Staten Island, NY – St. Peter’s Boys High School is marking 100 years of educating young men in the tradition of the Christian Brothers of St. John Baptist de la Salle. Cardinal Timothy Dolan is honorary chairperson of the centennial celebration, which will culminate with a mass and a gala in October.
The New Brighton school has never been stronger, says Principal John Fodera, a lifelong Staten Islander and 1962 St. Peter’s alumnus who is marking his own milestone, his 50th year on the staff.
Enrollment is 575, filling 22 classrooms in the main building. That figure compares well to 550 the year he graduated, Fodera says. Except for a troublesome dip in the late 1980s, enrollment at one of Staten Island’s two all-boys Catholic high schools has been steady.
The biggest change is the number of Christian Brothers at the school, reflecting a general decline in vocations, Fodera notes.
When he was a student, there were two dozen Christian Brothers and just a handful of lay teachers.
“It’s basically the reverse now,” he reports, quickly crediting the lay faculty with keeping religious traditions in place.
Four Christian Brothers on staff are actively involved in the school. Visiting brothers join Fodera for handshakes and check-ins in the main lobby as students change classes eight times a day.
The Brothers live in the three-story red house with white trim at 200 Clinton Ave. Built in 1857, it was the residence of Nicholas Muller, a powerful figure in Staten Island politics in the late 19th century.
Patricia Calchi is listed on the staff directory as the school librarian. But that’s just part of her role.
She is faculty adviser to the Lasallian Youth, the community service club at St. Peter’s.
On a fortunately mild Saturday night earlier this month, Calchi led a dozen students on the annual Midnight Run to assist the homeless.
Lasallian Youth members spent several months preparing for the event by collecting not just food, but hundreds of other critical items, including coats, underwear, socks, blankets, first-aid kits and shaving products.
Accompanied by six adults, they headed into Manhattan on a school bus and made stops to distribute individually prepared shopping bags to the homeless at Penn Station and several encampments. Leftovers were donated to the Bowery Mission.
Co-sponsored by the Mid-Island Rotary Club, the experience changes perspectives, Calchi says. “I like the students to realize they have to help others.”
Lasallian Youth members also conduct food drives for Project Hospitality soup kitchens and pantries on the first Friday of every month. The word goes out, and the donations pour in, Calchi says.
“We have very generous families,” she notes. “I’d be lost without them.”
She points to the Lasallian message designed into the stained-glass windows of the St. Peter’s chapel just off the lobby: “Enter to learn, leave to serve.”