Hometown Proud features a person each week that helps make the community better. Brother David Anthony Migliorino has served as the principal of the Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau since 1998. Notre Dame is currently the largest private high school between St. Louis and Memphis.
When did you get the calling to be a brother?
Oh my lord. I was a freshman in college taking a biology class at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. There were 300 people in the class, and the professor told us that we had to cut cats and dogs and worms and frogs. I had to be very honest; it was the last thing on Earth I wanted to do.
I saw two brothers and I said to my roommate, “Look at those two monks, we should go
join their study group.” So we did. They said to us, ‘That would be wonderful, except could you come to our house on Thursday and we’ll feed you and we can do our homework together.”
So now, as a college freshman, they are going to feed me and I’m going to pass the required biology six-credits. This is a gift from God. The very first time I walked into that house of studies, I knew I belonged there. I know that sounds crazy, but I knew I belonged there.
So I went home at Christmas time and I told my parents that I wanted to enter our religious congregation. And they said, “No.” They said, “You get infatuated with things, so why don’t you go back to school, not be with those brothers and see if that is really what God is asking of you.”
So I did. I was very obedient; I’m an only child. I went back and I saw them on campus but I wasn’t in class with them. Those six credits were over. I was on the education track to be a schoolteacher and that was a required class. That was over, I got the A, I was overjoyed. But this thing kept tugging at me, so in May when school was over I went back home and said, “I think I should try this.”
They said, “Yes, you should. But if this isn’t what you want, you always have a home.” And 44 years later, I’m still here.
How did you decide you wanted to get into education?
I went to Catholic elementary school and Catholic high school. I had the Sisters of Charity, and I loved, worshiped and adored them. I wanted to be a religious and a teacher because of them. Then I had brothers in high school, not our [Franciscan] order. I had Christian Brothers of Ireland in high school, and while I loved them as teachers, as people they were cold. Just a little standoffish, and I am not a standoffish person.
How did you first come to this area?
In 1995, our congregation was always a diocesan congregation, which means that the local bishop was in control. We [Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn] wanted to become papal, where our authority would lie with the pope. In order to do that, we had to branch out of the Brooklyn area. So we asked permission to send brothers to Connecticut, Missouri and North Carolina.
I was sent to St. John the Baptist High School in south St. Louis. I was there for four years, at which point I was told that I was going to be moved but they didn’t know where. I prayed every day to the Blessed Mother, I said the Memorare prayer every day that I would find out where I was going.
About three months later, Brother Kevin was our superior general at the time, and he said to me, “There is a school in Cape Girardeau.” I thought it was on the east coast, I thought it was in Boston. And he said, “I’d like you to go see it.”
I said, “What’s the school’s name?” and he said, “Notre Dame” [a French title for Mary, mother of Jesus.] I said, “The answer is yes, cause I’ve been praying to the Blessed Mother for a sign, and that was the sign.” So I came, and this will be my 19th year as the
principal. I fell in love with it immediately.
What have you liked most about the area?
The people have been unbelievably welcoming. I have to be honest; I did not find St. Louis welcoming. I found them very provincial. That if you weren’t born on Delor Street, they were respectful but your opinion didn’t matter. I did not find that here. Here anything you said or did, they were excited. No one has ever made me feel unwelcome or like a stranger in an alien world.
What aspect of working at Notre Dame do you find most rewarding?
Being with the children, the students. I love their excitement. I love their silliness. I love when they make mistakes. I love when they do something wrong. I love when they do something right. They keep me very young, they make me want to come to school every day. I love their enthusiasm for anything. Making them understand the importance of God in their life is very rewarding for me. The retreats, the prayers, all of that.
What are you most proud of at Notre Dame?
The amount of service that the school does and how Christ walks the halls of this building, I’m most proud of that. I see that every day. How the children care for one another, how they’re concerned for one another. They’ll come to me and say, “My grandmother is ill, will you pray for her.” “Brother, my neighbor lost their home, they have nothing, what can we do?” Well, we will have a dress down day, we will have a bake sale. I’m most impressed about that.
Now their grades are excellent and we win a lot of sports things and they get lots of scholarships, but what gives me the most pride is that they’re trying to follow Jesus in a very special way. I get very touched by that.
What is something you think most people don’t know about you?
I don’t think they know that I’m a little bit of a rebel rouser. When I was in college, I marched in the poor people’s campaign. I was in D.C. when D.C. was burning.
There was the curfew in D.C., we had a white [Chevrolet] Nova and we put red Mystik Tape to make a cross. And we drove through the streets of Washington D.C. after curfew, breaking curfew, to bring coffee and sandwiches to the National Guard that was protecting the streets.
I could have been arrested, but I was young and frivolous and this was the thing to do. So I think people would be shocked — I think I could come across straight-laced, especially dressed like this, but I’m a rebel rouser.
Is there something you would still like to do?
I would love Notre Dame to continue to grow and blossom. I would love to be able to be here for many more years, I know my time could be limited. I’ve been here 19 years, but I love that there are 10 people on staff who I was their high school principal. It such a blessing, it makes me feel so special.
Is there anything else you would like people to know?
I would love people to know that Notre Dame is not the rich, preppy school. I have a book filled with the tuition assistance, over $85,000 a year, the school helps people to come here.