Reunion Weekend Brings Memories and Unity

Friday and Saturday, November 18-19, 2005

By Jim Brown

Some have not see one another for 40 years or more and others only knew eachother as faceless screen names on the web. There was so much to catch up on. It was a most happy and emotional weekend as many got to reunite with those they once lived, studied, and played with at the St. Joseph's Village. They met several former staf members such as Fr. McFarland, Sr. Vincentia, and Sr. Kenneth. They also got to meet others who were there but not at the same times — but many of the memories were similar: The 7/8-of-a-mile corridor, the cottages, being bad and getting away with it, school, the nuns, punch cards, sneaking a kiss, the food in the cafeteria, Sunday morning in the chapel, outings, clam bakes, singing to raise money for the Village, the swimming pool, the marching band, getting punished, and so on and so forth. There simply wasn't enough time to cover it all.

Several people who attended the events wrote their reviews which can be found at the end of this article.

Reunite for Dinner

Friday night started out with dinner at the Royal Cliffs Diner in Englewood Cliffs. The days at the Village were the main topic of the evening, but what life had in store in all those years since was imposible to cover in any detail in one short evening.

In the following photos the maiden names as they were known at the Village are given in the captions and in some cases married or changed names are in parenthesis.

Cathy Mc Farlane, Fr. McFarland, Patricia Lynn Reilly, Joan McFarlane, Jim Brown, Barbara McFarlane (Hallaham), Cathy Guarini (Kennedy), Sr. Kenneth (Maureen Stutz), and Joe Stutz. Mike Munzial arrived late and is not pictured.

Joan McFarlane, Barbara McFarlane, and Cathy McFarlane.

Cathy McFarland, Sr. Kenneth (Maureen Stulz), and Joe Stulz. While volunteering at the village, Joe Stultz met St. Kenneth. After Sr. Kenneth left nunhood, they began dating and got married.

On the left, Cathy Guarini (Kennedy) and Patricia Lynn Reilly. On the right, Fr. McFarland and Joan McFarlane.

Cathy Guarini (Kennedy), Cathy McFarlane, and Patricia Lynn Reilly.

Sr. Kenneth (Maureen Stulz), Joe Stulz, Cathy Guarini (Kennedy), Cathy McFarlane, and Patricia Lynn Reilly.

Jim Brown, Fr. Mc Farland, Joan McFarlane, and Barbara McFarlane.

Reunion Gathering and Screening of Village Promotional Film

After dinner, the group headed to the Shalom Center at headquarters of Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. They were invited to view a promotional film about the Village that had been lost for many years. Patricia Lynn Reilly and a few other alumni visited the sisters inquiring about the film. They sisters had long forgotten that one was made, however, they stumbled upon it while cleaning a storage area and let it be know it was found.

Several months before the reunion, Jim Brown met with the sisters to ask for their input for the website and to inquire about obtaining the promotional film. Due to pending litigation concerning the Village, their participation and public exhibition of the film had to be limited, but weeks later, the sisters found a way that they could uphold their mission of being helpful and invited alumni of St. Joseph's Village to see the promotional film at their headquarters in Englewood Cliffs and hold a reunion there.

Standing: Cathy Guarini (Kennedy), Sr. Kenneth, Mike Munziel, Jim Brown, Sr. Blanche Marie (Joan Tresch), Barbara McFarlane, Patricia Lynn Reilly, Patricia Weidner, Kathleen Geelan, Sr. Gail DeMaria, and Sr. Cecilia King. Seated: Cathy McFarlane, Joan McFarlane, Fr. McFarland, Joe Stultz, Sr. Vincentia (Janet Luik), and Sr. Geraldine Flannery. Present but not in picture was Eileen Chichen.

The event at the convent started with the showing of the Village promotional film. The film was used to raise funds, seek volunteers, and publicize the Village. It contains many views of the orphanage in its early years and starred Patricia Lynn Reilly and John O'Connor, two alumni. This was a rare opportunity as the sisters were advided by their lawyer not to allow this film to be let or viewed outside their premisis during some pending litigation on certain Village related issues. After the screening there was non-stop reminiscing while enjoying refreshments.

After the screening of the film, Patricia Lynn Reilly, who co-starred in the film along side John O'Connor as two "typicial" Village children, spoke of her experiences at the Village and the fun they had making the movie. Patricia recalled siting at a table having dinner in one scene and how she and John looked at each other and seemed to agree without saying much that this scene is so foney — it wasn't even the cafeteria where the children ate, it was a fancier dining room in the convent. This film was the beginning of their long agenda of fundraising activities that they and many of the othere children would be pressed into service for. Seen here, patricia reads a most enspiring card sent to her. Patricia is sending us a copy of the text on the card and some information about it which we will print here. (Since then we regretably have not received the text.)

