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Immaculata-La Salle marks 60th anniversary

Mass with Archbishop Thomas Wenski brings alumni back to campus

MIAMI | As she took part in the Mass marking her alma mater’s 60th anniversary, Mariana Castañeda Cancio sat in the Don Bosco Arena at Immaculata-La Salle High School and remembered the years she spent there in the early 1960s.

Immaculata-La Salle seniors Gianna Esposito, left, and Karlie Liang, president and vice-president respectively of the school's student government association, present a statue of Mary Help of Christians to Archbishop Thomas Wenski along with a monetary donation for charities in Haiti.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Immaculata-La Salle seniors Gianna Esposito, left, and Karlie Liang, president and vice-president respectively of the school's student government association, present a statue of Mary Help of Christians to Archbishop Thomas Wenski along with a monetary donation for charities in Haiti.

Mariana Castañeda Cancio, 1964 graduate of Immaculata Academy, poses with her husband, Pepe Cancio, with whom she attended her senior prom before marrying him a few months later.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Mariana Castañeda Cancio, 1964 graduate of Immaculata Academy, poses with her husband, Pepe Cancio, with whom she attended her senior prom before marrying him a few months later.

A member of the class of 1964, Cancio attended Corazón de María High School in Havana before leaving the island with her family in December 1961.

“The schools in Miami were filled with Cuban kids who had fled the island. The only school that had room for me was Miami Jackson,” which she attended from January to June 1962.

“I had completed four years of the five years needed to graduate high school in Cuba,” Cancio recalled.

She took a Scholastic Aptitude Test but had difficulty with it because subjects were taught differently in Cuba, so she was placed in 11th grade.

In September 1962, she was admitted to Immaculata High School, at the time an all-girls school founded in 1958. Three years later, to accommodate an influx of unaccompanied Cuban boys, La Salle High School opened on the same site, next door to Mercy Hospital along Biscayne Bay. The schools merged and became co-ed in 1970.

“It was a small campus,” Cancio recalled. “I had lost my home in Cuba, my roots. I was sort of in a daze. I met many new friends at Immaculata. It was a new home for me. I felt very welcomed at the school.”

She met Pepe Cancio through a group of friends. Mariana and Pepe went to the Immaculata senior prom together in May 1964. They married in November that same year and moved to Brazil and then to Arizona, where Pepe ran a successful concrete business. Eventually they moved back to Miami. Pepe was a Miami-Dade County commissioner and is a community activist. They have four children and 13 grandchildren.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who celebrated the Mass Dec. 1 with Trinitarian Father Sonny Moreira, Immaculata-La Salle’s chaplain and parochial vicar at St. Kieran Parish next door, said that many of the leaders of the community are graduates of the school and grateful for the education they received there.

“A Catholic education in the spirit of the Salesians and their founder, St. John Bosco, is more than learning how to do well, but about how to do good,” the archbishop said.

Immaculata-La Salle will continue its 60th anniversary celebration with a Tropicana 1950 Gala set for Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

Immaculata-La Salle's choir sings during the Mass, led by  Salesian Sister Suzanne Dauwalter and fellow cantor Luis DePrada.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Immaculata-La Salle's choir sings during the Mass, led by Salesian Sister Suzanne Dauwalter and fellow cantor Luis DePrada.


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