Mary Landi (at right) embraces fellow graduate Annie Shortino at the 50th anniversary reunion for St. Mark’s School in Hyattsville.
Mary Landi (at right) embraces fellow graduate Annie Shortino at the 50th anniversary reunion for St. Mark’s School in Hyattsville. CS PHOTO BY MICHAEL HOYT
St. Mark the Evangelist School in Hyattsville had a homecoming to remember on Oct. 11, as more than 450 alumni, family members and friends returned for a 50th anniversary reunion in the school gym.

"It's a testament to the education and the friendships," said Mary Smaldore Hartig, a member of St. Mark's class of 1976 who helped organize the reunion. "This was a true family, the St. Mark's family."

Mary Beth Waits Krenek, another member of the class of 1976, traveled from Florida for the reunion. "We have great memories," she said, looking at a photo display that included shots of the eighth graders staging their annual variety show, high-kicking like the Rockettes and staging a scene from "Godspell."

"We all had to pull together," she said.

Her fellow bicentennial year graduate Georgina Hamilton Fitzgerald agreed. Now a stay-at-home mom in New Jersey, she said, "You go to school nine years, you grow up together."

Frank O'Neill, a member of St. Mark's class of 1967 who now works as director of broadcast and cable TV research for CBS in New York City, said that to this day when he smells roses, he thinks of St. Mark's School, because roses grew on the school grounds. "I have very nice memories of going to school here," he said.

Carla Izaguirre (class of 1985) now works as a power engineer for Verizon and lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore with her family. She came to the reunion wearing her plaid skirt and blouse from her old uniform. "St. Mark's was the greatest time of my life," she said. "It instilled moral values and family traditions."

Father John Dillon, the new pastor of St. Mark's, said he is impressed by the dedicated teachers there. "They give everything they have for the kids," said the priest, who is teaching Latin classes there now.

Father Dillon noted with pride that at least two current seminarians for the Archdiocese of Washington - Tim Daniel and Charlie Gallagher - are graduates of St. Mark's School. "It really is a special place," he said.

Before the reunion, Father Dillon concelebrated a Mass with Msgr. Richard Hughes, a retired priest who formerly served as pastor at St. Mark's.

Pat Brady, the kindergarten teacher at St. Mark's, has taught there since 1981. She said the 17 children in her kindergarten class come from about 10 different countries. "This is one of the good things about being in a Catholic school," she said. "It brings the point home that God loves us all, no matter what language you speak, or the color of your hair."

Brady smiled in the crowded gym, and said, "St. Mark's is back. It's an incredible place. We still love it here."

Betty Landi, whose six children graduated from St. Mark's and whose husband Carl coached CYO sports there for many years, continues to work in the school's after-care program four days a week. "It's my family," she said. "I'm still at it."

Sister Janet Stolba, a Religious of Jesus and Mary who taught at St. Mark's from 1965-73, praised the generosity of parents, who "would do anything for us." Sister Janet, who recently served as her order's U.S. provincial, said her years at St. Mark's were some of her happiest times as a religious.

"More than anything, we wanted kids to know God loved them unconditionally, and how precious and special they were, each one of them," Sister Janet said, adding that she hoped students knew, "they could do anything they wanted and could be anything that God was calling them to be."

She said St. Mark's eighth grade musicals and variety shows are among her happiest memories. This past year, the school's eighth graders staged, "The Fiddler on the Roof." Past productions include "Oliver."

"That's what education is, bringing out the best in each child," she said. "They didn't even know they could sing and dance."

That day, Tom Sheehan, a member of St. Mark's class of 1981, flew up to Washington for the reunion from his home in Charleston, S.C. A former Secret Service agent, he now works for the Department of Homeland Security.

"The best years of my life were spent at St. Mark's," he said. "All my friends today are the guys I went to school with at St. Mark's."

He said the late Msgr. Tom Wells in his years as pastor at St. Mark's "molded a lot of young men who went here."

Standing with his lifelong friends, Sheehan smiled and said, "We were blessed to be here."