On the left, Patricia Lynn Reilly listens intently as Sr. Vincentia recalled her time spent as the Sr. Boys Cottage house mother before Sr. Francis. On the right, Joan McFarlane talks about the Village with Sr. Blanche Marie (Joan Tresch).

On the left, Fr. McFarland's memory of the Village is enhanced by the display of photos. On the right, Sr. Gail DeMaria talks with Mike Munziel about his time at the Village.

Fr. McFarland and Joe Stutz look over the display of photographs.

Joe Stulz talks with Fr. McFarland. Perhaps they were talking about all the fun Joe had volunteering on weekends to work with the children and lead them in many funfilled activities. Joe was very liked by the children and staff and brought a lot of happiness to the Village.

On the Left, Barbara McFarlane shares memories with Sr. Kenneth. On the right, Patricia Weidner and Kathleen Geelan seem impressed by how the former children of the Village have gone onto such interesting and diverse lives.

On the left, Cathy Guarini (Kennedy), Sr. Cecilia King, and Cathy Mc Farlane. On the Right Sr. Cecilia King and Cathy Mc Farlane.

On the left, Joan McFarlane takes a moment from viewing the sisters anniversary book that featured a two page spread about the Village to talk with Sr. Geraldine Flannery and Sr. Blanche Marie (Joan Tresch).

The reunion event at the convent did not only benefit the our group of alumni, it gave the sisters who once served at the Village an evening of memories and the sisters who were not at the Village a chance to learn about one of the more ambitious ministeries of the order. The sisters must have been filled with joy in hearing many of the former children of the Village describe how the Village and it's dedicated staff made a positive difference in their lives — this despite some negative charges made by some at other recent meetings with the sisters to the contrary.

We thank Sr. Gail DeMaria and all of the other sisters for their hospitality.

A Walk Back in Time: A Walking Tour of St. Joseph's Village

The next day I lead the group on a nostalgic and fact filled tour of the Village buildings. I explained how each area has been changed since the Village closed and how they are being used by the county human services programs today.

Several began to sing songs they sang back then. They played the chapel organ, performed once again on the Village stage, and saw rooms and corridors they had not seen since they were small children. It seemed so much bigger then. Much has changed but so much has remained the same that it seemed we had just steped back in time — say 40 years or so. As the tour went on it seemed that the group was reverting back to childhood in their excitement and playfulness as they scattered about, looking into nearly every door to see what might still be there and recalling various happenings in each area.

"Sr. James, Mother Superior" welcomes the group of newly arriving "children" to St. Joseph's Village as was once depicted on the front cover of the Village brochure. Here at the reception counter in the Administration Building, Jim Brown our website publisher and reunion weekend coordinator wore his jacket like a nun's habit to playout the running joke of the reunion weekend that he is now the current mother superior of St. Joseph's Village as it still exists today — in cyberspace. The reception area underwent much remodeling to suit the needs of the Bergen County Health Care Center, but the camera angle is the same as it was in the 1958 brochure picture.

Standing in front of the alter in the chapel are; back row, Sr. Kenneth, Joe Stultz, and Jim Brown; and in the front row, Barbara McFarlane, Joan McFarlane, Cathy McFarlane, Cathy Guarini, and Patricia Lynn Reilly. Too bad Fr. McFarland could not attend the Walking tour as the Chapel would be his place to be the "star performer."

Demonstrating 'Duck and Cover' a Cold War procedure believed to protect one self in the event of a neuclear attack.
While walking down the hallway of Mother Evangelista School, Cathy McFarlane stoped to demonstrate how the children were drilled in protecting themselves in the event of a thermonuclear war. It was called "Duck and Cover" and school children across America practiced this menuever during the Cold War. Need we say more about it's effectiveness? See a training video shown to students in the 1950s

Once the tour arrived in the gymnasium/auditorium, Cathy Guarini, Cathy McFarlane, Patricia Lynn Reilly, and Joan McFarlane couldn't resist jumping on stage to sing as they once did as children. The Sound of Music was both a popular play and a movie at the time of the Village and just as music was integral to the life of the VonTrapp family, it also was vital to the daily lives of the children of St. Joseph's — in the chapel on Sunday and on stage to raise money to support the Village. They even got a momemt to play the organ in the chapel — although we failed to get some pictures.

