Saint Francis Elementary School
St. Francis Class of 1961
423 Ferry Street, New Haven, CT 06513
Welcome to the "St. Francis School" Class of 1961 alumni/ae web site. It came about because one of us, John Mordes, found and, in 2006, scanned the graduation photo you see here. He thought others in the class might be interested in learning what has become of the school and of us as we approach retirement.
This page is resident within a website that John maintains. We are one of few elementary school classes with a website. The class graduation picture is going to be rescanned to higher resolution soon, I hope.
There is not much information to share yet, and after more than 60+ years, memories need to be reanimated. But hopefully, if we can re-establish contact, we will slowly be able to share our stories online. Perhaps some day the school might even establish a home for Archive of our story. We will develop the site over time, and we solicit your suggestions and your contributions.
I invite each of our classmates to contribute information for and to share an e-mail address. Short audio and video clips are also be welcome. The contact is John Mordes at .
The History of SFS
As we go online, St. Francis School was for decades the oldest continually operating K-8 school in the City of New Haven. The original St. Francis School opened in 1882 with an enrollment of 700 students as the parish school of St. Francis Church. It was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy of the Diocese of Hartford. The school provided a half day kindergarten program as early as the 1930s. Both the school and church have evolved over the past century. After 104 years of continuous, exceptional service to the children of Fair Haven, the Sisters of Mercy closed their convent adjacent to the school in 1985. With the resignation of Sr. Sheila Durante, RSM, the school was required to operate without the guiding influence of its primary teaching order. All the nuns of our era have long ago gone to eternal rest.
With the changes that later occurred in Chatholic parished and education, it later underwent a merger to become St. Francis and St. Rose of Lima School. With further evolution of Catholicism and the transformation of Fair Haven to a Latino-majority community, the schoold has changed further to become All Saints Catholic Academy, a member of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). In 2021 there were 221 students.
Those of you who remember Monsignor McDonough and Fr. Gaffney would be interested in the history of the the sponsoring St. Francis of Assisi Church, where all of us who were students at the school worshipped every Sunday at the 8:30 Mass. Here is a bit of the parish history from the internet:
"Established 1868 Irish immigrants had been gathering in Fair Haven well before the mid 19th century. With increased employment prospects on the local railroads, the number of immigrants rose still higher after the Civil War. Mostly impoverished laborers, they initially attended mass at St. Patrick Church with its pastor, Father Matthew Hart. In 1864, he bought the centrally located Clark property on Ferry Street for $5,100. as a future church site. St. Francis parish was born on October 4, 1868, when Bishop Francis P. McFarland appointed Father Patrick A. Gaynor as first pastor. Fundraising at the mother church to launch St. Francis had included the selling of a valuable horse belonging to St. Patrick’s curate, Father Patrick Mulholland. A basement church was ready for dedication on October 4th to coincide with the pastor’s appointment. It is said that a carpenter’s bench actually served as the first altar. Soon after Father Gaynor’s death, Father Mulholland was named his successor in June 1869. This dynamic priest quickly drew upon the great resolve of his Irish congregation to establish an enduring record of “working together” to strengthen spiritual and ethnic ties. On August 1, 1869, the congregation, which by now was mounting to 1,500 people, witnessed the dedication of their upper church. A rectory was built in 1870. By 1873, the year St. Francis acquired its first “real” altar, the parish had actually liquidated its debt although a national depression was beginning. Father Mulholland added to the parish plant in 1881 with the opening of a school, the cornerstone of which was blessed by Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon on July 10th. It was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. The English property at Chatham and Ferry Streets became a convent in August 1882. By 1896, the parish church was greatly enlarged and the congregation, which prided itself on generosity, quickly paid off all attending debts. The next year, upon the pastor’s death, Father Peter M. Kennedy was appointed to St. Francis. At his death in 1911 he was succeeded briefly by an administrator."
We invite you to share in individual "alumni pages" contributed by our classmates and in our class archive. I had hoped to make our class photo a context sensitive bitmap that takes you directly to a note or website about each of our class members, but though I had thought to have it working working by early 2007, it never came about. Maybe when I retire... I'll need a lot of help to get a name for every face.
I have enjoyed the positive response of many of my high school classmates to a similar effort (see http://www.hgs65.org/), and I would be delighted to receive your news and commentary.
Let us know if you would like to help out with this site to keep it going.
We hope to receive
news of our classmates and teachers! Keep me posted at .
This is under construction
We thank The Friends of Hemlock Gorge conservation group for hosting us on the web!
The Saint Francis School Class of '61 Web Site went on line on December 27, 2006
This page last updated September 12, 2021