It has been more than 30 years since Fr. Charles Bolser, CSV, established the Alumni Memorial Mass at Saint Viator High School. After taking over as president when Saint Viator merged with Sacred of Mary High School, in 1987, Fr. Bolser saw the Mass as a way of bringing both communities together.
Traditionally held in November near All Souls’ Day, the Mass remembers all those alumni — of both schools — who passed away during the prior year.
Their names are engraved in plaques and are added to the back wall of what is now known as the Alumni Memorial Chapel. Currently, there are more than 600 names on the “memorial wall” and another 269 on an adjacent wall that honors faculty, staff and benefactors.
Associate Brian Liedlich, President of Saint Viator High School, affirmed the event’s importance: “Even though our lives have been drastically changed, the tradition of the Alumni Memorial Mass grounds us in our faith as we support each other in remembering, celebrating and believing.”
This year, the Mass took place on the feast of All Saints’ Day, and it was livestreamed due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, it was no less moving for families of former students who had died.
“We both considered this to be Martha’s funeral Mass and feel so much better than we have in the past month since her death,” wrote Mary Van Wazer Stang, a 1965 Sacred Heart graduate, about her sister, Martha Van Wazer Stuppi ’70, who passed away Oct. 3 in California. While Mary and her sister, Margie, were unable to travel for the funeral services, they gratefully tuned into the Alumni Memorial Mass.
“We both shed a few tears,” Mary added, “but we needed to have Martha celebrated in the church.”
In all, 33 graduates of both schools were remembered at Mass — from the classes of 1964-1997 — in the school where they once walked the halls, as well as two faculty members. Their names were read aloud and their yearbook photos were displayed in front of the altar, somewhat like a Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead tradition, where life and death are celebrated.
Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, was the main celebrant, with Fr. Bolser concelebrating. In his homily, Fr. Hall encouraged families to have faith in God and eternal life, while they remember that the only thing that died was the body.
“The invincible spirit of your loved one is still alive,” Fr. Hall said. “And that is why we gather. To remember, is to bring to life again.”