Holy Ghost Catholic School has a rich history of serving students and families on Dubuque’s North End for more than 100 years. We invite the Holy Ghost community, past and present, to share their memories as a tribute to the school.
Sister Mary Lee Cox, OSF
1989 -1998 and 2017 – 2020
My first nine years at Holy Ghost School I taught sixth grade. During that time each class came with a different spirit that I adjusted to and met their creativity. Most of the years we did a service trip to Dubuque Rescue Mission —brought the food and prepared it for the clients that would be coming in, prayed and ate with them and cleaned up and came back to reflect on our service. Our sixth grade students also made three AIDS panels for the AIDS quilt that was touring the country. The students another year organized a bus trip to Des Moines to share their views on reinstating the death penalty. Their presentations were well received and the legislation did not pass.
My last three years have been working with migrant and immigrant children teaching them the English language. I have learned much from these students who work so hard at figuring some of our words that three different meanings.
I have truly been blessed by all the students that I have had the privilege to teach at Holy Ghost, and their families. The faculties, staffs and the priests have been marvelous supports.
Sharon (Klein) Wulfekuhle-Hefel
1957-1965 as a student
I was in the first 1st grade class to enter the then “new”, now Jaeger Building with only the first floor completed. There were three rooms of 1st grade with close to 50 in each classroom! I have a sister and brother (twins) who are less than a year younger than I and we all started 1st grade the same year. For several years, until the second floor was completed, a Valentine (or spring) party was held on that floor with fish pond and other such activities. With no gym at that time, there was no physical education classes, but several recesses per day did occur. Grades 1-4 had a 15 minute morning recess; lunch break was from 12:00-12:50 with only those who lived some distance eating lunch in the classroom and remainder going home to return for recess which extended from 12:20-12:50; Grades 1-3 than had a 15 minute recess in the afternoon.
Noon recess for Grades 1-3 was on the parking lot behind the current Jaeger Building while all boys in Grades 4-8 climbed the ramp to Weirich Field and all the girls in those grades played volleyball in the lot south of the convent building which at that time was not concrete.
Mass was at 8:00 AM each day. While no one was required to attend the vast majority did going to church as a class and sitting in an appointed section of the church. If a student arrived at school before Mass was over, would then join their class in church. With a 3-hour Communion fast required, we would bring our breakfast and eat this in the classroom after Mass. For most of the years, our school time was 8:45-3:30.
In addition to daily Mass, there were many other religious devotions that we attended as an entire school community which have left an impact on me to this day. All school gathering in the hallway for Advent wreath lighting; Lenten Stations of the Cross in church; 40 Hours Adoration; May Crowning where an 8th grade girl was chosen by her classmates to do the honor and accompanied by a “court” with flowers.
I attended Grades 1-4 and 6 in the “new” building and 5 (was a 5/6 class), and 7 & 8 in the “old” building. Older students were assigned to the lower grade classrooms to do after school cleaning such as mopping the floors emptying wastebaskets, and cleaning chalkboards and erasers. Since no one rode a school bus, there wasn’t an excuse by many to help out!
The restrooms for the “old” building were accessed from outside and were not the most glamorous so rarely would students ask to use the restroom to avoid something in class!
Graduated in 1965 with a class of 119……had no idea that in 20 years I would return to be on the other side of the desk!!!
Preschool Class 1995.
Who can you recognize?
I taught kindergarten at Holy Ghost for 8 wonderful years. I have only fond memories of my experiences there. I loved my students and all the teachers I that/taught with. I tried to instill a love of learning in my students. I thank God for the opportunity to teach in such a wonderful school! Below are a few of my favorite memories.
Lo Ann Breitbach Van Hemert
Was a student in the older building 6 of my 8 years.
Our class was so big, I was in the church basement for 1 year. We walked to school, went to Mass, then classes. Faith based learning formed my faith today. I was blessed I could learn in such an environment.
Karen Strohmeyer Earle
1956-1959 as a student
I went to school in the old building for grades 4-8. I lived on Park Hill and would walk to and from school each day. My sister, friends and I would take a short-cut which had us coming down the hill behind school in all kinds of weather. That was especially challenging when it was muddy from rain, slippery from snow, or in very hot or cold weather.
I would bring a sack breakfast with me because each class went to mass and Communion every school day. We would then eat our breakfast in the classroom before classes began. We did the same for lunch.
I think one of my favorite memories is of May Crowning. This took place on an evening in May and entire families came. Each class would process up to their designated pews and the rest of our families would sit behind the students. Someone was chosen to crown Mary with a crown of flowers as we sang beautiful songs to her. I wish my sons, as well as the children of my classmates, could have experienced this special event!
I have been blessed in that some of my classmates have now become my BFFs! We see each other often and sometimes our Holy Ghost School experiences become topics of conversation. So many great memories!
K-8 as a student
Sad to see it shut down. Lots of good memories. Wish it would have made it last on its own.
Current student 2020
Holy Ghost is a great place. It is a place where we all met and stayed being friends. We got to walk in the gym before school. It was great to talk to my friends before school started. I really liked that every day. Picture day was always fun too. We got to dress up and then got our picture taken. I really liked that too. This year I got to be a cross bearer at Mass. I was trained and then got to do it. It was really cool.
