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St. Patrick's High School


St. Patrick Parish came into existence in 1885, when Father F. Richardson was appointed pastor of the territory covering the west side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Father Richardson built the first church on the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street West. Father Timothy J. Sullivan became pastor in 1889 and purchased the property on First Avenue and Fifth Street West. Father Sullivan built a new church in 1891 and had the old framed church from Second Avenue moved to a site behind the new church so that it could be used as a school. In a letter of Sister Mary Adoline Collins, BVM, one of the first teachers at St. Patrick, Sister stated that Bishop John Hennessy of Dubuque was on the train with the original group of Sisters going to St. Patrick School in Cedar Rapids, and that all were met by Father Sullivan. Arriving at the rectory, the Sisters at once received the welcome and blessing of both bishop and priest. Sister Mary Adrian Miller, principal, and her companions, Sister Mary Adoline, Sister Mary Celerina King, Sister Mary Charles Nelson (housekeeper), and Sister Mary Walburga Slager, arrived September 13, 1892. St. Patrick School officially opened that September.

The regular attendance that year was one hundred. There were two ninth grade students among the first group. Rather than forego the opportunity of opening a high school, the Sisters admitted them. For that reason, the school was called St. Patrick Academy. A third student entered the high school at the beginning of its second year, but only two remained to graduate in 1896: Frances Hines (McCabe) and Nellie Christopher. Of the dozen original eighth grade pupils, only three–William Walsh, Mary Lynot (Kelly), and Annie Lynot (Berger)–were graduated in 1897. Ten years later, in 1902, Father Sullivan built a large school building which served until 1929. Father Sullivan passed away in 1914, and Sister Renata Colvin, BVM, was named principal of the school. Father Daniel J. Lenihan came to St. Patrick in 1919. Seeing that the school was overcrowded, he began remodeling the building, converting the old auditorium into classrooms. This remodeling temporarily took care of the overcrowded classrooms. In 1929, ground-breaking took place for a new school which accommodated an enrollment of approximately 150 high school students and 400 elementary students. The new school was a three-story building, “the pride of St. Patrick.” Father Lenihan remained pastor until 1960. Many BVM Sisters were principals during the span of Father Lenihan’s pastorate. During this time, with numerous Sisters as part of the teaching staff, the convent was built for their living quarters in 1956.

Increased enrollment in the grade and high school made it necessary to close the kindergarten in 1960 to use all classrooms for the more than one thousand students. Father Robert J. McDonald, then pastor of St. Patrick, took on the large task of planning a new parish and a new Catholic high school for the west side of Cedar Rapids. St. Jude Parish opened as a daughter parish of St. Patrick in 1962, and a year later LaSalle High School opened. This allowed the needed space at St. Patrick School for a K-8 program to remain as the high school moved to the LaSalle building. Sister Mary Clarona Frommell, BVM, former principal of St. Patrick High School, became assistant principal in charge of girls at LaSalle. Although the history of the high school merges with that of the grade school through the years, a few points of information belong singularly to the high school group. In 1921 the high school was accredited by the Iowa Committee on Secondary Schools. Twenty-four students were graduated in 1937. Through the fifties, the enrollment ranged between 150 and 200. In 1962-63, however, the last year of St. Patrick High School, there were thirteen faculty members, 264 students, and forty-two graduates. The high school consistently met the needs of its students through the years by offering college preparatory and academic programs as well as business education courses. Personnel of the Home-School Association furnished services for supervision, registration, book handling, and recreational programs. When St. Jude School became a reality in 1962, it accommodated more than three hundred pupils from St. Patrick. After St. Patrick School was relieved of that number in 1962 and of the high school students in 1963, facilities for the grade school expanded considerably. Among its new features were a central library, separate laboratories for the three major sciences, an all-purpose room, a “little theater,” a gymnasium, and an audiovisual room. Enrichment reading was carried on in the seventh and eighth grades, as well as departmental teaching in science, mathematics, English, and history. Enrollment at that time was 442 pupils under the direction of seven Sisters and ten laywomen. It was at this time also that the St. Patrick School in Fairfax closed and some of the students came into Cedar Rapids and joined the Cedar Rapids St. Patrick.

Between 1969-1983, St. Patrick Parish and school had many pastors and principals who helped bring about various new developments. In 1967 the first school board was formed. In 1969 the students from St. Patrick in Fairfax joined the students at St. Patrick School. In 1975, for the first time, the principal at St. Patrick was not a BVM Sister. Sister Rita Marie Thissen, LSSJ, arrived as principal in that year. Under the leadership of then pastor Father Robert Hirsch, remodeling took place, and new windows were added to the school in 1982. In 1986 the parish celebrated its Centennial. Father John Hemann was pastor. In that same year, the Sisters left the school, and the first lay principal was hired, John Krumbholz. A preschool was added to the education program in 1987, and a daycare program followed in 1988. Also that year, a new gym floor and roof were added to the school building, and a playground was built with the closing of “A” Avenue. With the consolidation of St. Patrick, St. Ludmila, and St. Jude Schools in 1994, St. Patrick became a middle school for these parishes. Grades six, seven, and eight were located in the St. Patrick facility. The St. Patrick preschool was closed in the fall of 1999, and a new preschool program was developed at the St. Patrick center in Fairfax. In the 1999-2000 school year, there were 192 students enrolled in the school with a staff of twenty lay professional.

Source: Monsignor Thomas E. Toale, Ph. D. (2001). Go Forth and Teach: Continuing the Challenge. Dubuque, IA - Iowa: Loras College Press. Archdiocese of Dubuque.

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