Patrick McKenna’s Speech

Distinguished guests, alumni, teachers and friends of St. Patrick’s what a privilege and an honor to be with you tonight!

Distingués invités, chers anciens, professeurs et amis de St. Pat’s, c’est un honneur d’être avec vous ce soir.

I would like to take a moment to tank the organizing committee, their colleagues and many volunteers for allowing us to share these precious moments together.

Significant events in our illustrious history have contributed in making us what we are today. It all began with the arrival of the Christian Brothers in August 1843. In 1846, Father Patrick McMahon the leader of the Irish community was among the founding members of the Quebec Catholic School Commission. Our schools remained under its jurisdiction until 1998.

As early as 1922, the St. Pat’s curriculum began preparing students to take the McGill’s Junior Matriculation exams. By 1930 the school offered the required courses for admission to Laval University. In 1932, St. Pat’s became the first English Catholic High School in the province to offer the Senior Matriculation program.

In 1935, the Sisters of Charity of Halifax arrived in Quebec City. Within a few years they were operating the Leonard School named after the school commissioner John Leonard. The Sisters established a complete high school curriculum for girls by September 1938.

The first joint Graduation of Leonard School and St. Patrick’s occurred in 1945.

September 1956 was a major turning point in the history of the school. The Leonard High School girls moved to the new building on the property adjoining the school located on De Salaberry. Sister Thomas Aquinas was Principal of the girls and Brother Pascal Principal of the boys. The girls occupied the first floor while the boys were on the second floor. We are not told if there were any intruders on either floor.

The boys Elementary School at the corner De Maisonneuve and De Salaberry continued under the direction of the Christian Brothers until June

1959 and that year in September, John Sheehy was named Principal and was assisted by Bill McNamara Vice-Principal.

In September 1966 the boys attending the Elementary School joined the girls at the Leonard School. The name of Leonard School was changed to St. Patrick’s Elementary School. The first Principal was Sister Helen Claire. For the first time, boys and girls were in the same classes from Kindergarten through Grade 6. The former boys Elementary School then became a Junior High School for grades 7, 8 and 9.

In 1965, Bill McNamara became Principal of St. Patrick’s High School with Associate Principals Sister Grace Francis for the girls and Brother Cleophas for the boys.

In 1966, a commerce department was established and offered a complete secretarial training for the girls.

In September 1967, the boys and girls at the Junior High were integrated into the same classes.

In September 1968, the Senior and Junior High buildings were linked. Sister Margaret Jordon was the last Sister of Charity to be Vice-Principal. The integration of the senior boys and girls in the same classed was completed in September 1969.

In September 1969 Teresa Whealan replaced Sister Margaret as Vice-Principal and she set up a Nursing Assistant program which ended in 1984.

In September 1970, James Hewitt was appointed Principal of the High School and Bill McNamara replaced Sister Helen Claire as Principal of St. Pat’s Elementary School. This was the last time that the Sisters of Charity of Halifax held an administrative position in our schools.

June 1970 was also the last time that the Christian Brothers held administrative responsibilities at St. Pat’s High School and Brother Cleophas was the last Vice-Principal.

In September 1970 the three administrators were James Hewitt, Teresa Whealan, and the newly appointed Vice-Principal Bruce Phillips. The school had 1279 students, its largest enrollment ever. An annex had to be used for two years at Saint Mary’s Academy.

Among the popular activities were: Debating, Public Speaking, Plays, Choral Singing, St. Patrick’s Day Shows, Fashion Shows, Science Fairs, the Camera Club and more.

Sports always played a key role in the life of the students and the school accumulated hundreds of trophies and awards.

The Cadet Corps CC208 also took an important place in the school’s activities between 1909 and 1976.

In September 1971 the English speaking Catholics of Sillery and Ste-Foy established their own school called Katimavik High School. St. Patrick’s however, was able to maintain its enrollment because of the effect of Bill 63 which permitted French speaking students to frequent English schools. In September 1972, an annex for the Secondary 1 classes was opened at Morissette School.

In September 1973, James Hewitt was re-assigned to the School Commission. Teresa Whealan replaced Bill McNamara as Principal of St. Pat’s Elementary and the latter returned as Principal of St. Pat’s High School. Bruce Phillips maintained his position as Vice-Principal, Director of Student Life and I was named Vice-Principal, Director of Curriculum. I was overjoyed to work with my remarkable Grade 7 teacher who was a model for me.

With a population of over 1100 students for two years, we were obliged to have an annex at the former Montcalm School.

In November 1976 the Parti Quebecois was elected and on August 26, 1977, Bill 101 was adopted limiting access of French speaking students to English language schools. In September 1979, our student enrollment went down to less than 800. This meant that not only were we losing teachers but also a Vice-Principal. I was then named Vice-Principal at Marguerite Bourgeoys School on Des Oblats.