Current 3rd grader 2020
One of my favorite memories in second grade was when we were studying the phases of the moon for science class. We made all of the phases with Oreo cookies. Then we got to eat Oreos too. Another memory I have is when I got to play the card game Speed with our student teacher, Miss O’Neill. It was a lot of fun and fun to play cards with teachers!
Current 3rd grader 2020
I really loved all of the team building activities we did in school. It taught me a lot about how to work with my classmates everyday. I also liked the friends I have met in this school. I was able to share books with friends in second grade. One of the best things was reading many novels in school. I really liked them. We also got to learn cursive writing this year. Now I need to practice it so I do not forget how to use it.
Current 3rd grader 2020
In third grade, we got to be buddies with the preschool class. We went to Mass together and helped them out whenever we could. Right before Christmas, we listened to the story called The Gingerbread Man. After that, we got to help them decorate gingerbread man cookies. We got to make one too. They were fun and really good to eat. We also had something called Friday Fun. If we worked hard all week, did our work, helped out classmates and followed rules we could earn points. When we reached a certain amount, we got the last 20 minutes of Friday to do whatever we wanted. Sometimes we played games, watched a funny movie or got to build using blocks. It was a lot of fun, but also taught us about reaching our goals.
2018-2020 as a teacher
I have taught kindergarten for two years at Holy Ghost! It has been my absolute dream job to say the least! The entire staff was so welcoming and helpful when I came in as a new teacher. The students are just as wonderful as the staff! I feel extremely blessed that Holy Ghost School was able to create so many sweet memories and great relationships in the past two years for me. I will always hold Holy Ghost close to my heart!
Current 3rd grader 2020
In third grade I felt really happy when we got guest speakers. One time we studied with a group called Kids on the Block. We learned about visible and invisible disabilities. We got to see what it was like to be blind or if we had to be in a wheelchair. Then some people came with puppets that had these disabilities and told us what their life was like. It was a good time.
I came to Holy Ghost School as a teacher when St. Francis (merger of Holy Trinity-Sacred Heart and St. Mary-St. Pat’s) again merged with the Holy Ghost students and staff. We were welcomed and grew into one school community. Over the years, I loved being a part of it as we grew into a family. So many wonderful students, parents, teachers, and friends! I was fortunate to return as I continued as a substitute teacher after retirement!
Rev. Msgr. Lyle Wilgenbusch
My thoughts about Holy Ghost School go back to the early 1940s. I entered Kindergarten at Holy Ghost School in the fall of 1945. But, of course, living across the street from the school, I knew a bit about it prior to entering. My dad ushered me across Central Avenue my first day of school, with a few good words of advice. Like, ‘clean up your language at school, son’. Sr. Marcellita was my teacher as I began my years there.
The 22-23 sisters there were my neighbors. And the ritual of children coming out of school for Mass in the morning, sometimes daily devotions, and of course recess were familiar to me. I think there were maybe 700 of us in the old school building those days.
I remember many of my teachers whom later I realized were often just out of their formation years as religious women and in their first years of teaching. They had maybe 30-40 of us in a room. Those were they years also when we would listen to the World Series, get under our desks for air raid drills, or huddle downstairs in the basement. Fire drills would see us all outside for roll call. In 4th grade we did have a girl die from a fire in her home one night. Her name was Julia Ward. We had Sr. Gertrude that year of school. Of course, we were all shocked to have lost a classmate. Before entering school, I was always intrigued by students coming out of the school onto the fire escape for fire drills, etc.
I also remember that in 3rd grade, Sr. Eugene got the mumps with all the rest of us.
I could go on probably with several stories. Stories about Altar Serving, singing in the Boys’ Schola, learning how to sing the Requiem Mass from the church gallery, and of course Friday night roller skating in the church basement and Boy Scout meetings in the school basement. It was all part of the culture, and part of Catholic schooling in those days. My dad and I would even go out on a Sunday to find Christmas trees in the country for a couple of the sisters’ classrooms.
First Communion day was well rehearsed, as was First Confession day. Graduation day was also a great day in our lives.
We still have a class reunion at times. Last summer we had our 65th anniversary celebration. It was a grand time, and the spirit of us now ‘old people’ was great.
Thanks for many good years at Holy Ghost School. It was quite a life indeed. I am sad to see the school close, but know that there were no doubt good reasons for such. I was pastor in Dubuque during the formation years of Holy Family Catholic School System.
1953-62 (k-8), principal 1986-1993
Holy Ghost was the center of our families social life. My grandmother, mother, sister, brothers, cousins and a nephew all went to school there.
I had school, church, festivals, patrol boys, altar boys, Boy Scouts , sports, parish dinners , holy name society, 1st communion, Confirmation,lector, Commentator, choir.
