ROYERSFORD — Nearly 200 Bishop Kenrick High School alumni attended the first ever Legacy Alumni gathering at Pope John Paul High School in Royersford back in January.
It was the first time that many Kenrick grads and teachers had stepped foot in the school that had replaced Kenrick’s successor, Kennedy-Kenrick, and offered the perfect occasion for PJP president Jason Bozzone to shake hands with the alumni he’d heard so much about.
Among the folks he met that night were members of the Michael Petrone Foundation, who ultimately accepted Bozzone’s offer to hold The Petrone Beef & Beer “Stink Strong” benefit fundraiser for 1978 Kenrick grad Dave Nolan at PJP, 181 Rittenhouse Road, Royersford on April 27, from 7 to 11 p.m.
“They shared with me their mission and I was deeply moved and impressed for what they do each and every year,” Bozzone said. “I learned that in 1999 members of Bishop Kenrick High School’s Class of 1976 wanted to honor Michael Petrone, a classmate who died a year earlier, in 1998, while undergoing a heart and kidney transplant. The foundation was formed to support charities that reflected the four most important things to Mike … family, friends, children and his home town of Norristown. Since 1999 members of the Petrone Foundation have worked to honor the memory of their dear friend by helping those in need.”
Bozzone learned that PJP’s mission and Catholic identity is deeply aligned with the Petrone Foundation’s mission and values, he noted.
“That evening they shared with me that they were looking for a location for their benefit for Kenrick alumni, David Nolan. About two years ago David ‘Stinky’ Nolan sustained severe back and neck injuries in a car accident. And this past fall, David sustained a traumatic brain injury. In an effort to help our legacy alumni I did not hesitate to offer Pope John Paul II High School as a location to coordinate this most important event. The idea is to maximize their ability to contribute to this worthy cause and to demonstrate to all of our legacy alumni that our doors are always open to them as we celebrate our past as we embrace for the future.”
Since arriving at PJP, Bozzone said he began expressing to the legacy alumni that if ever they wanted to host a reunion or event at Pope John Paul II High School the space would always be available to them at no charge.
“This is my third year as president and from my first year it was really important for me to understand our legacy alumni,” he noted. “I understood right away how John Paul was built and the how the merger of Bishop Kenrick and Archbishop Kennedy, with St. Pius X, all came into one. It was important for me to understand that culture because it’s very important to celebrate the past and the future for us to be successful at Pope John Paul. It’s so important for us to bring our Kenrick folks back because Kenrick is really the foundation of who we are. The most important thing we do is to provide a high quality Catholic education,” Bozzone added, “but a lot of things we do stem from our legacy schools like Kenrick.”
Prior to the Kenrick event, sponsored by 1985 Kenrick grad Rich Wesselt, PJP had hosted a Legacy Alumni gathering for St. Pius X alumni.
“We’re doing this in segments because each school has its own culture and its own traditions. By doing each one of these segmented events then we want to bring them all together as one school. We can impact today and forever if we all come together as one Catholic entity,” Bozzone pointed out.
“In addition to Bishop Kenrick there was St. Patrick’s in Norristown, St. Matthew’s High School in Conshohocken, Kennedy-Kenrick, St. Pius X. Each one of those legacy schools has their own traditions and we want to embrace that and also embrace it for the future because it makes us at John Paul that much stronger. As we bring them back as individual schools, we want to bring them back collectively to say you are part of the bigger picture of John Paul II. We really want to engage the Kenrick alumni,” he added, “because they’re such a strong alumni. In 1993 Kennedy closed to create Kennedy-Kenrick, so all those years up until 1993 Kenrick had a really strong base. From 1994 to 2010 Kennedy-Kenrick has their own culture, so its important for us to bring all those cultures together and let them know that even though we’re not the brick and mortar they once had, we’re here and we do celebrate what they once were and want to keep their legacy intact for the future.”
The Petrone fundraiser on April 27, which will be catered by Collegeville Bakery Pizzeria Napoletana, will raise awareness not only about the charitable organization and its many causes but also PJP’s role in every legacy school’s alumni celebration, Bozzone noted.
“It is important to us that we can be a location that brings classmates, friends, and families together. PJP, which was built on the strong Catholic foundation of our legacy schools of St. Matthew's, St. Patrick's, Archbishop Kennedy, Bishop Kenrick, Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius X, welcomes our legacy alumni back and is available for them to use our facility. We are a prideful school because of the tradition of those from our legacy schools that came before us.”
The Michael Petrone Foundation’s Joe Shemar, Bishop Kenrick Class of 1977, said the organization was “unbelievably grateful that PJP reached out to us. They said ‘why don’t you have your event here?’ And we said Ok. And we’re ecstatic to be there.”
Despite a recent battle with an infection, Dave Nolan is expected to attend the event, Shemar said.
“Dave’s been through a lot. He’s on the mend, but he will be there,” added Shemar, who played running back for Kenrick’s football team with Nolan, who was on the other side of the ball as a cornerback.
"Dave always looked out for the younger guys, the players coming up," Shemar said.
The Petrone board of directors is made of various Bishop Kenrick alumni, Shemar explained.
“We have people on the board from the classes of 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1971 and a few from the 1980s. Everybody who does our functions is considered family, and everyone associated with Michael Petrone Foundation is involved somehow with Norristown — that’s where our roots are, at Bishop Kenrick in Norristown.”
The Petrone group had its choice of spaces at PJP for the Beef ‘n Beer and ultimately chose the cafeteria, Shemar said.
“The cafeteria has doors leading outside to a patio, so people can venture outside if they want. We’re sure the room will be big enough to support whoever shows up. And every penny we take in that night goes to the beneficiary, Dave Nolan, who can use it for whatever he needs it for.”
Tickets to “Stink Strong” are $40 (includes food, beer and mixers; guests are also free to BYOB) and will be available at the door, or in advance at www.michaelpetronefoundation.org.
Payment or donation is through PayPal, paypal.me/mpf2016, or make check payable to Michael Petrone Foundation, P.O. Box 242, Kulpville, Pa. 19443
For more information contact Joe Migliarese at 610-312-8180 or Joe Shemar at 267-446-4693.
For information on alumni events at PJP, visit https://www.pjphs.org/ or contact Michael Duffy, Director for Alumni Relations & Special Events at 484-975-6500 ext. 3031.
Graduates of the legacy schools are encouraged to update their alumni profile at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd7pnsM-FuadMoEGXnThuiCPX43BjNH55l2kw3jntOUV5BWSw/viewform