The initial enrollment of 260 boys had more than doubled when, in 1934, the school was moved up Woodward Avenue to a site behind the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 60 Belmont Avenue. It then became known as Detroit Catholic Central High School.
The dream of a new building was fulfilled in 1951, when Catholic Central moved to 6565 West Outer Drive on the West Side of Detroit. It was there for 27 years, moving to Breakfast Drive in Redford Township in 1978, where it was often referred to as Redford Catholic Central.
But in 2005, the school moved again, reclaiming the name Detroit Catholic Central, honoring its roots in the motor city. This time, it is lodged in a spectacular academic and athletic campus in Novi, Michigan, on a street named after an Iconic Basilian teacher, Father Ned Donoher.
Last week, just 7 days after a radical nephrectomy, I prevailed on my dear wife to drive me to Novi, there to attend Mass and a luncheon and to mingle with other Catholic Central graduates of the Class of 1947, and of other years gone by.
There’s a certain sense of karma in a roomful of sixty, seventy and eighty year old men sharing memories, telling their stories and kvelling about the good old days when their voices changed and they sprouted into manhood.
One thing for sure. There were no losers in the room. Whether theirs was financial, professional, academic or personal, every alumnus had a similar story of success; fidelity to the code of Christian manhood instilled long ago by Basilian priests whose motto and goal was to teach goodness, discipline and knowledge.
Central to the occasion was the sixtieth anniversary of the priesthood of Father Richard Elmer. The man is a legend among the Shamrock community. With ebullient good humor, tireless perseverance, and genuine concern for young men and their families, Father Elmer has been the life line through which literally millions of dollars have flowed to Catholic Central High School.
The economics of private education have changed since I entered Catholic Central in 1943. Our tuition was $60 for the entire nine month academic year. In today’s dollars, that represents about $841.
Today, Catholic Central’s tuition is on the high end of private high school tuition in Michigan - $12,000 per year. To say that it is a sacrifice for working families, puts too small a tag on it.
It is a sacrifice, not only for parents, but also for alumni and friends of the school who recognize the importance of populating each new generation of Americans with Christian gentlemen, imbued with goodness, discipline and knowledge, and capable of assuming positions of leadership in every facet of American life.
Catholic Central has long been an athletic powerhouse. Many graduates went on to careers in professional sports. More importantly, the Shamrocks have posted winning records in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, wrestling, and golf, literally for generations.
But it is not just a school for “jocks.”
The Detroit Catholic Central Academic Team has been the model of excellence and consistency in the State of Michigan and on a national level since its founding in 1985. The team has won 19 Michigan State Championships and four National Championships and is the only program in the nation to have qualified for and attended every National Academic Quiz Tournament High School Championship and PACE National Scholastic Championship.
Are we proud of our high school? You’re damn right we are. And not the least bit embarrassed to tear up a little when the alumni choir sings ….
“Mary Alma Mater, your sons of Central honor, and trusting in your goodness, we hopefully implore; that by your grace we may every day prove that we are men of Mary Alma Mater; inspire us evermore.”