The same year that St. Agnes Cathedral School has celebrated its 100-year anniversary, the institution’s Fathers’ Club is commemorating being in existence for a quarter of a century.
Sister Kathy Carlin, who served as St. Agnes’s principal for nearly 40 years, said she remembered when the Fathers’ Club was made up of three or four men who met in one of the cafeterias with a cooler of beer and brainstormed on how to improve the school. Msgr. Robert Mulligan helped drive the formation of the group, which now has about 130 members.
Officially founded in 1992, the St. Agnes Fathers’ Club has raised funds to provide support for capital improvements projects at the school. The school’s Mothers’ Club had existed for about 55 years prior to that, Carlin said, and the new organization allowed the dads a chance to do their part. “It really gave the fathers another way of being involved with their kids and their education,” she said.
Over the years, the club has helped the school purchase lockers, new floors in the cafeterias, and iPads for St. Agnes students, as well as upgrade its security and build its Field of Dreams and Centennial Prayer Walk, the latter of which opened this year to commemorate the school’s 100th anniversary.
“It’s a nice way for a lot of different people to have a common cause,” said Sean O’Reilly, a 10-year member of the club, who co-chaired this year’s golf outing on May 31. The event is the group’s biggest fundraiser, and organizers hoped it would bring in about $50,000. Proceeds had not been counted at press time Tuesday. O’Reilly’s son no longer attends St. Agnes, but he continues to attend Fathers’ Club meetings and events in an effort to improve the education for the students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
He is not the only one who has continued to volunteer his time after his child’s graduation. “I made so many great friends through the Fathers’ Club that they can’t get rid of me,” laughed Mike Rabus, who served as president of the club in 2009. His daughter currently attends Fordham University in the Bronx. “A lot of us are products of Catholic education and we recognize the value of it,” he added, noting that he grew up in Brooklyn and attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens before moving on to St. John’s University.
Every dollar raised goes to the school, said current Fathers’ Club president Joe Caban, who joined the group six years ago when his daughter entered kindergarten. The organization introduces itself to parents of new St. Agnes students at an annual barbecue in September.
“My wife says, ‘You’ve got to [join]; this is your daughter’s education,’” Caban recalled. “…Everyone’s a little shy. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone.”
But joining was a good decision, he said, and he has made great friends while raising money. Meetings are held monthly, and are often held at restaurants or bars around the village. Father James Hansen and the Rev. William Koenig, St. Agnes Cathedral’s rector for nine years, update the dads on what is going on in the school and how they can help.
“They’re a great force as far as supporting the school and as far as supporting one another even outside the school,” said Monsignor Koenig, who was honored with this year’s William J. Cronin Award, named for the Fathers’ Club’s first president. Koenig, who served as St. Agnes’s associate pastor from 1996 to 2000, said he introduced the idea of a Fathers’ Club to his former parish, St. William the Abbot, in Seaford, after seeing how successful it was in Rockville Centre. He returned to St. Agnes in 2009.
In addition to raising money, the Fathers’ Club hosts certain events each year, including a Sports Night at the St. Agnes gym in the fall and a bowling event in the spring. Along with donating money, the diverse group of dads come together to donate their time to prepare for the holiday season, for example.
“It really doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant, a lawyer, a plumber,” O’Reilly said. “We all come out on a Saturday morning, pick up coffee and string Christmas lights up on the bushes.”
Caban added: “The mission here is about Catholic school education and raising funds for our kids so our kids can have the best of what we can get them.”