Many Memories at St. Therese of Jesus’ Last School Mass
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
June 7, 2018
AURORA—The homily and talks were upbeat, but there was predictable sadness as St. Therese of Jesus School in Aurora hosted its final all-school Mass on May 30.
“We gather here to celebrate 93 amazing years at St. Therese,” said Father Ernesto Caicedo, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest who began service at the parish earlier this year.
“This is not the end; this is a new beginning,” he said, “and a new beginning is always a new opportunity. We can change our lives when we begin a new chapter in our life!”
St. Therese of Jesus Parish students will attend the new Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy in Aurora this fall. (See box.)
Along with Father Caicedo, Deacon Bruce Waterman also emphasized new beginnings throughout the history of the parish that has seen, he said, nine bishops and nine pastors. He spoke of the love of parish patron, St. Therese of Jesus, and encouraged the students to “make something of yourself, but remember your Catholic faith ... We have the memories of St. Therese (School) in our minds, in our hearts and in our spirits.”
“It is hard to see opportunity, especially if the ending wasn’t sought,” Father Caicedo said. “How can we see (opportunities)? The answer is by living in the present ... we must focus all of our energies, not in trying to change our past ... we must focus our minds on the things we want ... it is in our own hands (to write) a most wonderful story.”
Visitors at the Mass included St. Therese class of 1961 alumni Barb (Hoffer) Thrall and Pat (Gurbal) Scott, both of whom come back to their childhood home parish frequently for its Summerfest, bazaars, bingo and rummage sales. Their friend, Joyce (Hammond) Frantino, class of 1959, continues at St.
 Therese Parish, and was busy back in the parish hall kitchen during the reception following the Mass.
Two other guests, Marilyn Fidler, class of 1958, and her sister, Joann Campbell, class of 1955, laughed as they reminisced about their father, Julius Kartheiser, who was one of the “12 apostles” – the first class of students at St. Therese School when it began in 1926. He was the last survivor of those “apostles” when he died at the age of 97 not too long ago.
They agreed that the closing of the school is a sad event, but, as Campbell said, they treasure “a lot of good memories.”
Memories were a highlight of Principal Michael Neis’ address to students, teachers and guests. He spoke in English and Spanish of a trip he and his wife took seven years ago to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. A priest there had blessed them and said, “Now this is your home.”
Three years later, Neis noted, he discovered what that meant when he applied at St. Therese School for what he laughingly said was to be a part-time job as principal.
“Our hearts told us we could double our enrollment,” he said, outlining other hopes and dreams such as welcoming special needs students to its loving, faith-filled environment.
“Our hearts are thankful,” he said, naming Bishop David Malloy, the Diocese of Rockford, teachers, staff and parents.
“As we bring 90 years plus of a Christ-centered (education), we say farewell to our physical home,” Neis said. “But home is where the heart is ... and we will carry our memories ... 
“Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, pray for us. May Jesus be in our hearts.”