Hello, Dolly, well, hello, Dolly.
It's so nice to have you back where you belong.
You're looking swell, Dolly,
we can tell, Dolly,
you're still glowin', you're still crowin',
you're still goin' strong.
We feel the room swayin
for the band's playin
one of your old fav-rite songs from way back when.
So, take her wrap, fellas,
find her an empty lap, fellas.
Dolly'll never go away again.

Hello, Dolly, well, hello, Dolly.
It's so nice to have you back where you belong.
You're looking swell, Dolly,
we can tell, Dolly,
you're still glowin, you're crowin',
you're still goin' strong.
We feel the room swayin
for the band's playin
one of your old fav-rite songs from way back when.
So, golly gee, fellas,
find her a vacant knee, fellas.
Dolly'll never go away,
Dolly'll never go away,
Dolly'll never go away again.

Cathy McFarlane, Joan McFarlane, and Patricia Lynn Reilly never imagined that they would ever have to do another jumping jack in the Village gymnasium ever again.

Cover of the book 'Words Made Flesh' by Patricia Lynn Reilly       Front cover of 'Words Made Flesh' by Patricia Lynn Reilly
As the tour came to an end, Patricia Lynn Reilly stood in the same spot at the boys end of the long Village corridor to recreate the cover photo of her book

Many were not ready to say goodbye quite yet and stayed on for lunch at the Northvale Diner.

Take A Virtual Tour of the Village

You can see a complete tour of the Village here on this website. It contains a huge number of photos of the Village site as it is today with explinations of what each area is currently used for and what has been altered over the years since the Village closed. TAKE THE TOUR

If you have any photos of the reunion weekend and would like them added to this feature section, please contact jim Brown at optisonics@aol.com

Letters of Thanks

Cathy McFarland's Account of the reunion

What a terrific reunion! I want to thank Jim and the sisters for providing this special opportunity. The film was great, and Patricia and Johnny were the perfect film stars. Patricia gave us an introduction before the film started regarding her memories of how the production proceeded. She was curious to see if her memories would be the same. She recalled sitting at a table across from Johnny in the nuns dining room. She said they both came to the realization that the movie was a set-up, since the dining room was not the cafateria where they normally ate. I thought her recollection was very good. Her discription of the dining room was right on.

They walked into the village as though they were brother and sister...hand in hand...so cute! The film showed them in many settings, including the classroom, playground, and participation in the marching band, etc. etc. To my surprise, I was a member of the marching band depicted in the film. And there was Cathy Guarini as majorette. It sure brought back memories. It doesn't seem like it was 40 years ago.

I had a warm feeling seeing the nuns that once helped raise us. There was one sister...I am so bad with names...who came up to me after the film and after we had a short discussion that said "thank you for sharing your experiences at the village and how SJV impacted your life. It makes me want to cry." And then she cried in my arms. She touched my heart. As a young child I was distant from most of the nuns. But at this reunion you could see how important it was for the nuns to have closure about what happened to us. We were part of their lives. One of the sisters said they were not allowed to socialze with eachother. There were many rules for the nuns to follow. I think of how lonely some of them might have been. They worked seven days a week overseeing 200 children. That's hard work! They gave their lives to others, yet having a friendship with eachother or with the children was not allowed. I am quit sure some of them broke the rules. Sister Kenneth was a dear friend to me as a child and all of my life. I am so glad she and her husband, Joe, were able to attend. She is just as funny and friendly as ever. She is a good human being. Joe told us he was called the Pied Piper by the children of SJV. He volunteered at SJV for several years and stated that it was a very rewarding experience.

I believe the name of the sister in charge of the senior boys was "Sister Boneventia"...my spelling is probably not correct. I talked with her for a while. She seemed very interested in meeting us and expressed how much she loved working with the boys. She said she was strict, yet she went out of her way to make the cottage home. This reunion was not only for the children of SJV, but for the nuns as well.

The tour of the village was fun. My favorite part was once again dancing on the stage. Patricia, Cathy G., Joan, and I made believe we were dancing to "A Pretty girl is like a melody." I tried to tape dance to "East Side, West Side" too. I'm sure we looked funny. The school looks exactly the same. The kitchen still has the green tile walls. We checked out the rooms that we used to stack cans of food that were donated. We reministed about peeling potatoes, and destringing string beens. Some of you may remember loading the dishwasher as one of your jobs. It's the same dishwasher! There was a man in there loading it when we went by, so we told him that was our job at one time. We talked about what we liked and disliked about food that was served. Some of us hated the oatmeal and the skin on the hot chocolate. Fun memories...

