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Community to celebrate Presentation’s legacy

In its 91-year history, Presentation of Our Lady School has provided a Catholic education for thousands of children. Alumni, former and current staff, students, parents and anyone involved with the school is invited to a reunion May 30 to look back on the legacy of the west Denver school before it closes in June.

“It was fun, like one big family,” Joan Pfenning, 81, told the Denver Catholic. “Everybody knows everybody.”

Pfenning has been a member of Presentation of Our Lady Parish for 52 years and served as the school’s secretary for 20 years. She’s looking forward to the reunion and seeing old friends like “Mrs. Schnur,” who managed the school cafeteria for 27 years; Jeanette Vahling Wacholtz, who attended Presentation herself then had a family member there every year for 63 years straight, and “Andy,” who once babysat one of school’s most beloved alumni, Father Ron Cattany, soon-to-be-installed pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Closure of the school, founded in 1924, was announced by 10-year pastor Father Edward Poehlmann last November following consultation with the parish finance and pastoral councils and the Archdiocese of Denver. Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, the space will be leased to Escuela de Guadalupe, an independent Catholic school with a dual-language program, founded in north Denver in 1999.

“We’re very grateful for the alumni,” Father Poehlmann said. “The last 10 years have been difficult for the school and they’ve been very helpful and supportive.”

At its height in the 1960s, Presentation served nearly 500 students in the Barnum neighborhood. In the last decade, more than $3.6 million was invested by Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust, The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado and the archdiocese.

A plan was developed by the Office of Catholic Schools to facilitate the transition of Presentation students and teachers. Of 97 students, more than 60 plan to go to other archdiocesan schools, primarily St. Francis de Sales and St. Bernadette, according to Father Poehlmann. The Presentation community has pledged to help the students with the transition financially, including continuing their annual golf tournament fundraiser, which will be held Aug. 18 at Inverness Golf Course in Englewood. Father Poehlmann also said that all of the teachers have jobs for next year.

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The reunion will begin with 4:30 p.m. Mass in the church at 695 Julian St., celebrated by Father Poehlmann, followed by a reception in the school gym at 660 Julian St. Refreshments will be served. There is no charge for the event, though there will be an opportunity to purchase raffle tickets to raise funds for students.

“We’re so anxious to keep the kids leaving Presentation in Catholic schools,” Pfenning said.

“Presentation of Our Lady School has served the community of west Denver well for 90 years, thanks in no small part to the sacrifice and hard work of the Sisters of Mercy,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila wrote in a statement last November when the closure was announced. “The school has struggled in the past few years … but this in no way diminishes the great work it has accomplished in the lives of generations of students.”

Guests are encouraged to show their Panther Pride at the reunion by wearing shirts with school logos. RSVP to Joan Pfenning at 303-936-5934 or Bill Uebelher at mbu11@q.com.


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