|Ask any graduate of St. John the Baptist School where the phrase "For God and Country" can be found, and that person will tell you: engraved over the front entrance to the school. While the slogan may not be original with St. John's, it nonetheless exemplifies the educational programs that took place inside those doors.
Whether one attended in the years prior to 1950, when the Sisters of Mercy staffed the school, or between 1950 and 1973, when sisters of the Congregation de Notre Dame staffed it, the learning atmosphere was the same-one where academic excellence was expected, where the Catholic faith was handed on lovingly, and where discipline was m~ntamed firmly but fairly.
Because virtually all of the students were children of parishioners, it was natural that church and school activities were inextricably entwined. The involvement of the students in Holy Thursday processions, May crownings, and living rosaries was a given, and sacramental preparations (for Eucharist and Confirmation) were integrated into classwork. Entire classes would be marched to the church to celebrate the sacrament of Penance-known in those days (and probably still by many graduates) as "going to Confession." On First Fridays, the entire school participated in Stations of the Cross and Benediction. Some graduates claim that to this day the smell of incense causes flashbacks! On Sunday mornings, students attended the "Children's Mass" in the basement chapel, where the homily (then called a sermon) would be geared to younger minds, and where all would respond in Latin with the parts usually said only by the altar servers.
Until the mid-1950s, the only place students could have recess was in Elizabeth Street, which ran beside the school. The street would be blocked off at both ends to keep traffic off the street during recess. Ultimately, the house directly behind the school was literally carried away to make room for a schoolyard, so the students could recreate in a safer environment. A line down the center of the yard was the boundary between the boys' play area and the girls' area.
A high proportion of graduates went on to area Catholic high schools~in many cases thanks to scholarships provided by the parish societies. Additionally, a good number of students were inspired by the example of the "good sisters" to serve God as priests and religious, or to become educators in public school settings. Finally, those who pursued secular careers frequently give much credit to the solid education they received at St. John's.