By Megan Erbacher
The Message editor
To mark a century of dedication to educating hearts and minds, Evansville’s Reitz Memorial High School kicked-off its “much anticipated” Centennial Celebration with a special all-school and alumni Mass Jan. 5 in the school’s auditorium. The Mass also celebrated the school’s Founder’s Day.
As the fourth oldest Catholic High School in Indiana, Reitz Memorial has a rich history worth celebrating, Reitz Memorial President Christian Mocek said.
“The original dream of Francis Joseph Reitz to create a school that positively influences generations of Evansville youth continues, as well as the rich spiritual tradition of the Brothers of Holy Cross and Sisters of Providence who had such a profound impact on the ethos of our school,” Mocek said.
In 1922, Francis Joseph Reitz pledged $1 million to build a Catholic high school in memory of his parents. A prominent local financier, he searched for nearly a year for an appropriate site, before he purchased the 13-acre vacant property on Lincoln Avenue, according to school officials.
On Jan. 1, 1925, Bishop Chartrand of Indianapolis officially dedicated the new school building and classes began at Reitz Memorial on Jan. 5, 1925. The boys were taught by the Brothers of Holy Cross on the first and second floors, while the girls were taught by the Sisters of Providence on the third floor.
The Jan. 5 Mass celebrated the high school’s Founder’s Day and launched the Centennial Celebration that will last through 2025. Organizers called the event a “momentous occasion that brought together students, alumni, faculty and friends of Reitz Memorial.” The Mass was a “heartwarming celebration of the school's journey, accompanied by reflections, music and shared memories,” according to school officials.
Father Chris Forler, priest delegate of Reitz Memorial and pastor of St. John Parish in Daylight and St. Bernard Parish in Snake Run, celebrated the Mass. During his homily, Father Chris said that Francis Joseph Reitz was a man who poured himself into his work, his family and his church.
“Ultimately, he poured himself out entirely, out of love for God,” Father Chris said.
Father Chris continued and said that it’s a beautiful example to everyone, that we should first of all treasure what we’re given. Francis Joseph was “obviously gifted,” like his father, with a considerable work ethic, he said. Francis Joseph was not afraid to work, Father Chris explained, and he was not afraid of manual labor to help his father in the sawmill at the beginning of his career.
However, Francis Joseph also recognized the importance of education, Father Chris said. Francis Joseph wished that he had been able to get more education himself, Father Chris explained, but he wanted to afford that possibility to as many people as possible.
Father Chris continued and said it’s not only local patrons who have made all of this possible, but it’s also those who have gone before us who are saints recognized by the church. He explained that these saints are with us, pulling for us and praying for us. They have laid the foundations of the wonderful world of Catholic education, Father Chris said.
The Centennial Celebration aims to honor the rich history and enduring legacy of Reitz Memorial. Since its establishment in 1925, administrators said the school has been committed to calling each student to be more like Christ through the formation of the whole person while instilling a love of lifelong learning, service to others and rich traditions.
Reitz Memorial has planned a series of Centennial Celebration events throughout the year, including athletic competitions, community service initiatives and social gatherings. The activities will serve as opportunities for the entire Reitz Memorial community, past and present, to gather, reminisce and celebrate the school's achievements, according to administrators.
All alumni, former faculty, current students and their families are encouraged to join in the festivities and share in the pride of Reitz Memorial's Centennial Celebration. For more information about events, visit www.reitzmemorial.org or email Director of Advancement and Alumni Engagement Brie Elmendorf at [email protected].