Friends of St. Finbar’s Is a Community Organization

October 19th 2002


 by Linda Busetti 

As guests entered the third grade class at St. Finbars’s school, Bath Beach, children jumped to their feet joyfully shouting, “Thank you for the computers!”

Benefactor Larry Morrish and other “Friends at St. Finbar” returned to the school recently to see how their joint efforts had transformed the school. Morrish first became aware of St. Finbar’s desperate need for new computers last March on a tour of the school prior to a patriotic assembly that included Xaverian H.S. Band from Bay Ridge and soldiers from Fort Hamilton. “We went to St. Finbar’s for a patriotic program and saw the poor condition of the computers there,” Morrish said. He impulsively announced then and there that Xaverian’s president Dr. Sal Ferrera, would donate computers to St. Finbar.

The gesture was the kind of thing that Morrish is known for, Ferrera said, but Morrish knew he could deliver on the promise. Thirty-five computers that Xaverian was planning to replace were donated to St. Finbar.  “In Catholic education, we have to support each other, Ferrera said.  Morrish has a talent for bringing people together to do good things.

Lt. Col. Arnold Piper, Commander of U.S. Army Recruiting for New York, made sure that 16 more computers were donated to St. Finbar’s school.

Through a monetary grant from Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, Dr. Nicoletta Pallotta donated tables and chairs for all the new computer work stations, saving the school a major expense.

St. Finbar’s principal Sister Hyacinth Serravillo, CSAC, explained that changing neighborhood demographics have affected St. Finbar’s enrollment in recent years. Where there were once four classes at each grade level, there are now 178 students in the entire school.

The school’s 12 old computers were “hardly better than typewriters”, Morrish said. Through the combined efforts of the Friends of St. Finbar, there are now state-of-the-art computers throughout the school – two or three in every classroom, two in the library, three in a faculty lounge and 12 in a computer center.

The project didn’t end with the donation of computers. Installing the equipment would have created a substantial expense to the school. One of the “Friends”, John Abi-Habib, and his company MSI Net, Inc., came through again. Habib, a member of Our Lady of Lebanon parish, Brooklyn Heights, has long been active in the community. Morrish told Habib about the problem at St. Finbar and Habib, who previously donated his company’s time and computers to St. Francis Cabrini school, Bensonhurst, was eager to help. This summer MSI Net workers wired St. Finbar’s entire school for the new computers, averaging three men each work day from July until the opening of school in September. They carefully installed wires under moldings near ceilings, rather than along the floor where the children might trip over them. Wiring in the new computer lab is stored under the flooring.

Sister Hyacinth praised Morrish’s contributions to St. Finbar. She recalled that when he delivered Christmas trees to the school last year, he had asked, “Is there something we can do for the school?”

Morrish is passionate about preserving Catholic schools. He mourns the loss of Our Lady of Perpetual Help H.S. several years ago. “We are not going to stand by and let any of our Catholic schools close without a fight,” he said. Morrish said the “Friends of St. Finbar’s” were “rallying to encourage “ the St. Finbar community, especially the clergy, “the true fiber of Catholic education.” Three Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate, including Sister Hyacinth, serve St. Finbar’s school.

“The new computers have opened up the whole world to our students,” Father Joseph Holcomb, pastor said.

St. Finbar’s faculty is also very enthusiastic about their new teaching tools. “We met with faculty during the summer to put together a schedule of how the computers would be incorporated into lesson plans,” Habid said. Three computers were installed in the teacher’s lounge so that they can have access during their free periods. Habib said parents can’t help but he impressed by the school’s substantial technology upgrades. He said they should also know that children’s access to the Internet at St. Finbar’s is secure and that inappropriate sites are blocked.

A tour of the school demonstrated how the computers are being used at all grade levels. In the Pre-K classroom, little Gabriella Albano had no trouble navigating the Sesame Street Web site. Second-grader Patrick Eichman explained how he had used the Internet to find out about the history of Rome. First-graders Nicholas Mullen and Brianna Lanebille showed Father Holcomb how they can ‘‘paint” with the computer. Teachers are not the only ones using the new PowerPoint application. Fifth and Sixth-graders are using PowerPoint for class presentations, Habib said.

Two new computers are available to students in the second floor library. Putting the library’s card catalog on computer is under consideration, Habid said.  A sparkling new state of-the-art computer center with color printers and wide-screen television for video presentations is used to instruct students in computer skills.

Eight-graders Michael DeLuca and Nicholas Loria were using their classroom computer to learn about fractions. Habib spoke to the sixth grade class about how they can access the Internet “to see how people live” in countries they are studying in social studies, find out the current weather in a country, or print out maps.

Fourth-graders Valerie Russo and Samantha Fasanello were using the computer to translate Spanish into English. Third-graders gathered around Sister Hyacinth to show her how they had used the computer to help them with a lesson about proper and common nouns.

“Now St. Finbar is on the upswing,” Morrish said. “People have to sep up to the plate to meet the needs of Catholic schools where there are financial stresses and strains,” Morrish said after the tour. The Friends of St. Finbar demonstrated how people can pool their time, know-how and generosity to benefit children in the diocese. Morrish challenges others in the diocese to also “step up to the plate”.