For those of you who were unable to attend, maybe there will be another opportunity some day. I sure did enjoy meeting others such as Mike M. and of course our grand leader, Jim Brown, who played the role of Sister Superior during the tour. We were definitly misbehaving, and he promptly corrected our behavior. He kept giving us punches on our punch card. To bad there was no candy in the candy store. It was a good experience and worth the trip. I was so happy to see my old friends!

Again, thank you Jim and Sisters for the opportunity!!!

Cathy McFarlane

It Was a True Experience for Cathy Guarini

I would like to take this time to say "THANK YOU" to Jim, Sister Gail, and staff for making our time spent with them a joyous occassion.The true warmth that was felt was unbelivable! Meeting Jim was such a privilage — he is truly wonderful, all the hard work he devotes to this site is well appreciated. Patricia has grown into such a warm and caring person and I thank God for the opportunity of sharing this weekend together with all of my friends. Cathy McFarland has not changed and is still the adventurous person I knew as a young lady and had the pleasure of visiting when in California in Sept. Her giving spirit is so inspiring. She had such a great sense of humor. Her sister Joan and Barbara were just as wonderful as her, it must be a trait in their family the warmth that they eluminate.

The film was truly great and having one of the stars there was even greater! I didn't even remember when it was filmed, but to my surprise I saw myself appearing LOL.(what hair styles) LOL.Touring the village was absoultely wonderful, I haven't been there since 1965. It has changed somewhat, but when visiting the different cottages, kitchen, school, gym (still the same), chapel, it brought back such good memories for me. The band room is still there. We danced on the stage again, "A pretty girl is like a melody," "Hello Dolly." Some did jumping jacks, not as good as back then, but not bad for post senior citizens. HA HA!

We were in the baby cottage where I did spend quite a bit of my time helping with the little ones back then when it came back to me, I would always visit one little girl there, she had blonde curls and a smile that would melt butter and I know her name is Mary. I would play with her and help take care of her. I know now this has to be (Full name withheld by person's request.) from the pictures on the site. I know you wouldn't remember me, you were quite young. Mike Munziel also attended and I had the opportuity to meet him. Although he is younger, we all shared the same memories. As for Sister Kenneth and her husband, I have to tell you they had me laughing. They are a special team, and the love they share shows though like a lighting bolt!

I could go on and on, but I not one for writing and shock myself writing more than a paragraph. I hope we ALL can get together soon. It was truly an experience that I thank God for. Life is short, so why not enjoy the love and friendship God has given us.

God Bless you all,
Cathy Guarini

Harry Maisch and staff,
Bergen County Health Care Center

I would like to thank you, your staff, and residents again for your continued hospitality in allowing me to take a group of Village alumni on a walking tour of the facilities. This was a part of a weekend of several events which included dinner and a reunion gathering at the headquarters of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

The group was taken on a memory trip into their past as they became ever more excited and engaged as we got further and further along the tour. It was great seeing some of the now adults on the tour seem to revert back to childlike playfulness as they sang songs they once sang together as they marched down the long corridor. I often had to urge them along to keep the tour moving as they often would stop to tell of memories in so many rooms and locations along the tour. The tour certainly had a impact on them.

I would like to expecially thank your staff members for being patient and bearing with us for a good long time as I lead the tour on a narritive of what was then and is now in each of the areas of the complex.

Jim Brown

Sr. Gail,
Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace

I would like to thank you again and the other sisters for your continued hospitality. From the reactions of the alumni and the sisters gathered together, this film screening and reunion event was a special time to share memories of St. Joseph's Village and what a stay at the Village has ment for each. I'm sure you and the other sisters were pleased to hear about the positive effects the Village had on everyone. We want you to know that the Village did much good, despite recent words by some to the contrary.

It was great having several former Village staff present too. Fr. McFarland, Sr. Kenneth, and Sr. Boneventia.

The other events planned for the reunion weekend, dinner at the Royal Cliffs Diner and the walking tour on Saturday, went extremely well. There was constant reminising and warm exchanges among the group. On saturday after the tour, the group did not want to depart, so we went to have lunch at the Northvale Diner.

Please pass on this thanks to all of your congregation who were with us that evening.

Jim Brown