BNI family marks first 100 years and looks ahead to next century
BY MARLENE A. ZLOZA
Northwest Indiana Catholic
HAMMOND – Administrators can attest that it isn’t easy to get through one school year – especially one as pandemically challenged as 2020-21 – let alone 100, so it was no surprise that Bishop Noll Institute pulled out all the stops Sept. 16-19 to celebrate its centennial.
Masses, music, meals and memories highlighted a four-day “Forever Noll” weekend that marked a glorious past, recognized a thriving present and promised a robust future “Preparing students mind, body and soul” for success.
The festivities began with a Founders Day observance on Sept. 16 that opened with an all-school outdoor Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend Robert J. McClory, bishop of the Diocese of Gary, who reflected on the strong foundation of a building that is continuing today with the start of the school’s second 100 years.
Students were treated to a picnic lunch and activities that included games, sports and fellowship on the school’s athletic fields.
The evening called for more formal attire as several hundred guests gathered for a Centennial Gala that transformed the Noll fieldhouse into an elegant banquet hall worthy of a cocktail hour with live music, gourmet meal, testimonials by four BNI students and the unveiling of a new capital campaign to redesign and refurbish Warrior athletic fields.
“We are announcing a project to renovate our outdoor athletic fields,” revealed BNI President Paul Mullaney as a blueprint of the new facilities was displayed for the dinner guests. “We first concentrated on our academic facilities, but we need to do this, too. Our Unite to Inspire campaign raised some funds for athletics, but we need to do more.”
Right on cue, Bishop McClory joined Mullaney on stage to announce a $500,000 contribution from the Diocese of Gary toward the athletic complex project.
“A landmark occasion calls for landmark donations,” the bishop said. “I’m the chief steward of the Diocese of Gary, and worthy projects are worthy of landmark support.”
Mullaney also acknowledged the continuing support of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, who opened Catholic Central High School with four teachers and 40 students in two rooms provided by St. Mary parish in East Chicago on Sept. 16, 1921. In addition to funding production of Noll’s centennial documentary film, the religious order has endowed a scholarship with a $30,000 donation in the name of its founder, St. Katharina Kasper, who is also BNI’s patron saint.
Joan (Slawinski) Malatestinic, BNI ’55, attended the gala with her husband, William Malatestinic, BNI ’51, and was impressed with the testimonials given by four current BNI students. “They were all very articulate,” said the East Chicago native who now lives in Winfield. An accomplished music student at BNI, she raised five children and was a music teacher before becoming the first education director of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra.
Dan Knaver, BNI ’71, became a mental health professional after graduating from Noll. “I was from St. Catherine of Siena in Hammond, and at Noll I met people from all over the region, including Calumet City and Lansing, Ill.” He now lives in Crown Point.
Knaver said he was moved listening to BNI Principal Lorenza Jara Pastrick, BNI ’01, talk about her proud history as a student, athlete, teacher and administrator at Noll. “Most of what she said was already written in my heart,” noted the one-time Warrior football player.
Munster native Jennifer Schreiner, BNI ’87, “always valued and appreciated so much the examples of the teachers and clergy at Noll, like Mr. (Cesar) Queyquep and Terry Putz.”
Now living in Valparaiso and active at St. Paul parish, Schreiner said “it is such a proud moment to see our school continuing on after all these years. It is important to have faith as part of your education.”
The gala concluded with a fireworks display that offered a theme for a benediction given by Father Jeff Burton, BNI’s new chaplain and pastor at St. John Bosco in Hammond. “As light up the sky, may (God) continue to ignite the spirit of (BNI) students, past, present and future,” he said.
The weekend festivities continued with a Centennial Tailgate Party in the Noll fieldhouse on Sept. 17 that drew alumni and friends for food, beverages and dancing.
Saturday’s events included the premiere screening of a new documentary film about the history of BNI for about 75 guests, and the most unique offering of the weekend, a formal Thee Alumni and Me Centennial Tea that drew a sell-out crowd to the school’s Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STREAM) Lab for an array of hors d’oeuvres, finger sandwiches and sweets served by the Warrior cheerleading squad.
Guests were seated at beautifully appointed tables and were invited to bring their favorite teacups and their memories of Noll to share with tablemates. Basket raffles and door prizes added to the festive atmosphere.
Sunday’s closing observance began with a BNI Centennial Alumni Mass celebrated by Father Pat Kalich, a former BNI teacher, and co-celebrants Father Dominic Bertino, also a past Noll teacher, and Father Frank Stodola, BNI ’78, who traveled from his parish in Laredo, Texas, to mark the centennial ceremonies.
In his homily, Father Kalich referred to the self-absorption of the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark (9:30-37), caught by Jesus arguing about who amongst them was the greatest. Asked what they were arguing about, “Their silence speaks so loudly,” Father Kalich said. “Sooner or later, we don’t get what we expected, and what do we do?” he asked. “Do we fall silent, or do we engage God?”
Father Kalich said he found “a connection among all the Noll stories I heard this weekend” and an old Christian tradition “that says God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing for others, a special act of love to bestow, only for them. Please believe that you have an important message to deliver.”
Richard Garza Jr., BNI ’79, said he sees the Holy Spirit at work in BNI’s success. “The whole spirit of Bishop Noll and 100 years of history” brought the Our Lady of Grace parishioner from his Highland home to his alma mater, the same school that graduated his father, Richard Garza Sr., BNI ’49, and his daughter, Michelle Garza, BNI ’19.
Following Mass, worshippers were treated to a picnic and children’s games, and later Sunday afternoon, alumnus Adam Gawlikowski & Friends performed a free concert in Highland to close out the weekend.
Munching on roast pork, hot dogs and hamburgers, James Olaoye, a Hammond resident enjoyed the alumni Mass and picnic with his sons, Kayode Olaoye, a BNI senior, and Akinjide Olaoye, and eighth-grader at St. John Bosco School in Hammond who quickly replied “Next year” when asked if he attended Noll.
“My family has a foundation in Catholic education,” said James Olaoye, a Nigerian native who attended St. Gregory College there before emigrating to the U.S. and studying at St. Regis College in Denver.
Kayode Olaoye said Noll has afforded him “a good foundation, a lot of opportunities and connections. It has kept me grounded and built my character,” said the college-bound teen.
“I firmly believe that (the reason) we’ve lasted so long is not because we teach academics so well, but because we follow Christ,” Pastrick said at the gala. “Faith is the most important component (in our success).”