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A Tribute To Sr. Mary O’Donnell, PVBM

PrincipalMary Sr. Mary as principal

For many of us, the paths of our lives were determined by a defining moment – a job transfer, the perfect person, being in the right place at the right time. Whatever the case, everyone has a catalyst that sets the direction of their life in motion. My defining moment was a phone call – not one to myself, but one to my mother when I was just three years old. That phone call came from Sr. Mary O’Donnell.

You see, my mother was picking out a school for my older brother, and the schools that made the short list were St. Veronica and St. Robert. Unfortunately, St. Robert’s first grade class was full, so that meant we would attend St. Veronica by default. Then, one morning, the phone rang. It was Sr. Mary calling to inform my mom that there was an opening at St. Robert for my brother. That was my defining moment. It set the direction of my life in motion. Little did my mother, or Sr. Mary, know that because of that phone call, I would attend St. Robert School, be influenced by the teachers and environment so much that I would continue on to become a catholic school teacher myself. I would teach at St. Robert, purchase a home in San Bruno to raise my children in, and have my own children also attend St. Robert. All of this, my life path, set in motion by one phone call by a wonderful, gentle, caring woman – Sr. Mary O’Donnell. I’m sure for many other alumni, her influence was just as big.

Sr. Mary at her retirement party Sr. Mary at her retirement party

As you have probably heard, Sr. Mary passed away last year. She served at St. Robert as teacher and principal from 1970 until her retirement back to Ireland in 2007. She was one of the original Presentation sisters who came to St. Robert Parish from Ireland when the Franciscan sisters had to return to Milwaukee. Her obituary read:

Sister Mary O’Donnell – Formerly of San Bruno, Presentation Convent, and Thurles, Ireland, entered into eternal life on February 5, 2015. She will be deeply missed by her Presentation Community, her sisters Chrissie O’Loughlin, Kathleen O’Shea and brother Roger, brothers-in-law, Chris and John and sister-in-law Annette, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, relatives and friends.

A very humble obituary, for a very humble lady. But her influences are not humble. I reached out to the alumni for their thoughts on her, and some of their responses follow:

I loved sister Mary. When I attended St. Roberts’s in the 70’s the sisters would sometimes hit you if you were in trouble. Sister Mary tried to be stern and strict by using her facial expressions. I never ever saw her hit a student. She had love in her heart for all of her students. God Bless sister Mary.

Patrick McCormick – Class of 1977

In the Fall of 1972 as a 4th grader, I came to know Sister Mary O’Donnell, who at that time, was my 4th grade teacher, and known to all as Sister Lorenzo. One of the things my classmates may remember and get a kick out of, is when she would stand at the front of the class and run her hands down her chest, making statements like, “You lazy lump.” After surviving our cliquey group that school year, we then endured her wrath for the next 4 years as the Principal of the school, Sister Mary. May God Bless her for her devotion to faithless, ungrateful, and selfish kids; regrettably, of which I was once.

Nancy Rosas – Class of 1977

I am truly saddened at Sister Mary’s passing. She was such a good friend to all the Ottoboni family. I remember my mom, Norma, Sisters Mary and Loyola, and Noelle and I would have little lunch dates at Martinelli’s from time to time. They lasted for hours, and we’d laugh and laugh and learn all kinds of wonderful things about their lives. Sister Mary was at all of our communion, graduation and confirmation parties. I still have a wooden “oven rack pull” she brought me from Ireland one year; my mother and sister had one too. I pray that Abba Father receives her sweet spirit with warm open arms. I hold her memory in my heart.

Mimi Ottoboni Wall – Class of 1965

Sr. Mary outside of the religious education office at St. Robert

Loving tributes to a loving woman. She will be greatly missed, but always remembered fondly. God Bless You Sr. Mary!

Sr. Mary outside of the religious education office at St. Robert

Reunion News

Attention all members of classes from 1980-1990. There is currently a reunion in the works for classes for your classes. It should hopefully be in October of 2016 at Hennessey Hall. If you are on facebook, please request an “add” to the St. Robert Reunion page by following this link:

Information will be updated here, so keep yourself informed!

Blasts From The Past

Gerald Tallon, class of 1962 sent us these gems. Please look for yourself and also if you recognize a teacher, please let me know who they are. Thanks, Gerald. These pictures are great!

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Bear Cubs are students whose parents attended St.Robert School. It is always a wonderful testament when alumni choose to also send their children to their same school. St. Robert is proud to have eight “Bear Cubs” entering St.Robert School this year.

