their dean, a priest with responsibility for a region of parishes in the Archdiocese, and a facilitator to formulate suggested plans, set goals and identify criteria. Recommendations are brought before the Council of Priests and the College of Consulters by the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee for their observations and approval, with a final recommendation given to the Archbishop.

“There has been extensive study and detailed study before these suggestions were presented to the Archbishop for his approval,” said Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, Coordinator for Archdiocesan Planning Initiatives.

In addition to the mergers announced this week, Archbishop Chaput has directed that the merger plan for St. Barbara, St. Donato and St. Rose of Lima, also in PPA 600, receive broader input and consultation.  Decisions for those parishes are expected in the spring.

Meanwhile in PPA 560, which covers parishes in Lower Northeast Philadelphia, some decisions are expected in coming weeks and others in the spring. In another PPA, 500, which is also in Northeast Philadelphia, studies are nearing completion with decisions expect in the spring.

Other PPAs under study during the remainder of 2013 include PPAs 320 and 370 in Delaware County; PPA 540 in Northwest Philadelphia, and PPA 650 in Central Philadelphia.

Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer and a member of St. Leo Parish.


West Philadelphia:
Saint Donato (Overbrook/Morris Park) and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish (Overbrook/Morris Park)
will merge at the location of and keep the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.  Previously, Saint Callistus Parish (Overbrook/Morris Park) formally merged with Our Lady of Lourdes Parish effective January 27, 2013.   The Saint Donato church will remain as a worship site for the time being. 


submitted by:  FRANK METZLER

Archbishop Charles J.Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia has announced on March 7th  that the hugh building that houses the lower side (College Division) at St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, would be closed and the seminary consolidated into what is now the upper side (Theology Division).


As part of the overall plan of consolidation the seminary the archdiocese will seek to lease or sell the under utilized buildings and property. 

Proceeds from selling or leasing the land and buildings will be used to help pay for renovations of existing buildings, parts of which have been mothballed for 35 years, officials said.

The plan is to renovate the upper side over the next three to five years, and reduce the property from 75 acres to 30 acres. 




The College Division can be seen as you drive past the seminary on City Line Avenue between Lancaster Avenue and Wynnewood Road.





submitted by:  FRANK ADOLF


Bill KealeyFrank, this was very enjoyable as are all your past issues.

Rich McCann (Alumni Webmaster):
Frank, I appreciate the hard work you boys from the class of 58 do.  Your paper is a joy for me to read when it comes to me to be published.  Hopefully the message gets out there.  I hope you and your family and WC class of 58 all have a very Blessed Christmas.



Risceárd Pilib Seán MacDóighiúil

Erinon Misneach Faoi Ulach

Crescit Sub Pondere Virtus

Jim Gallagher: Frank, as usual a great newsletter.  Both Ascension and St. Boniface are right next to Visitation BVM.  During the 50's and early 60's the boys from Ascension went to North, the St. Boniface guys were split up between North, Roman and West and of course Visitation sent us to West.  The playground at D & Westmoreland was named after the John McVeigh that was mentioned in the article ... we played soccer against North on that field.  When we played North, it was like old home week, of the 22 players on the field more than half of them played together at Lighthouse Boys Club in Kensington.  Visitation School and Church are still going strong.  Enrollment at the school this year is almost up to 500.  Thanks again for all the time and effort you guys put into keeping the class of 58 current.  Jim 


Joe Bradley: ...A very sincere 'Thank you' Frank and all who put this together...what a beautiful professional newsletter...
...so nice to hear from you...Joe Bradley


Brother Richard Kestler:  Frank, Thank you for keeping me in the loop.  If I can help in any way simply give a call and if Paul Colistra or George Light are needed simply ask.  Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.  Brother Richard


Bob Dougherty:Rich:  LOL U PUBLISHED THE MACKERAL STORY from BOBBY DOUGHERTY.  Thanks for the ChristmasWishes. I got a kick out of the Mackeral story, thanks.  We'll be headed to California for Christmas and will see children and Grandchildren and Bonner and his wife Annie maybe Bell??  Good being in touch with a fellow outdoorsman, and friend, Doc


Ann Cahill:Hi Rich,  Thanks for the newsletter.  Rich, this old English teacher was impressed with your excellent essay on" Remember When" and also with the fact that you are awake to hear it!  It is a great edition.  Thanks again.  


Fran Lawless WC Class of '68: The Winter 2012 Edition Newsletter is like receiving a warm blanket of nostalgia by way of the email.
An easy mix of sporting news, openings and closings of good churches and parishes, it is almost like being back in the neighborhood and reading the Southwest edition of the Globe Times. The pictures and captions are perfectly done.  You guys of the 1950's do justice and honor to your teachers back then.  They taught you well how to write and capture an audience.  You are the Mickey Spillane's and Jack Kerouac's of the 21st century.  Fran Lawless  WC '68  Batavia,  Illinois



Jack Neuschel: Frank, Enjoyed the newsletter.  My wife and I are enjoying retirement and enjoy visiting my step children in Georgia and Missouri.  I request prayers for my brother, Mike, who has Stage 4 Kidney and lung cancer.  In addition to systemic therapy for the cancer, he has started dialysis since the kidneys are not working well.  He has been in and out of the hospital these past two months.  I saw him in Philadelphia in early November.  Have a joy filled Christmas.  Jack Neuschel  


Vince Leonetti:  Hi, I'm not responding to get into the "mail" but I need for you guys to know that living in Absecon NJ & Gulfport Fl.  getting the " newsletter " is really great.  Unfortunately I'm not here for the alumni breakfast or the sports hall of fame so as you can imagine I really look forward to burrs at the beach to catch up with my schoolmates.  So congrats on another excellent " newsletter"

Best wishes for a HOLY and MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR.  Vince


Bob Dougherty:  How frequently have we heard a famous person saying "Just making a difference in one persons life would be enough"?  Bro Pat was the DIFFERENCE in my life between me staying "on the streets" or the enrichment of a college education and the professional career that hopefully follows.  He (and maybe you) and my Dad conspired to develop a reverse psychology approach to bait me into college enrollment saying that "you don't have what it takes to compete with Doyle, and Bell, and Bonner etc".  It worked and Ann & I are wholly indebted.  Fortunately, we had the opportunity to lunch with him several times while he was at Carter and thank him personally for his dedication to MAKING A DIFFERENCE.  THANKS BRO PAT














WE REMEMBER and ask for your prayers for those who are ill, especially Dave Crines who is recovering from a stroke.


Please pray for all who have gone to their eternal reward, especially our two classmates and former teacher -  




John (Jack) P. Roche - December 27, 2012





Robert F. McIntyre - February 15, 2013





Death of a Brother
of the District of Eastern North America

1928 - 2013

Born Harry James Ellis, Jr.
in Baltimore, MD, on November 17, 1928

Died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ,
on February 21, 2013

Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate
on June 12, 1946

Received the Religious Habit and Name,
Brother Felician Patrick, on September 7, 1946

Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Ocean City, NJ
on August 28, 1953

May Jack, Bob and Brother Patrick rest in peace.

    The complete listing of our honored deceased and their high school graduation pictures can be found on the Golden Burrs Website at: www.goldenburrs-1958.com   Thanks to John Staiber, many of the pictures are accompanied by complete obituaries.



               God Bless WEST CATHOLIC!   Live Jesus in our Hearts.  Forever.