Bill McNamara retired in June 1981 and in September Bruce Phillips replaced him as Principal and I happily returned home as Vice-Principal.

In 1981, the school lost one of its most gifted teachers. Sister Mildred Wallace died of cancer in June. For 15 years her inspiration and enthusiasm were an outstanding contribution to the famous St. Pat’s spirit.

In June 1983, Brother Timothy Leclerc was the last Christian Brother to teach at St. Pat’s. The same year, Teresa Whealan retired after 10 years as Principal of St. Pat’s Elementary. I was then named Principal of St. Patrick’s Elementary to replace her and I kept this position until June 1986.

From September 1983 to June 1986, the student enrollment at the High School was under 500 and Bruce Phillips had no Vice-Principal. Bob Brochu and Ron Corriveau were then chosen to assist him as department heads.

In September 1986, the students from Katimavik were transferred to St. Pat’s High School. In counterpart, the students of St. Pat’s Elementary School were transferred to St. Vincent’s School in Ste-Foy.

In September 1986, I returned to assist Bruce Phillips as Vice-Principal. From the very beginning of the year, the integration of both students and staff from Katimavik was a great success.

In 1978, Bruce Phillips was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Despite his health problems and even if he had to use a cane occasionally, Bruce never gave up and continued to perform his duties courageously for 10 years. In December 1988, his wife Barbara informed me that Bruce’s medical tests had detected a cancer and that he would probably not come back to school.

The last time I saw Bruce was on St. Patrick’s Day 1989 at St. Sacrement Hospital and he passed away on April 10. The funeral was co-celebrated by 12 priests on April 12 at St. Patrick’s Church on De Salaberry. Classes were cancelled and mourners filled the church in record numbers to pay their last respects.

We set up a bursary fund in his name to be given out each year at graduation. Former students, parents and friends of St. Pat’s collected over $10,000.

For the rest of the year I was named acting Principal and I chose Bob Brochu as acting Vice-Principal.

In September 1989, I was named Principal and on my recommendation Bob Brochu was named Vice-Principal. We were privileged to have two experienced secretaries to support us: Jo-Ann Hennessy and Nancy Cloutier.

It was an honor for me to be named Principal; however under such tragic circumstances, I had mixed feelings for a while but I soon realized that I had to continue the work of my predecessors.

In June 1990 Bob Brochu retired after 35 years of loyal service. Sister Frances Timmons also retired. She was the last Sister of Charity of Halifax to teach at St. Pat’s.

From September 1990 until my retirement in 1998, I was well supported by our school commissioners, the parent committees, devoted teachers, staff and the following part-time Vice-Principals: Bob Brochu, Adrienne Barrette, Ron Corriveau, and Barry O’Connell.

Here are some special moments while I was Principal:

During the 1990-91 school year, in cooperation with the parents and staff, I decided that we would celebrate the 150th anniversary of the school in May 1993. On this occasion, 1500 former students and friends attended the banquet at the Drill Hall.

We renovated the auditorium with a new stage and lighting system.

We set up a music room, at the back of the auditorium, to offer an instrumental music option.

In 1991-92, St. Pat’s was the first school of the CECQ to offer Spanish as an optional third language.

In 1993, in memory of the 150th anniversary, I proposed to set up a Foundation and the School Committee agreed. It became a reality in April 1994 and it now manages three school bursaries and all donations.

The Old Boy’s Scholarships Fund,

The Bruce Phillips Memorial Fund

The Patrick Power Memorial Fund

On December 19, 1997 Bill 180 was adopted and on July 1 1998 linguistic School Commissions replaced the existing confessional School Commissions. Catholic schools could no longer exist in the Province of Quebec.

The contribution of the Irish cannot be put in doubt. In 1950, Maurice Duplessis, the Premier of Québec, said at the National Assembly a few days before St. Patrick’s Day: La race Irlandaise, par ses talents, son esprit combatif, ses efforts soutenus et sa ténacité, a grandement contribué à la prospérité du Canada et du Québec.

While writing the History of St. Patrick’s School, I came upon a text entitled School Spirit written by Kevin Davis the winner of the Junior Essay Contest in 1937. He concluded his essay by saying “ as years roll on, learning is sometimes dulled or forgotten but the old school spirit or loyalty once acquired will carry on to the last breath.”

This is the kind of extraordinary spirit that brought us here tonight along with the desire to meet those with whom we shared that spirit. We are among the ones responsible for the outstanding achievements of our school.

Thank you and have a wonderful evening!

Please stand for the singing of our School Song.

Pat McKenna