A century of cyclones

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Here’s the question: Which is the greatest year in the history of Bishop Ward High School here? The answer: All of them.

It’s a trick question, to be sure, but “all of them” is the answer that makes the most sense. The 100-year history of Bishop Ward High School is so full and rich that it would be impossible to pick just one as “the greatest.”

That’s why Ward is dedicating an entire year to celebrating its centennial.

“The 100th anniversary of Bishop Ward is cause to look back and give thanks to God for 100 years of Catholic formation and education in Kansas City, Kansas,” said Father Michael Hermes, Ward president. “We have over 12,000 alumni who have graduated from our school over the past 100 years. We are proud of all of them.

“This 100th anniversary is also time for us to look ahead to the future,” Father Hermes continued. “The core mission of Bishop Ward High School has not changed in 100 years. It is to provide Catholic formation to hundreds of young Catholics in Kansas City, Kansas. We are doing our best to do a good job with the spiritual formation of our students.”

The celebration of the centennial year begins with Homecoming Week 2007 and concludes with Homecoming Week 2008, said Cindy Isabel, of the Ward development office.

This year, the Ward Cyclones take on the Perry-Lecompton Kaws at Dorney Field on Sept. 28, with kickoff at 7 p.m. This year’s homecoming theme is “A Century of Cyclones.”

The Ward centennial committee, led by Msgr. Michael Mullen, class of 1954, is planning a host of activities for the year. Confirmed activities include:

• Homecoming Mass at 10 a.m. on Sept. 28 at Dorney Field

• Centennial Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at 2 p.m. on April 13, 2008, at St. Peter Cathedral in Kansas City, Kan.

• “Race ForWard” auction on Oct. 27 at the Kansas Speedway (For tickets, call the Ward development office at (913) 371-6901).

• Lecture series, including a presentation by 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Helliker, class of 1977, now Chicago bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal

• Mediterranean cruise from April 29 to May 11, 2008

• “$100 for 100” fundraiser, which began on Sept. 15

• Monthly special observances during Mass at the Ward chapel.

The centennial theme is taken from the 1936 Ward fight song: Go OnWARD, black and white!

“I would say within that theme is an expression of gratitude for the past 100 years, and also a desire to continue Bishop Ward into the future for today’s youth,” said Msgr. Mullen, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan.

That thanks extends to the women religious who have taught at the school, for the community’s support, and thanksgiving for the many vocations of priests and men and women religious that originated at Ward, he said.

“So many of our graduates served the church as priests and religious. We have a large plaque in the front hall with their names on it,” said Father Hermes. “Many graduates became leaders in our local government and in civic organizations. And still many more graduates excelled in their chosen professions, often giving credit to their four years at Bishop Ward as getting them ready for success in life.”

Ward has always occupied a special place in the life of the Catholic Church in northeastern Kansas, said Msgr. Mullen. From its start as Catholic High School in 1908, Ward was interparochial — meaning that it drew from the various parishes of Kansas City, Kan. This was no small thing when one considers that “national,” or ethnic, parishes were the norm.

Ward, the flagship high school of the archdiocese for many years, unified the Catholic community of Kansas City, Kan., and produced alumni who have become vital players in business, government, and the church.

“The parishes pooled their resources to [educate their children] at a central location, at a central school,” said Msgr. Mullen. “Ward has always provided a first-rate quality high school education that is both college preparatory and meets the needs of individual students.”

The strength of Ward comes not only from the good education provided, but also from the incredible degree of family support the high school has always enjoyed. Thousands of families can trace their family tree through the Ward class photos hanging in the hallways. School ties cross class years and decades.

“I was with alumni from different decades, writing letters to our classmates asking them to support our centennial fundraising program, called ‘$100 for 100,’” said Msgr. Mullen. “As I sat there with Ward graduates from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, I felt a real camaraderie.”

“We have all truly had the same basic experience, even though enrollment and times have changed,” he added. “I’m confident that Ward can continue to provide that same experience of faith and personal growth, and a sense of purpose for the youth of today and tomorrow.”

Msgr. Mullen called upon Ward alumni to lay the groundwork for the next 100 years.

“I believe that Bishop Ward can offer the same opportunities for the youth today, but we’re at an important time when all of us who have benefited from Ward need to sacrifice again and on a continuing basis to provide for the school in the years ahead,” he said.

“We have two major needs: a major renovation of the building, which is sound and beautiful, and generous scholarships for our students,” he continued. “I’d encourage everyone to visit Ward and see the upgrading and beautiful renovations taking place at Dorney Field and the St. Albert the Great Science Room.”

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