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Seasoned Eagles: Bourgade Catholic celebrates 50th anniversary

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Fr. Matt Henry, chaplain at Bourgade Catholic, celebrates Mass Oct. 28 at the conclusion of an all-alumni reunion weekend marking the school’s 50th year. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

They may not have won the football game, but by all accounts the Bourgade Eagles scored big Oct. 26-28 during homecoming weekend.

Some 400 alumni and spouses from every decade returned to their alma mater on 31st Avenue south of Camelback to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. A barbecue kicked off festivities followed by the homecoming game against Seton Catholic Preparatory High School — its current division rival since Bourgade’s twin rival Gerard Catholic High School closed in 1989.

“People had a wonderful time this weekend. You could see the bonds of friendship,” said Jeff Campbell, class of ’77.

Spouses who didn’t attend Bourgade noticed those bonds, too. At least 20 couples who attended anniversary events met while enrolled at the school named after the first bishop of Tucson, Peter Bourgade.

“It gave people a chance to re-unite with their Bourgade,” said Campbell, who helped plan the weekend.

Many alumni remember the school’s original four buildings: Madonna Hall, the rectory in the Hillman Center and two classroom wings. The Hillman Center is now under renovation for classroom use. Bourgade also has a gym, ramada, outdoor prayer areas and a two-story student services building, thanks in large part to the leadership of Sr. Mary McGreevy, SSND, former principal who oversaw two capital campaigns.

Sr. Mary was the last School Sister of Notre Dame to lead Bourgade in the order’s 23-year tenure. Holy Cross priests spent much of the 1970s and 1980s in charge of administration. That included Holy Cross Father Donald Fetters, who served as principal (1980-84) and taught English and U.S. government before that. He also coached junior varsity girls’ volleyball and once headed the drama department.

“The things that I remember more than anything — other than the heat coming from Indiana — were the families,” Fr. Fetters said after an Oct. 28 school Mass on the grass. “The families were really very welcoming.”

He recalled technology just entering Bourgade while he was there and the creation of a 20-computer classroom. Now, Bourgade boasts a “Techies” club whose members operate sound and lighting equipment at school events.

Kathryn Roder, who is in her second year as the school’s first lay principal, said she heard a lot of people saying, “I had no idea Bourgade had turned into this” throughout the alumni weekend.

The school’s success is tangible too. Last year’s graduating class earned $14 million in scholarship offers. An average of 50-60 percent of Bourgade seniors earn partial or full merit scholarships for college.

The Eagles — known as the Blue Angels in Bourgade’s earlier days — claimed an individual wrestling and softball state title last year adding to their recent athletic achievements.

Bourgade has tracked about 90 alumni-turned-veterans, including at least a handful of women. Bernard Bruchhauser, Sr., Class of ’66, went on to the Marine Corps. He also served as a police officer and now handles logistics at Mayo Clinic.

“It taught us a lot about direction, a lot about moral structure,” he said of his Catholic education. His brother and sister later graduated from Bourgade too. “We learned how to apply ourselves.”

It was largely the Marist priests and brothers who opened Bourgade who hammered home the importance of responsibility, even if the lesson came via Saturday detention.

“It was well worth whatever my parents sacrificed to put us through here,” Bruchhauser said.

Bruchhauser was part of the championship basketball team (1964-1965) and played football for two years. He also had the starring role in “The Mikado,” a play about Japanese royalty.

“It’s a small enough school you can get involved in everything. It gave you an opportunity to be a broad person,” said Campbell, who helped plan the event. He and many of his eight siblings graduated from Bourgade.

Nikki Coster, who graduated in 2011, praised her Bourgade experience this summer on the school’s Facebook page. She wrote that she took a year off from academic pursuits and “came back cold for placement exams” and aced them as though she were in school all along.

“You all did your job and you did it with true finesse. I am proud to say that I am a BCHS alumnus. Thank you. For everything,” she wrote.

Coster is now double majoring in neurology and interpretation.

Their letter sweaters, hairstyles — a video montage played at the reunion — and interests may differ, but Bourgade’s 3,500 graduates should possess certain qualities, Fr. Matt Henry, the school’s chaplain said in his homily. He talked a bit about Bourgade and Vatican II both marking 50 years of evangelization and the importance of sharing the faith.

“What direction is the influence going in my life? Am I influencing the world for Christ or is the world influencing me?” he asked. “We exist to be the hands and feet of Christ.”

Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN

Fr. Matt Henry, chaplain at Bourgade Catholic, celebrates Mass Oct. 28 at the conclusion of an all-alumni reunion weekend marking the school’s 50th year.

Bourgade Catholic

For more information on Bourgade Catholic High School, visit:

www.bourgadecatholic.org

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