History of Saint Catharine of Siena School
From its beginning, Saint Catharine of Siena School has provided a Catholic education for the children of Saint Catharine of Siena Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish, in Birdsboro, and the surrounding area.
Our school’s roots can be traced to the early 1920’s. It was then, in response to a population expansion in East Reading and the outlying area, that Philadelphia Archbishop Denis Cardinal Dougherty authorized the creation of Saint Catharine of Siena Parish in Mount Penn, Pennsylvania. In 1925, the parish of seventy-five families became a reality and Reverend Joseph A. Hayes became its first pastor. Two homes, one for the rectory and one for a church were purchased on the 2400 block of Perkiomen Avenue. Reverend Hayes offered the first Mass on December 20, 1925 in the basement of the Mount Penn Fire Company. On Palm Sunday, 1926 the congregation celebrated the first Mass in their new church.
Upon Father Hayes’ passing in 1935, Reverend James P. Sullivan of Philadelphia became Saint Catharine’s pastor. Two years later, the need for a parochial school became evident. Saint Catharine of Siena School was begun in a renovated private residence on 2328 Perkiomen Avenue, diagonally across the street from the church. The school opened on September 1, 1938 with sixty-four children in first to fourth grades. Another grade was added each succeeding year until 1942 when 276 children were enrolled in eight grades. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who had previously taught Catechism for the parish, continued their service through classroom teaching.
By 1950 the parish had grown to 700 families. By 1952 a new church was built and by 1955, the school’s 350 children were attending school in a new building on the school grounds. The old school was converted into a convent. Six years later, Saint Catharine of Siena Parish became part of the newly formed Diocese of Allentown. A year after that ground was broken for four more classrooms and an auditorium. Saint Catharine of Siena School was the first school in the diocese to have a working library, a gym program, a remedial reading program, and a Home School Organization.
Due to poor health, Monsignor Sullivan resigned in 1969 and Father Frederick J. Loeper began leading the parish through a period of great outreach which included fostering vocations, assisting refugees, and educating converts. When Monsignor Smith arrived in 1985, he became the spiritual guide of the 1,850 family parish and an active proponent of the school. A new school wing, with four air-conditioned classrooms, an enlarged cafeteria, office, and garage area, was built in 1987.
Saint Catharine of Siena School had been providing Catholic education for the children of Immaculate Conception Parish in Birdsboro. In 1988 the two parishes joined together to form Saint Catharine of Siena Regional School with an enrollment of 610 students.
In 1995 Saint Catharine of Siena’s congregation dedicated a new church which was built on twenty-seven acres in the center of the parish. There are now two worship spaces, the church and the chapel. The school children attend weekly Mass and other liturgical functions during the school hours at the chapel. Forty Hours, May Procession, Confirmation, First Penance, and First Holy Communion take place at the church on Route 562.
During the time Monsignor Klinger was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, he undertook an expansion project to build a new church, a school, and a rectory. When this became a reality in 2001, the children from Immaculate Conception Parish withdrew from Saint Catharine of Siena School and became the pioneer students in their own parish school. Their withdrawal naturally marked a drop in enrollment at Saint Catharine of Siena School. Several faculty and staff members departed from Saint Catharine of Siena School to help build up the new Immaculate Conception Academy.
In 2010 Bishop John O. Barres established the Bishop’s Commission on Catholic Schools to study the diocesan Catholic schools and to promote growth in enrollment. Saint Catharine of Siena School has implemented the BCCS recommended marketing strategies. In 2012 SCS participated in the Diocesan Transfer Grant program. As a result, enrollment has increased with a total of 319 students including pre-kindergarten.
Despite the ups and downs in the student population, Saint Catharine of Siena School has continued to be faithful to its mission of providing academic excellence rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our current pastor, Monsignor Edward R. Domin is a strong proponent of our parish Catholic school. The Parish Finance Committee, School Advisory Board, Home School Organization, Marketing Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee work together to support the principal, faculty and staff in carrying out its mission of providing academic excellence and forming children in the Catholic faith. All who enter Saint Catharine of Siena School soon learn that “Christ is the reason for our school, the unseen but ever-present Teacher in every classroom.” Our children are taught to live the virtues as we all continue to grow in love of God and others.