February 17, 2016 // Local

Our Lady of Hungary School celebrates its multicultural, multigenerational history

By Irene Copenhaver

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass at Our Lady of Hungary for students and staff as he began his pastoral visit there on Feb. 12.

SOUTH BEND — On a day that the icy wind whipped snow outside, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was greeted by the warm smiling faces of the students inside Our Lady of Hungary School. He made his pastoral visit on Feb. 12.

Opening with the celebration of Mass, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was joined by  Father Kevin Bauman, pastor of Our Lady of Hungary Parish.

In this Year of Mercy, Bishop Rhoades’ homily was a lesson on the seven corporal works of mercy. Coming out of the sanctuary and into the middle aisle among the 197 students, he explained each of the works. Many eager hands shot up in the air when he asked questions. He challenged them to learn the seven works.

The bishop visited all the classes in the school, preschool to eighth grade. In each classroom he reviewed the corporal works and how they can be practiced especially during Lent.

In Christopher Nowak’s sixth-grade class Bishop Rhoades gave them a lesson in geography. On a world map he showed them where he had lived in Italy for seven years.

On behalf of the school, Marguerite Jay, an eighth grader in Natalie Jaksa’s science class, presented Bishop Rhoades with a gift of four coffee mugs commemorating Our Lady of Hungary’s 100th anniversary as a parish.

Sixth-grade student Mario Gallegos watches as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades points out a text in Christopher Nowak’s social studies class.

He also received a gift from Heather Snavely’s fifth-grade class. Money collected from “jean days” was donated to the Christ Child Society in the bishop’s name.

Kindergarten teacher Anne DeMott invited the bishop to sit in the prayer circle. The children are learning about Pope Francis.

The largest class in the school, the second-grade, has 24 students and is taught by Alexandra Brandt. She is preparing them for their first Confession and first Communion in May.

Bishop Rhoades’ last stop was to the preschool room. He said he was thoroughly impressed with the depth of knowledge of the children. They are learning about the Holy Trinity and the miracles of Jesus.

Our Lady of Hungary has a rich multigenerational history. And that is true for Brandt, a second-grade teacher at Our Lady of Hungary School for the last five years.

“Our Lady of Hungary Church and School have always been a great part of my life growing up — from my grandparents attending church here, my father being an altar server, to myself teaching in the school,” Brandt shared. “Many of my family members, myself included, have been baptized and married in this church. My family attended school here at Our Lady and lived in the surrounding neighborhood. It is a place that has always been a part of my family’s memories and photographs throughout the years.”

Brandt noted, “The school has become a second home and family for me. It is a huge part of my life. This is a community where everyone cares for one another and the students follow you home at night in your heart.”

Principal Kevin Goralczyk, left, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Father Kevin Bauman, pastor of Our Lady of Hungary, stand beneath a statue of Our Lady in the school.

“Our staff works very hard to help our students grow both academically and in their faith,” she said. “As a staff we are constantly trying to better ourselves for our students. Every action we make in the classroom is intended for student growth. The staff is focused on student development and growth here at Our Lady.”

When asked about the academic strengths of the school, Principal Kevin Goralczyk told Today’s Catholic, “Our Lady of Hungary School has identified the students needs through NWEA assessments. We work as a staff to use the data to drive instruction in the classroom.”

He noted, “The staff has had to change their approach to teaching. They have differentiated their instruction to meet the students where they are at. The instructors continue to redefine themselves through professional development opportunities and challenges.”

Carmen Del Real, a parent of a fourth-grade student at Our Lady of Hungary, said, “Our Lady has other programs like ELL (English Language Learners), reading and math tutoring that complement academics — that’s one of the strengths. The kids get all the help they need in a more personal basis, with programs designed based on their needs.”

The Catholic faith is vibrant in the school as well.

“At Our Lady, kids participate in their faith,” Carmen Del Real added. “They go to Mass, They get their lessons. They live their faith rather than read about it. They see Our Lady as their second home.”

“The locus of Our Lady of Hungary School is The Risen Christ,” Goralczyk said. “Students and staff attend and participate in daily Mass, pray within the classrooms underscoring the importance of living out our baptismal promises: loving God and loving neighbor. The doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church are woven into every lesson and put in to practice by teachers and students alike.”

The school opened in 1927 to serve immigrant communities of Hungary and Eastern Europe. Today the majority of students are first generation Latinos.

Visit the Photo gallery for more photos.

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