Resurrection gets renovations as Ransom sets to close

Members of the Philadelphia Catholic League Alumni Corps — foreground from left to right: Lisa Mannion, Kelly Prendergast, and Amy Gillespie — put up a new coat of paint at the Resurrection of Our Lord School on Shellmire Avenue on Saturday, May 19. (Brad Larrison)

As Resurrection of Our Lord School prepares to welcome students from soon-to-close Our Lady of Ransom, the building could use some renovations.

Enter the Philadelphia Catholic League Alumni Corps.

The non-profit Corps was founded last year by Gavin Keirans, a Somerton native who graduated from St. Joseph’s Prep in 2006 and Penn State in 2010.

Keirans, who served two terms as president of the University Park Undergraduate Association, wanted to mobilize all of the graduates of Philadelphia-area Catholic schools for a series of service leadership opportunities.

In February, Corps members gave a makeover to a three-floor former convent and day-care center at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in South Philadelphia.

The folks at Resurrection learned of the good deed and asked for help from the handy and willing 20-something guys and gals.

“The parents and the staff want to make the school as welcoming as possible to the new kids,” said Ron Schwartz, a Resurrection advisory board member.

Schwartz contacted Keirans, who gave the go-ahead for the project after discussions with other Corps members and officers.

On May 19, about 40 Corps members spruced up the school building, located near Castor and Shelmire avenues in Rhawnhurst. They painted the ceilings of four classrooms, the principal’s office, a room used for the hot lunch program and a room that will be used by two Our Lady of Ransom nuns who will work as a religious enrichment instructor and an office aide.

“It’s wonderful that they’re giving up their time to do this,” said principal Joan Stulz.

Stulz will remain principal of the new Resurrection Regional Catholic School. Our Lady of Ransom principal Grace McGuirl, who was principal of Mater Dolorosa School when it closed in 2003, is retiring. Eight teachers from Our Lady of Ransom have been hired at the regional school.

At present, there are 457 children in pre-kindergarten 3-year-olds through eighth grade at Resurrection. Another 136 Our Lady of Ransom pupils are expected to attend the regional school.

In all, there will be about 600 students when school reopens in September. There will be three eighth-grade classes, up from the two now at Resurrection. And, in a positive sign for the regional school’s future, there will be three kindergarten classes.

All classrooms will be used during the 2012–13 academic year, meaning the Corps provided an invaluable service.

“It’s the least we can do,” said Paige Kenney, a graduate of St. Christopher School in Somerton, Mount St. Joseph and Penn State. “We’re glad to help. What else would we be doing on Saturday anyway?”

The young people performed some preparation work the night before and got down to business early that Saturday. The Resurrection students were rehearsing for their production of Annie while the work was being done.

It’s an exciting time for Resurrection.

Besides welcoming students from Our Lady of Ransom, the school was recently designated as a No Place for Hate by the Anti-Defamation League for completing a year of programs combating bias and bullying. Students also wrote letters to the kids at Our Lady of Ransom mentioning the welcoming environment they will experience.

In addition, alumni and others are looking forward to Resso Roars at the Shore, a parish reunion on July 7 at Keenan’s in North Wildwood, N.J.

Corps members sensed that they were a welcome presence at Resurrection.

“Everyone is so appreciative,” said Aubrey Barrett, a graduate of St. Andrew in Newtown, Mount St. Joseph and Penn State. “We’re happy to be here. It feels good to give back.”

Now that their work is done at Resurrection, Corps members are excited to consider their next task.

“We feel there are major opportunities down the line,” Keirans said.

Doug Andrews, a graduate of St. Martha, Archbishop Ryan and Penn State, was glad to return to Resurrection, where he played and coached basketball as a visiting opponent.

Andrews said communities in South Philly and the Northeast have seen the commitment that Corps members have to turnaround projects.

“We’re up and coming. We want to see how much difference we can make,” he said.

Anthony Christina, a Cardinal O’Hara graduate and senior at Penn State, said the Corps is a great outlet for young people.

“It’s one of the few organizations out there that cater to college grads wanting to give back,” he said.

For more information, visit phillycatholics.com or check out the Philadelphia Catholic League Alumni Corps page on Facebook. ••