St. Dominic's hosts 'Night of Knights'

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By Ken Begley

St. Dominic Elementary School will host its inaugural “Night of Knights” alumni celebration on Feb. 9 at St. Dominic Parish Community Center. I’ll give you a little more information about this at the end of the column.
But first, as in all good schools, let’s have a history lesson.
The quote at the beginning of the column comes from a very humble parish priest that wanted to build a school for Catholic children at St. Dominic 85 years ago. People had talked on and on about building a school but nothing had ever happened until Father Maloney was assigned to St. Dominic.  He immediately began laying the groundwork for its construction. He began it with a pledge drive for donations and the building began.
Father Maloney was known as a very able administrator by the folks of St. Dominic back in 1928. But apparently his timing was not the best.  You see, the school was completed and dedicated on Aug. 25, 1929.  
Yep, two months before the beginning of the Great Depression and St. Dominic was saddled with an enormous amount of debt.  Washington County, along with the rest of the nation, went into an economic tailspin that would make our troubles today look laughable in comparison to what our ancestors went through.
So, there they were, saddled with a pile of debt with their chances of paying it off looking pretty dismal.
Yet, Father Maloney and his parishioners were apparently people of strong faith and one heck of a work ethic.  They were innovative in paying off the debt.  This included a then famous “Sewing Circle” that made many linen pieces, sponsored bazaars and even produced plays with people from the church to raise money.  
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine had their part in the school as well.  They formed its first faculty.  Unfortunately times were hard and St. Dominic was unable to actually pay them for their services for a few years.  The good sisters agreed to forego their salaries for the good of the children until such time as the parishës finances improved.  
My daddy told me a story several years ago that he heard where one of the parish members was complaining to Father Maloney about one of the sisters.  The person wanted Father to talk to the sister about their complaint.  Father Maloney was alleged to have said, “I can’t very well complain about how they teach. We haven’t even paid them.”
But eventually the school debt was paid off before World War II and even the good sisters received their just compensation.
Sometimes I feel that maybe Father’s timing wasn’t off.  Maybe God intended for the times to be tough so the people would be forced to pull together to do something that was pretty amazing when you think about it.
One thing is for certain though.  Those people were tough.  They knew what real sacrifice meant and they set a firm foundation for the school so that 85 years later it was still alive with the sounds of children echoing through its halls.
It takes a lot of faith to keep old St. D going.  It is a constant struggle to keep its doors open.  I’m sure it’s something that keeps Washington County Judge John Settles and Superintendent Robin Cochran up at night worrying about what would happen if St. Dominic ever closed and the public school population suddenly shot up overnight by 20%.
Right now all the costs of educating some 200 kids a year are born by St. Dominic Church and families of the students.  It takes a great tax burden off of the local public school system.  You know what?  I did a very rough calculation and estimated that the average property tax bill would have to rise about $250 a year to accommodate the added expense if St. Dominic ever closed.
Now hold your horses. That isn’t going to happen.  But even if you don’t have kids in St. D. it would be a good thing to support the school in small ways if possible.  If nothing else then to avoid future expense.
Here’s how you can do that and have some fun.
The “Night of Knights” will include a wine and cheese social hour at 6 p.m. and a dinner and silent auction at 7 p.m.The keynote speaker will be 1983 graduate Lee Haydon Comer, who is currently the principal of Seton Catholic School in Lexington. Tickets may be purchased at Hale Realty, the St. Dominic Parish Office or the St. Dominic School Office.  
Not a bad deal at $20 a person if I do say so myself.  It’s also a chance for alumni to reacquaint themselves with old schoolmates while the money will help raise funds for the school’s operating budget.
So I end this column by inviting not just St. Dominic alumni to this fun night out but also the friends of St. Dominic as well.
That means you Judge Settles and Superintendent Cochran.
Just think: for $20 dollars you can sit next to me during all the activities while I spend the evening telling you all my stories and words of wisdom for countless hours.
For $40, they’ll let you sit next to somebody else.
My wife Cindy says to tell you she’s going to pay the $40.
What do they know anyway?