Western Maryland’s Catholic High School Legacy Lives On

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Five small Catholic high schools in western Maryland no longer exist, but a group of dedicated alumni help maintain their strong legacy at Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland.

Catholic Girls Central, LaSalle High School, St. Mary’s High School and Ursuline Academy in Cumberland and St. Peter’s High School in Westernport combined in 1966 to form Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland, which is now the only remaining Catholic school in the western Maryland.

Twelve members of the Class of 1951 from Western Maryland Catholic Schools gathered at Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland at the start of the 2021-22 school year to celebrate their 70th anniversary reunion. Most of their children and grandchildren attended Bishop Walsh, and many former students volunteered and supported the new school over the years. The middle school was added in 1985 and the elementary school in 2002.

Former students attended Mass at St. Mary’s in Cumberland, where deceased members of the Class of 1951 were memorialized. They also enjoyed a lunch and gathered at a member’s home for desserts, drinks and conversation.

The whole group meets every five years at Bishop Walsh, but many of them have closer friendships within the circle and meet once a month.

LaSalle alumnus Michael Cunningham recalled his high school years as the “best four years of his life.” He was on the baseball team and graduated as class president.

Cunningham remembers driving 20 miles to school, the equivalent of an hour’s one-way bus ride, until his senior year when he had access to a car. Seven other teenagers lived in Westernport and had to go to LaSalle.

The Divine Mercy parishioner in Frostburg has been a volunteer at Bishop Walsh School for 30 years, organizing fundraisers, including golf events, to support several programs. His six children all dated Bishop Walsh.

Catholic Girls Central alumnus Mary Rita (Madden) Beck said the best part of high school was the friendships she made.

“I could still call any of these friends to have a good chat,” she said.

Cunningham and Beck meet once a month with their respective group of close high school friends.

“Our Catholic school has kept us deeply connected to our faith until today,” Beck said.

Delores (Nevy) McMullen, a graduate of St. Mary’s, said she felt very happy to be part of the class of 1951. She was one of the few selected cheerleaders at LaSalle High School. The all-boys high school conducted trials at St. Mary’s, Ursuline, and Catholic Girls Central. Only two students from each girls’ school were invited to join the team to participate in baseball, basketball and football games.

“We traveled with the team when they were out of town,” she recalls.

McMullen, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Mountains, has volunteered at Bishop Walsh for several fundraisers. His four children all attended Bishop Walsh, and 10 of his 11 grandchildren attended Bishop Walsh.

Mary Delores (Martin) Dougherty is proud to be part of the Ursuline Academy class of 1951. She admired the Ursuline nuns who taught at the school and had even considered joining the religious community. Her four children attended Bishop Walsh, for which she still participates in fall giving, lottery fundraisers and more.

“I’m proud to be part of the class of 1951 because we ended up becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers, nurses, teachers,” she said. “The fact that we can reunite after graduating 70 years ago, we look damn good being 88.”

Email Priscila González de Doran at [email protected]

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