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Home : Special Features : North Catholic High School
6/29/2010 3:27:00 PM
Unique teachers fostered closeness at North
Fr. Karl Schray
Fr. Karl Schray
Fr. Leo Remington
Fr. Leo Remington
+ view more photos
An assembly.
Principals of North Catholic
Father Francis Maloney, founding principal of North Catholic, had attended St. Francis School in Southeast Portland, then St. Stephen High School before heading on to Mount Angel and then St. Edward Seminary near Seattle.

He may have gained comfort with the idea of co-education when serving simultaneously as an instructor at Central Catholic and chaplain at St. Mary's Academy starting in the late 1940s.

Father Maloney's trademark line was that students who violate the rules "will be dealt with most severely." He was a friendly, but distant man, a captain of students.

After leaving North Catholic in 1967, he was named to be pastor in Astoria. He suffered a heart attack in 1969 and went on sick leave. In his last years, he returned to his beloved North Portland and helped at Blessed Sacrament Parish. After the fire, he was one of the key voices calling for the school to be rebuilt. He died in 1972, perhaps heartbroken at the end of one of his life's great projects.  

Father John Keane was principal of North Catholic for a year, then left the priesthood in 1968, marrying the Franciscan nun who had been teaching math at the school. The couple lived in Chicago.

Father Martin Senko, born in 1930 in Hillsboro, was an assistant administrator who became principal. He had taught at St. Francis High in Eugene and came to North Catholic in 1962.

Seen as a genius who was candid and often abrupt, he was principal when the fire hit and spent a year afterward working on the situation and then helping find schools for displaced students. He went on to be pastor at several western Oregon parishes before dying in 2005.

Clarice Keating
Of the Catholic Sentinel

The fire that destroyed North Catholic High School happened in the early morning hours of July 14, 1970.

“I was, without a doubt, the last person in the school,” said Father Karl Schray, who regularly stayed behind and worked late. “That night I’d gone home for dinner, and come back because I was the head counselor. All my paper work was there, so it was just easier to do work there.”

That night he left around 1:30 a.m., and when he woke up and was walking to Blessed Sacrament Church to celebrate Mass, he could see huge billows of smoke on the northern horizon.

“There was nothing I could do but go pray,” he said.

That was the end of the first and only co-educational Catholic school in Portland that served five parishes.

Father Schray came to the school in 1965, when there were 425 students. 
“We had great spirit and morale, both among the faculty and the students,” he said.

Fond memories come from those years teaching and counseling at North, Father Schray said.

He remembers the junior and senior class proms, which would start with boys on one side of the room and girls on the other. As the junior class advisor, he’d encourage the young fellows to go ask the girls to dance.

Father Schray himself had entered the seminary as a junior in high school, and by the time he was teaching at North he’d been ordained for one year and hadn’t hit the dance floor in a decade.

“I said, ‘What the heck,’ and went up to one of the girls that I knew was self-secure and I said, ‘Will you dance with me?’” Father Schray said. “That embarrassed everyone and got them all out dancing.’”

The students trusted the young priest.

One night a group of boys from the school had been drinking beer at Pier Park in North Portland, which they knew was forbidden. Even so, they had enough sense not to drive home, so they called Father Schray for help.

Father Schray still remembers with sorrow going through the debris in his office after firefighters had stopped the blaze at the school building. His entire personal library was sopping wet, but he tried to salvage as many books as he could.

He still has a few of those books in his personal library, even though he’s been in Southern Oregon for 30 years now.

When the school burned down, students dispersed. Some went to public schools, some to Central Catholic High and some to St. Mary’s Academy.

A dozen teachers, including Father Schray, and more than 180 students moved to LaSalle Prep in Milwaukie.

But there were many notable educators who spent time shaping students’ lives at North.

Joining the staff in 1960 was Father Hamilcar Bianco, an Italian priest who had served as chaplain for allied forces in Italy. He taught Latin, religion and history.

Msgr. Chuck Leinert, now pastor of St. Andrew Parish, also taught for a year at the school before the fire struck.

The Franciscan Sisters who taught at North Catholic lived at the convent of Blessed Sacrament Parish. Father Leo Remington, who served at North Catholic from 1965 to 1968, would drive over and give them rides to school.

Sister Marian Einck left her order of St. Francis of Debuque in Iowa to come teach at North Catholic, where she stayed for three years.

“It was a brow-stretching experience for me,” Sister Marian said. It was her first time working with students with such diverse backgrounds. 
“The school where I’d been teaching at, most of the students were from higher economic backgrounds,” she said.

“But at North the students were from families with less income, but were ready to learn and the parents were appreciative.”

It was during her time at North that Sister Marian developed an understanding and appreciation of football. Because the sports field had no lights, home games were played during the daytime, and Sister Marian and many other staff members used that opportunity to meet the families of their students.

“I had a number of my students on the football team,” she said. “I really treasured that.”

Just this past fall, Sister Marian attended her first University of Iowa football match.

Father Remington read poetry and played rock music in theology class, showing students that themes of faith really mattered in the world. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Byrds could be heard in his classroom and students sometimes watched and discussed eerie Twilight Zone television episodes.

“There was a good spirit,” he said.

At the time, Father Remington was only 10 years older than his students, having spent summers as a counselor at Camp Howard to earn his way through seminary. He was ordained in May 1965, and was teaching by August.

In senior religion class, he taught about big moments in existence, like marriage and death. For lessons on the latter, he would take students across the street to the neighboring funeral home. At first the students were nervous, he said, but by the end they were remarking on which caskets they liked best.

He sought to teach students that God is love, not law.

After the fire, Father Remington was assigned to the all-boys Central Catholic, where he taught religion to sophomores. But soon after, he left teaching to study television and radio media, getting a degree at the University of Southern California. Upon his return to serve as the archdiocese’s media director, Father Remington often recruited his old North Catholic students to be on the local Catholic television show he produced, “God’s Time Tunnel.” Aired Sunday mornings, the show explored eras of time and actors were needed to put on Elizabethan costumes, togas and other period dress.

North Catholic played a seminal role in the life of this priest.

“It was very important formation, nurturing in me and helping me appreciate the beginnings of Vatican II among these young adults,” he said. “It was hands-on appreciation that the church is the people of God – a spirituality of God is with us, God is among us.”

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