Top Row, Alexa, (Adrian Sangalang ’94), Rayna Quintana (Quintin Quintana, ’90), Kara (Kyle Killeen, ’85), Ana Ovalle, (Jennifer Klich, ’95), Charlotte McNichol (Matthew McNichol, ’89)
Bottom Row: Brendan Ward (Megan Carey, ’91), Jake Wilson (Glen Wilson ’86), Charlie Laupati (Kathie Paton Laupati, ’85)

Alumni News

Class of 2004 Opens Time Capsule

As part of their Awards ceremony in 2004, Mr. Kevin Carey and the eighth grade class of St. Robert School created a time capsule that was not to be opened until their reunion 10 years later. In August, 2014, this reunion happened and the time capsule was opened. It had been sealed with individual locks and out of a class of 35 – 22 appeared at the reunion and about 15 still had their keys (good thing Mr. Carey had an extra set!). In the capsule- the students wrote letters to each other, included some favorite class projects like their photo montages “A day in the life of St. Robert’s,” and essays “What St. Robert’s means to me.” They also included a yearbook, a school uniform, teen magazine, and items from their classroom. It was a great day organized by the class president, Annette Molina.


Outstanding Alumni Athlete

Matthew Herrera, ’12, a senior at Serra High School in San Mateo is making his St. Robert track coaches proud. Last year, as a junior, Matthew represented Serra’s Cross Country Team at the California State Division 2 Cross Country Championships in Fresno. Up against the top runners in the State, facing the toughest competition of all 5 Divisions, Matthew put the State on notice that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future. During his senior year, Matthew had his best race of the season at the WCAL league finals, where he finished 5th overall, completing the hilly Crystal Springs course of 2.95 miles in 15:38. Matthew was named to the San Jose Mercury News 2nd Team All-CCS Cross Country Team and is a 2-time all WCAL first team runner. He currently is looking into colleges with strong track and field programs. Wherever he chooses, they will be lucky to have him. Congratulations Matthew on four amazing seasons!

School Happenings

As usual, St. Robert School is buzzing with activities and excitement! School began on August 20th, and the students and faculty have not stopped since. Here are a few of the wonderful things happening at St. Robert School.

Opening Faculty Meeting

Opening Faculty Meeting

A guest speaker was present at the opening faculty and staff meeting. I can’t think of a more experienced person to set the tone for the school year. Sr. Ita was a wonderful motivator for the teachers and staff.

Opening Day Mass

Opening Day Mass

The student council officers did a fabulous job on opening day mass. Here they are getting ready for the service. In the background, once again, you can see Sr. Ita along with Jack Monahan.


From September 18th to September 20th, the school was transformed into the Wild, Wild, West. Everyone had a blast playing fabulous, games, eating delicious food, being entertained by amazing entertainers and even did a little karaoke, all while raising money for the school and parish. Below are a few examples of the adorable cowboys and cowgirls running around that weekend.

Festival 1
Festival 2
Festival 3

Grandparent’s Day

Once again, on October 9, 2015, the school opened their doors to Grandparents and Special Guests of the students. Following a special mass and reception, the grandparents and special guests made their way up to the school to check out their special little ones classrooms and work. The teachers and students all worked very hard to make everything look wonderful.

McNichol Family – three generations of SR. students/alumni

McNichol Family – three generations of SR. students/alumni

Julianne Downs, another bear cub, with her grandparents on Grandparent's Day

Julianne Downs, another bear cub, with her grandparents on Grandparent’s Day

The McGinn/Calleja family on Granparent's Day - More bear cubs

Even more bear cubs – The McGinn/Calleja family on Granparent’s Day


As usual, the spooks and princesses came out in full force on Halloween. Some of the highlights of the day were life-size Barbie dolls, ketchup and mustard, Sadness and Joy, and lots and lots of star wars characters. A few pictures are below.

Halloween pics 1595
Halloween pics 1597
Halloween pics 1601
Halloween pics 1599

Upcoming Events:

Annual Dinner Dance and Auction

St. Robert’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Annual Dinner Dance and Auction, is coming up on March 19, 2016. If you would like to help, they are looking for donations of any type – items, services, discounts. It would be a great way to advertise a business or service. Also, If you do donate – we would make sure people knew that it came from an alumni of SR. I know if given a choice, I would buy from an alumni of SR. versus a stranger. If you have any questions regarding the Dinner Dance & Auction, please contact Annette Padia @ If you have any questions regarding reservations, please contact Gina Portolan @