As a member of the first-ever graduating class of St. Sebastian’s in 1945, Henry (Hank) Barry’s perspective on our School encompasses a lifetime. From the opening of a dirt gym floor on Nonantum Hill, to the School’s fiftieth anniversary in 1991, Henry had seen the School grow in myriad ways. In the fall of 1995, Hank wrote down a few highlights of his life as an Arrow in a document titled, “Benchmarks in a St. Sebastian’s Life.” Below is his account of what it was like to be a member of the class of 1945:
“September 29, 1941– In the beginning there were 21 freshmen. We were guided by six priest-instructors, prepared to lead us through the mazes of classical educational formation. Other young pioneers joined us as sophomores and juniors.
The new St. Sebastian’s Country Day School was established on Nonantum Hill in Newton by William Cardinal O’Connell for Catholic boys of Greater Boston. It was initially a sight of yawning pits and scattered timber. One barely habitable building of three served as a classroom/dining hall often redolent of food. It was distracting for young, growing students. For us the pi of the geometric circle through olfactory sensation became the pie of the luncheon table.
The school building proper, with classrooms and an attractive Chapel in which daily Mass was offered, opened for use in the second week of December 1941. The athletic facility, with a dirt gym floor and locker rooms was available a few days later.
The School was aptly named for a martyred soldier-saint. Our patron harmonized well with the militaristic spirit of the age. ‘Remember Pearl Harbor-December 7, 1941.’
During our four years of study we were well-trained in our classical education by young, newly ordained priests under the guidance of our Headmaster, Reverend Charles D. Mclnnis.
World War II ended in 1945. Our college careers were launched. Graduates attended several universities. Included among them were Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Holy Cross, Georgetown and Notre Dame. College admissions officers were anxious to test the mental mettle of the first graduates of St. Sebastian’s. The pioneers proved that their rigorous, Catholic, classical secondary education was most worthy of collegiate academic challenges.
Sadly, ten of our classmates were unable to attend graduation exercises because their lives had been disrupted by military service.
October 19, 1991– Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of St. Sebastian’s: The School’s new location (since December, 1982) is adjacent to St. Bartholomew Parish in Needham. This is an ideal geographic location with more classrooms, the use of the parish church in addition to a School Chapel, more fields and an indoor hockey rink.
On a crisp autumn Saturday afternoon, nine members of the class of ‘ 45 (Hank Barry, George Gilbert, Frank Kickham, Jim Lydon, Charlie McCarron, Ed Murphy, Dan O’Brien, Jim Scully and Joe O’Connell) were present to dedicate an electronic scoreboard in memory of our friend and patron, Monsignor Charles D. Mclnnis. It seemed only fitting that classmate Joe O’Connell served as a major contributor for the cost of the scoreboard since Joe was a superb defender in our early pigskin careers. The electronic scoreboard stood tall as we watched our young Arrow stalwarts shut out Roxbury Latin, 26-0, while we recalled our own happy memories of scholastic athletics: an undefeated baseball team, two hockey championships and a successful football team. It was thrilling to see the presence of our wonderful educators at the concelebrated Mass. We appreciated the thoughtfulness and hospitality of Headmaster Bill Burke, his wife, Patty, and the School’s staff.
May 20, 1995– With friendships never to be broken, with memories of our living and deceased classmates, we (Hank Barry, Joe Carroll, Don Gibbons, Shaun Kelly, Frank Kickham, Jim Lydon, Ed Murphy and Diarmuid O’Connell) celebrated our 50th Reunion at St. Sebastian’s. Father John Arens celebrated a Memorial Mass for our deceased classmates: Bob Baker, Jim Collins, Ed Courtney, George Gilbert, Hugh Glasheen, Dan O’Brien, Joe O’Connell and Dick Shea.
We enjoyed fine hospitality with a luncheon at the home of Headmaster Bill Burke. We and our spouses joined other reunion groups at a cocktail party on the school lawn, followed by a delicious catered dinner in the Atrium. Several of us were guests for three days following at Jim Lydon’s Falmouth home where the hospitality was magnanimous and the stories were bigger than the waves!”
Hank Barry passed away in 2014, but his legacy as a member of our first graduating class lives on.