The threat of rain forced Gilmour Academy to use Plan B and move its all-school Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Nelson Perez on Sept. 7, into the Athletic Center. The original plan was to have the Mass outdoors at the school’s football stadium. The liturgy marked the beginning of Founder’s Week at the school in Gates Mills.
About 600 students from grades K-12 filed into the building and filled rows of white chairs that neatly lined the floor. Eight banners displaying the Holy Cross charisms: divine providence, forgiveness, hope, hospitality, inclusiveness, option for the poor, the cross and zeal, were carried in by two students each. The banners flanked the altar during Mass, which also was attended by some parents, alumni, school administrators, benefactors and trustees.
“Tell me what is great about Gilmour,” the bishop asked the students. Immediately hands popped up and students called out answers, including an amazing education, the teachers, lunch, uniforms, gym, recess, friends, social studies, AP World History, art, sports teams and the campus. There also were shout-outs to some teachers and Father John Blazek, C.S.C., campus minister, as well as Brother Robert Lavelle, C.S.C. who served the school for four decades, including 35 years as headmaster.
“I’d start with lunch,” the bishop, as the students laughed. “How many like Mass?” he asked, as several hands went up. “I’m impressed,” he said.
Bishop Perez also said he was impressed by Gilmour’s 144-acre campus, which looks like a college campus. “I hear the girls basketball team won a state championship last year,” he said, glancing at the rows of sports championship banners lining one wall of the gym.
He acknowledged the contributions of parents and teachers who make the students’ Gilmour education possible.
“But what really makes this school different?” he asked, adding, “Whoever gets it right will get two months off school and no homework for 10 years.” A Lower School student said it was a Catholic school. “No homework for her for five years,” he quipped.
The bishop explained to the students that the difference between a Gilmour Catholic education and others schools is that Gilmour nurtures both the mind and soul. “We gather here today to recognize that God is here; he’s always here. We gather in gratitude to God.”
He told the students their values are deep within their hearts and urged them not to let anyone steal them. He also said he wanted them to remember one thing. Bishop Perez recalled a visit earlier in the year to Cleveland Central Catholic High School where he asked students to remember the same thing.
“And yesterday I was at a program and asked some of the Central Catholic students if they remembered what I had said. One girl did, and she recited it word for word,” he said, telling the students to remember this advice: “Never, never, never underestimate the power of God’s spirit working in you, through you and despite you.”
He asked the students to repeat it. “Now remember that so when I ask you in 20 years, you can tell me,” he added.
After Mass, Kathleen Kenny, head of school, thanked the bishop for his visit and for celebrating Mass.
“I promise we’ll never forget your visit or your words,” she assured the bishop.
Bishop Perez posed for photos with the banner carriers at the school’s Holy Family Shrine and then took class photos with each of the four high school grades, Middle School and Lower School students before enjoying lunch in the field house.
Gilmour was founded in 1946 as an all-boys’ school by the Congregation of the Holy Cross on the former estate of Cleveland industrialist Francis Drury. The property was known as Cedar Hill Farm. The new school was named after Bishop Richard Gilmour, the second bishop of Cleveland, who was an advocate of Catholic education.
In 1969, Glen Oak School, an all-girls’ school, was founded on 35 acres that the Sacred Heart sisters purchased from Gilmour. The two schools maintained separate identities until merging in 1982.
A middle school was added in 1974 and in 1986, the former Glen Oak building was renovated and began its use as Gilmour’s Lower School. Gilmour offers a Montessori program for toddlers through kindergarten. The Lower School is grades 1-6; Middle School is grades 7-8 and Upper School is grades 9-12, with about 50 Upper School students living on campus.