Saturday, April 18, 2009

Requiescat in Pace Sister Mary Alan Barszczewski, CSSF

Requiescat in Pace Sr. Alan

When St. Anthony encountered financial trouble in the 1990s, Barszczewski took action. With Sister Felicia Brodowski by her side, the two would travel into Manhattan to knock on the doors of Fortune 500 companies and ask for donations. Together, and with the help of Hurley, they have raised more than $1 million annually for the school.
"She believed that all kids, even poor kids, deserved quality," said Kathleen Staudt, director of development at St. Anthony. "That's why she fought to keep the school good."

St. Anthony High's Sister Mary Alan Barszczewski, 62, dies

Sister Mary Alan Barszczewski, CSSF, 62, who helped guide the St. Anthony High School boys basketball team from a Hudson County power to a national champion, died this morning.
Barszczewski, who was known simply as "Sister Alan," was the Jersey City school's athletic director throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when the Friars gained national acclaim as "the little school that could." Barszczewski was the acting president of the school when she died.
In 1989, St. Anthony, with an enrollment of fewer than 200 students and without a true gym to call its own, was named the No. 1 team in the nation by the USA Today after capturing the inaugural state Tournament of Champions.

Sister Alan is also credited with keeping the school afloat financially with her tireless work raising money for the school.

There will be a service for Sister Alan at the Immaculate Conception Chapel at the Felician Sisters of Lodi (260 South Main St.) on Monday, April 13 at 6 p.m. A viewing will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and the funeral Mass is Tuesday, April 14 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Sr. Mary Alan Memorial Scholarship Fund at St. Anthony High School.

First N.J. Female Athletic Director, a Catholic Nun, Dies During Holy Week

If you're a basketball fan, chances are you've heard about St. Anthony High School, a small school in Jersey City, N.J. It's the place where Bob Hurley Sr. won 20-plus New Jersey state basketball championships. It's the place where many former basketball players have gone on to play Division I college basketball, where several former players have gone on to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

St. Anthony High School also had Sister Mary Alan Barszczewski, New Jersey's first woman high-school athletic director.

Sister Alan died the morning of April 7 at age 62 after a long battle with cancer. Knowing Sister Alan and her love for the church, it's somewhat fitting after all she had gone through over the last decade that she would wind up leaving this world during Holy Week--just a few days before Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

Sister Alan was never defined by her cancer. No--it was so much more that defined her.

She came to St. Anthony's in 1978 and quickly became the first female athletic director ever in the state. Her daily work, though, was to serve the teens who called St. Anthony High School their home away from home.

More than 90 percent of the students who attend St. Anthony's are Black. Most came from some of the roughest neighborhoods of Jersey City and Newark, N.J. Many of the kids come from single-parent households.

These kids went through more in their teen years than anyone should have to go through in a lifetime. And yet, there she was, day after day, this petite figure, looking up to some very tall, very tough kids. And regardless of that amazing difference in stature, she had the most incredible command of each one of these kids.

Why? Because unlike many others who these kids came into contact with, she loved them all--and she believed in them. She never, ever gave up on a kid, no matter how poorly he or she might have acted on a given day or how bad life at home was. She never failed to remember that inside the rough exterior of many of the kids was something very special--a teenager who just wanted to be loved, to be understood, to be respected and to be believed in. They didn't always get that from their families.

It never mattered to Sister Alan that the kids weren't usually Catholic. It didn't matter to her that the kids had a different skin color than she did. It didn't matter to her that some of the kids came from other countries and their parents didn't speak English.

Sister Alan taught those kids a lot of lessons, and she taught me many as well. Though it was innate in me, she taught me, so vividly, how wonderful it is to celebrate the differences in each human being on this earth.

She may be gone now, but her legacy will live on forever--in my mind, in the minds of all who knew her and now, hopefully to some degree, in the minds of all of who read this story. What an amazing example of seeing the value of diversity Sister Alan was.

Rest in peace, Sister Alan.

So sad, particularly for the St. Anthony community in Jersey City, but she is now enjoying her eternal reward. Those of you who read "The Miracle of St. Anthony" knew what a formidable and religious woman this sister was, raised in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. If you haven't read the book yet -- go get it. One of my favorites. If you think that one man, or one woman, can't make a difference -- think again.

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