By Robert B. Hordan
Some 30 alumni from the Friars’ former Saint John’s Atonement Seminary in Montour Falls, New York, will celebrate a multi-class high school reunion at Graymoor.
The get-together, which will include alumni from numerous class years, is slated to take place Friday, August 19 through Sunday, August 21.
Although no longer in operation, the seminary left a lasting legacy on the many young men that were educated there, dating back to the early 20th century.
Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, SA, the founder of the Society of the Atonement, originally christened Saint John’s Atonement Seminary in 1907 at Graymoor. But the seminary subsequently moved to Montour Falls in 1949, when the Society of the Atonement purchased and renovated the building with 35 acres, formerly known as the Cook Academy.
Many seminarian candidates were selected by the Reverend Simeon Heine, the Director of Vocations at the time. The students’ education was provided by the Atonement Friars, as well as James Likoudis, a nationally-known instructor of religious education and native of Montour Falls.
Some students became ordained priests within the Society of the Atonement. Other alumni pursued the priesthood or became deacons in other dioceses. Most of the students pursued careers in various other professions.
Most alumni to this day remain committed to religious ethics first learned at St. John’s, and have long-term marriages with children and grandchildren.
Education, religious training and the coursework at the seminary was rigorous and included Latin and French languages, history, mathematics, natural sciences, as well as music. Many students played musical instruments such as the piano, guitars, brass and percussion. Rock ‘n Roll of the 1960s was greatly appreciated and played by students.
At that time, dormitories housed 3 to 12 students. The students had their own library, infirmary and outdoor athletic facilities, including handball courts, lakes and waterfalls for swimming and many became experienced hikers and rock climbers. The monthly tuition of $35 covered room, meals, education and recreational costs.
Every Saturday, a major motion picture was shown in their large gymnasium. The seminary also had a well-stocked room of fish aquariums, while a photography darkroom provided other hobby opportunities. Students published their own monthly newspaper, “The Quill.”
The large chapel was the most prominent part of the school building, which was ornate with stained-glass windows, statues, individual wooden choir stalls and a great chapel organ. The last school’s rector, the Reverend DeSales Standerwick, died in the summer 1967, in an airplane crash while en route from Elmira, New York to Washington, D.C. The school closed two years later, in 1969.
Since the early 1970s, the building and grounds in Montour Falls are still in use, home to the New York State Academy of Fire Science.
For more information about the reunion, contact Paul Salamone at email@example.com.