January 25, 2019

An amazing streak: Family celebrates having at least one student at same Catholic school for 62 straight years

Eli Aldrich, left, shares more than a winning smile with his great-grandfather, Paul Hornberger. They are also part of their family’s amazing streak of Catholic education. (Submitted photo)

Eli Aldrich, left, shares more than a winning smile with his great-grandfather, Paul Hornberger. They are also part of their family’s amazing streak of Catholic education. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Paul Hornberger flashes a proud smile as he talks about his family’s amazing streak in Catholic education.

For 62 straight years, a member of the extended Hornberger family has been a student at Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ School in Indianapolis.

The streak began in 1957 when Danny Hornberger—the oldest of Paul and Pat’s 11 children—entered the first grade at the school.

And the streak continues today as one of their 39 great-grandchildren—Eli Aldrich—is a member of the school’s seventh-grade class.

In all, 28 Hornberger children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have attended the school.

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“I think it’s pretty awesome,” says Paul Hornberger, who is 89. “I’m proud of it. I really feel good about the Catholic faith. I’ve had a great life, and I think a lot of that has to do with Catholic education.”

He also sees the streak as a tribute to his late wife, a former Baptist who was received into the full communion of the Church just before she married Paul in 1950.

“She was all for the kids going to Catholic schools,” he says about his wife who died in 2015 after 65 years of marriage. “She went to public schools all her life, and she liked the results of her kids going to Catholic schools.”

After Danny led the way at Nativity, Diane, Donna, David, Dean, Debbie, Dennis, Darrin, Doug, Denise and Donny followed.

Besides all of the 11 children sharing a name that begins with the same letter, the siblings also shared life with their parents in a three-bedroom house.

More importantly, they shared their Catholic faith and an education that fostered it.

“Our parents just instilled that Catholic faith in us,” says Diane Hornberger Anderson. “Our mom prayed the rosary a lot. She would always tell us to pray to God, to ask God for what we need. And when she got sick, she was really strong with her faith.

“Most of us still go to church. I’m so glad I got a Catholic education.”

The streak of having a family member at Nativity for 62 straight years also has a nice touch that leads to a humorous twist that still makes family members laugh.

When the youngest of the 11 Hornberger children—Donny—was an eighth-grade student at Nativity in 1965, the oldest of the Hornberger grandchildren—Julie—was a first-grader.

So Julie’s mother, who is also Donny’s sister, put Donny in charge of Julie as they rode a Franklin Township school bus on the first day of classes that year.

“Back then, the public school buses picked up all the Nativity kids with the public school kids, and then they rode together to the public school,” recalls Donna Goebes. “Once they got to the public school, all the public school kids got off the bus and the Nativity kids stayed on to go to their school.”

When the bus arrived at the public school, a teacher told all the first-grade students to get off the bus and come with her. So Donny told Julie to get off the bus, which she did.

“She spent her first morning of school at Wanamaker Elementary instead of Nativity,” Donna says. “It all worked out, but I told Donny, ‘I put you in charge of Julie so I wouldn’t worry about her. Next time, I’ll put Julie in charge of you.’

“I teased him about it for years. We still laugh about it.”

The joy of family is displayed all over the refrigerator in Paul Hornberger’s home. It’s covered with magnetized images of Paul and Pat throughout their married life, images that are superimposed with the names, ages, birthdays and anniversaries of each of the children, grandchildren, great‑grandchildren and in-laws.

Eli Aldrich is part of that Hornberger legacy. As the last one in the family to attend Nativity School, he is also part of that amazing streak.

“I like Nativity.’’ Eli says. “I’m really happy my parents have chosen to send me there.”

He’s also happy to have a prominent place in the family’s streak at Nativity.

“I think it’s cool that my family has been at Nativity for so long. I think it’s even cooler that I’ll be the final one to close it off.”

For Paul Hornberger, the streak is wonderful, too. But the impact of a Catholic education on his family is even more lasting.

“I wouldn’t have thought of them going anywhere else,” he says. “They all turned out wonderful.” †

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