I had fantastic teachers. The sisters were great. The only lay teacher I had was Mrs. Connolly. I remember going to school one summer to learn Latin to be an altar boy. What an honor later I got to teach younger boys. I got to learn to lay out the priests vestments for the ad altare dei award in Boy Scouts. I served for weddings and funerals. We would get paid for weddings but not funerals. I would daydream in class starring at the tin ceiling design. Later as principal when I was observing teachers and I got bored I would stare at the designs in the tin ceiling. As scouts we sold donuts after Mass on Sunday for 50 cents/doz. we didn’t have snow days but I remember one day only 2 of us showed up. Cleaned all day. Best day of the year.
One day I was cleaning the front door glass. I was maybe in 4th grade Msgr. Jaeger came up to me and showed me the plans for the new school. Here is where the gym will go and here is where the pool will go. Why he showed me don’t know.
One more thing. When I was principal, the 1st week we planted a tree for the “renew” program going on at the time. I was standing behind the kids feeling full of myself. Someone kicked me in the rear. It was Larry Wilgenbusch. He said I better do a good job or he would do it again. Our elders looked out for us. Some took it more serious than others.
It was a great place to grow up.
Our son attended pre-K through 1st (2017-2020)
We loved being a part of the activities and growing in faith.
Dawn (Horsfall) Klostermann
1971 -79(student) Spring 1987 Student Teacher
Many members of my family have all attended Holy Ghost. My parents were involved in the parish with Bingo and Rosary Society.
Presently I am a first grade teacher at St. Mary’s in Manchester, Iowa. I owe my dedication to Catholic Schools to my years at Holy Ghost! I have so many memories that started in first grade with Sr. Ida! When I made my First Communion, the church was just starting to have lay distributors and my grandpa was the first one to distribute to me! As we got older, we played guitars at many weekly masses. P.E. in the church basement on scooters. Stopping at the Donut Hut for a donut before school! “Shared” time at Fulton and Jones Junior High. A special trip our class got to take to Chicago to see King Tut! Getting to be a crossing guard and going out for sports when you were in seventh and eighth grade. The Keating Center opening up in the middle of our eighth grade year.
I had the pleasure of starting my teaching career at Holy Ghost in the Spring of 1987 when I student taught with Mr. Mac! What a great leader and example for the many students he had taught over the years! He taught me that there is more to teaching the ABC’s. There is the whole child and not everything goes according to plans!!
The Class of ’79 has had a few reunions over the years and it is so fun to get together and reminisce about the good old days!
Here is a picture from our last reunion in September 2019.
I was given this class of 1970 photo to post.
Todd and Ann Kelleher
Even though neither of us attended Holy Ghost, we were blessed that our kids were able to be a part of this very special school. We could not have asked for a better school for our kids, they were a family to us. From the staff, to the lunch ladies, the priests and fellow students, it helped to form our girls into who they are today and to lead a faith filled life. Thank You Holy Ghost!!
Richard L. Schaefer
We are very proud of our aunt, Mrs. Bertha Schilling Hallahan (R.I.P.), for the years of her teaching at Holy Ghost School.
David J Gibbons
My grandfather Joseph, my father James and myself all attended Holy Ghost grade school. I graduated after 8 years in 1968. My wife Linda taught at Holy Ghost from 1980-1982. I was an Altar Boy and attended Saturday sessions to learn our Latin prayers which I can still recall to this day. Always enjoyed being an Altar Boy at all the special Masses we attended plus we got to be an Altar Boy on occasion at Holy Family Hall and were allowed to show up late for class. The Nuns at Holy Family Hall served us breakfast after Mass. I met my best friend Steve Lombardi in the 8th grade. Living in the same area in Minnesota we still stay in touch after all these years.
Angie (Hefel) Breitbach
Student – 1978-1985
*Winning the Vocation Poster Contest in 1st Grade – I still have the Hook picture of Jesus that I received as my prize. It is hanging above my desk.
*We had a big celebration when the Keating Center was built. We received a special card of remembrance. (I might still have that too, in my box of mementos.)
*Mr. Mac rewarding us with peanuts in second grade. For my first communion, he gave me a medal with Jesus on one side and Mary on the other. I still have it!
*Being a part of the class newspaper in third grade was a fun project because I got to work on it with some of my best friends. I saved a copy of one edition in my school files.
*Moving up to the “old building” when we became 6th graders.
*Memorizing the answers to 64 catechism questions in preparation for Confirmation.
*Walking up the ramp to have gym class in the field at the top- the walk itself was a good workout!
*Holding the record for the flexed-arm hang in sixth grade.
*Musical programs (see photo from the second grade Christmas program) and piano lessons with Sr. Mary. I appreciate that my parents paid for those lessons as that gift of music has been a blessing my whole life!
*Eighth grade graduation mass and dance – I danced with the dad of one of my friends and he still remembers it.
These are just a few of my MANY special memories from my time at Holy Ghost. I am grateful that my parents sacrificed so that I could receive a faith-based education.
2018-2020 as a student
I like playing with friends.
2019-2020 as a student
My favorite memory at Holy Ghost is meeting Mrs.Esser!
2019-2020 as a student
My favorite memory was our kindergarten Halloween party!
2019-2020 as a student
My favorite memory was playing in the snow pile.