Rosary’s Return Brings Students, Parish Together

| January 20, 2012

Every school day, Rev. Fred Mannara, pastor, prepares a homemade breakfast for students at Most Holy Rosary School.

By Caroline K. Reff

Rev. Fred Mannara is a visible presence at Most Holy Rosary Parish in Syracuse, NY. He is often seen in the halls of the school, saying Mass in the church or chatting with parents. If you’re looking to find him between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on any given school day, however, just follow the delicious smell of French toast, pancakes, ham or bacon wafting from the cafeteria. That’s where the pastor is faithfully stationed every morning in his chef’s hat and coat, as he prepares breakfast for children from Most Holy Rosary School.

For just 50 cents — a bargain by any standard — Mannara provides a home cooked meal to 15 to 20 students who appear before school for a hot breakfast they might not otherwise get at home. He’s been cooking there for 13 years, since he became pastor
and established the Federal Food Program at the school to provide not only breakfast but a low-cost lunch, as well.

“Running the cafeteria was too much to ask the faculty and staff of the school to handle,” said Mannara. “It ended up on my shoulders, and it has stayed there.”

What has also recently landed on Mannara’s shoulders is additional responsibility for Most Holy Rosary School. In 2006, the 97-year-old school was placed under direct control of the Syracuse Diocese, along with three other schools, with the intention of developing a more efficient and cost-effective education model. For a time, it was renamed the Bishop’s Academy at Most Holy Rosary. However, after five years, it was clear that the “academy” model hadn’t met its initial goals, so the diocese asked the parish to reclaim responsibility for what again became Most Holy Rosary School.

“This school is the backbone of our parish and, for the most part, our parishioners were glad to see it happen,” said Mannara. “There was some apprehension about finances — and we are still in need of support from the diocesan level — but, in general, the parish is happy to have the school back.”

Superintendent of Catholic Schools Christopher Mominey agrees. “Schools are best run locally,” he said. “While the Syracuse Diocese continues its support of Most Holy Rosary and our other 22 diocesan schools, the day-to-day decisions are back where they should be — in the hands of the principal,
pastor and parish.”

While the school’s enrollment has struggled over the past decade due to the local economy and changing demographics, Mannara was thrilled that the number of students increased slightly over the summer of 2011. Today, approximately 55 percent of students are parishioners and about 75 percent are Catholic. Others live in and around the neighborhood and come to the school seeking better opportunities in a safe, academically-oriented environment.

“Rosary is at the heart of the Strathmore neighborhood. We are here to offer an excellent education in an outstanding atmosphere,” said Mannara, who proudly noted that 100 percent of the school’s graduates go on to graduate from high school. “We are about high academic standards, discipline, an atmosphere of calm and a set of standards that are conducive to educating children in the Catholic faith. We are ready, willing and wanting to serve anyone who comes to us — and we’re happy when they choose Most Holy Rosary School.”

Mannara also is happy when the children join him for breakfast. “I know each morning that we’re providing these children with the basics they need to be successful,” he said, as he greets the first few students eager for the day’s selection of French toast, ham, fresh fruit and milk.

“The kids are always beautiful,” he added. “There’s a real connection at Rosary and a beautiful co-mingling of school, parish and faith.”

Editor’s Note: In September 2011, the Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family and Cathedral Academy at Pompei were also placed back under their respective parishes.

Caroline K. Reff is a freelance writer and public relations consultant in Syracuse, NY.

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