Book Excerpts


St. Mary John Elementary School, Cresson, Pennsylvania

Published by: RoseDog Books

The Sisters of IHM had staffed St. John and St. Mary's orphan homes for boys and girls since January 4, 1909, and September 24, 1917, respectively. Until the year 1928, however, separate grade schools were maintained in each home. St. John's in addition, had a two-year high school that both boys and the girls attended. The burden of providing two complete teaching staffs for the homes, as well as the need of a parochial school for the Catholic children of nearby St. Aloysius Parish, Cresson, resulted in a decision by the Most Reverend John J. McCort, DD, to build a grade school on the grounds near St. Mary's Home. It was a small, one-story brick building and was opened on November 15, 1928. Bishop McCort named it the St. Mary John School. Three hundred children were enrolled on opening day and placed under the teaching staff that included Sister Uriel Hurst, Sister Robert Gerrity, Sister Dunstan Gallagher, Sister Matilda O'Boyle, Sister Irenaeus Turner, Sister Geraldine Tessier, Sister Macaria Mooney and Sister Kevin Maria McMullin. The pre-school children of both homes were cared for in the kindergarten by Sister Claudia Whelan.

Reverend Father Strittmatter, pastor of St. Aloysius Church, made provision for the children of his parish to pay a book rental fee of one dollar per year and to furnish their own writing materials. The children of his parish who lived at too great a distance to attend St. Mary John School were provided religious instructions on Wednesday after school and on Saturday morning. Sister Anna Maria Hayes and Sister Myra Haggerty taught these classes.

The high school at St. John's Home was discontinued in 1938, and since there was no Catholic high school in the area, boys and girls of high school age were sent to the Cresson Public High School.

At one point in its history St. Mary John School was able to offer space for students from the nearby Sankertown district. In 1942 the Sankertown Public School was burned to the ground. Acting on the advice of Bishop Guilfoyle, the chaplain of the orphanages, Father Hacala, offered to accommodate the displaced pupils of Sankertown, and the school’s Board of Directors accepted his offer. (67)

In light of the fact that the orphanages were built to house 300 children, and in 1961 had about 38, it was decided by then Bishop J. Carroll McCormick to make other arrangements to provide for the orphans and for the Catholic education of Cresson children. St. Mary John School had some 200 pupils in 1961.

The General State Authority of Pennsylvania and the Altoona Johnstown Diocese, represented by the Bishop, entered into a transaction by which the Commonwealth purchased St. John's Home, St. Mary's Home, St. Mary John School and a related recreation park--a total of 147 acres of property--in 1962. The actual date of the takeover of the school was June 15, 1963. The complex was to be used as a youth development center for girls 12 to 18 years of age committed by juvenile courts in central Pennsylvania.

The sisters who had taught at St. Mary John School at its closing were asked to staff the new St. Aloysius Parochial School which opened in 1963. (68)