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All in the family
Interim principal is face of legacy at Bishop Dunne Catholic School
By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
A walk down the halls of Bishop Dunne Catholic School and a walk down memory lane are one in the same for the Moreno family—all 23 of them.
And if anyone of them should get out of line, they will have to answer to one of their own.
“We feel like we’re back to 17 years old,” said Luis Moreno, a 1977 graduate during a recent visit to his alma mater. “Arrogant, smart—well, maybe not so smart.”
During the visit to the south Oak Cliff school, Moreno and his wife Rachel stopped at the principal’s office, to check-in on their son Gabriel, a 2003 graduate and now the interim principal of the school that has shaped two generations of the Moreno family.
“With so many of us coming through the school and graduating from Bishop Dunne, I can’t imagine our life without it,” Gabriel Moreno said.
VIDEO: The Moreno Family & Bishop Dunne Catholic School
A legacy begins
Bishop Dunne Catholic School was founded in 1961 and the beginning of the Moreno family legacy began seven years later. That’s when Luis’ oldest brother Mario became the first in his family to enroll at Bishop Dunne and later graduate in 1972. The eight remaining Moreno siblings—Luis, Rita, Armando, Julia, Elsa, Rose, Ben and Gus—would eventually follow and graduate in subsequent years.
During his sophomore year in 1974, Luis Moreno met Rachel Aviles. By that time, Rachel’s sister Rita had already graduated from Bishop Dunne and her brother Ronnie was a senior. Her sisters Patty and Debbie were only one and two years behind, respectively.
“At the time, Rachel really didn’t like me,” said Luis Moreno, who was a punter for the school’s football team. “But with a little bit of coercion, we got together, started talking and had fun.”
Luis and Rachel graduated in 1977, went off to separate colleges, but kept their romance alive, and married in 1980. Five children later, life in the Moreno household became controlled chaos and getting the kids to St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School was an adventure every day.
When it came time to pick a high school for them, it was a no-brainer. The same formation, work-ethic and discipline Luis and Rachel learned at Bishop Dunne would be passed down to their children—Luis, Gracie, Gabriel, Vincent and David.
“We wanted that for our children,” Rachel said. “We wanted them to have a good education and also to have a good belief system.”
Faith was a necessary element in the Moreno household and reinforced by the school’s Catholic identity, whether it was saying grace before meals or attending Mass on Sundays.
A family of faith
Gabriel and his brother Vincent were both taught by the late Vincent Langbein, the longtime Bishop Dunne theology teacher who also taught Luis and Rachel. Gabriel said he remembers coming home and having dinnertime conversations about faith and the role it played in the world.
“Bishop Dunne allowed us to explore ourselves and our faith in a community that is so vibrant, so diverse and really allowed us to have conversations about our own faith—about who we are and where we’re going,” Gabriel said.
He and his parents said their Bishop Dunne education had a lasting impression on each of the Moreno children and permanently imparted a sense of duty to serve others.
As a Dallas police officer for the last three years, Vincent said he often collaborates with Gabriel professionally to help improve the community around Bishop Dunne. Although Vincent said negative perceptions of Oak Cliff and South Dallas persist, he added that it doesn’t stop him from trying to help people do better for themselves.
“I try to give back to the people who are in less-fortunate situations,” said Vincent, whose own basketball coach, Terrance Thomas, was a police officer. “That’s the whole point of service—to help people become better than what their situations have made them.”
The siblings weren’t afraid to lend each other a hand at school either. When their oldest brother Luis graduated in 2000, Gracie was next in line, ready to show freshman brother Gabriel the ropes. The two developed an academic rivalry and remain very close today.
“He wasn’t one of those pesky younger brothers who you didn’t want talking to any of your friends,” said Gracie, a former four-year softball player for the Lady Falcons. “He was quite mature for a freshman.”
During the course of his 19 years at Bishop Dunne, math teacher Tom Perez, who also serves as the school’s assistant dean of students and head golf coach, has taught just about every one of Luis and Rachel’s children. He said it was evident in each of the Moreno siblings that a strong work ethic had been instilled in them by their parents.
“They were all very hard workers and well-behaved,” Perez said. “They were the kind of students you want to have in class.”
Perez said he remembered the younger Luis being an outstanding baseball player who hit a game-winning home run during the last game of his senior year against Fort Worth All Saints.
Jon Buchanan, who was an assistant baseball coach, said Gabriel, the team’s catcher, was a quiet leader, while Vincent and David were typical, fun-loving teenagers.
“They were very respectful and obviously kids you never had to worry about because of their family,” said Buchanan, a 1998 graduate of the school.
There is an unfailing sense of pride in the Moreno family in seeing so many of their own graduate from Bishop Dunne. Because of that, there is also a deep sense of gratitude. Perez even called them a “first family” of the school, seeing as how so many are now alumni.
That family legacy rarely escapes the attention of Gabriel, who routinely roams the hallways and passes by old senior class photos in the school’s cafeteria as he greets his students.
“I’m really swimming in everything that is Bishop Dunne every day,” Gabriel said. “I routinely go home and think about the sacrifices that so many have made for the school to be here for people like us.”
That includes Eulalia and Ladislao Aviles, and Bertha and Heriberto Moreno – the parents of Rachel and Luis – whose decision to send their children to Bishop Dunne started it all.
“It’s not often that Luis and I get to reflect on the legacy and the relationship we have with Bishop Dunne,” Rachel said. “It’s very special and we’re all very grateful.”