School History

 

Beginning in the fall of 1916, the Dominican Sisters from Saint Mary of the Springs taught Sunday School at Saint Thomas. Initially, there were 168 children of school age in the parish, and it was the hope of both the pastor and people that they would soon be able to build a Catholic school for the children.

Saint Thomas School was built in 1921 by Father John H. O’Neil, who was pastor at that time. The people of the parish donated much of their own time and effort in the construction of the school. The debt on the school was finally liquidated in 1937. The parish continued to grow and the number of pupils in the parish school increased as the years progressed.

In 1937, much needed property adjoining the parish grounds was acquired. More than three lots were added to provide space for a playground and a parking lot. It was providential, that these parcels were purchased at Sheriff’s sale by a Mr. Mallorey and the deeds were turned over to the parish at no cost. The pastor and parishioners saw this Mr. Mallorey only twice—when he came and asked if the parish would accept the parcels and again when he delivered the deeds. The late Bishop Hartley himself was at first skeptical but later was happy to get the property.

In 1939, a new steam heating unit was installed to replace the old system. Many of the graduates still have memories of the good old days—though chilly at times. As the years went on, the four room plan for the eight grades became a problem. Increased enrollment necessitated the addition of classrooms. Bishop Michael J. Ready gave his approval and encouragement for additional school facilities. L.V. Gibboney was the contractor, and A.F.Tynan was the architect.

In June 1948, work was begun on four new classrooms. By fall the same year, the addition was completed at the cost of over $29,000 which included lighting, heating, and classroom equipment. The reserve fund built up at this time paid for the entire cost of the project. The addition was of brick similar to that of the original building. In 1952, there were seven Sisters who taught an enrollment of around 270. The parish continues to be grateful for the devotion and sacrifice of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Mary of the Springs for their many years of faithful service.

From 1921 to 1956, the parish school was completely staffed by members of religious orders. Within the next ten years two Sisters were replaced by lay teachers. As the years went on, fewer religious Sisters were available, and by 1989, the school was staffed by only two Sisters and eight lay teachers. The Sisters were Sister Petra Flavin, O.P., who served as principal, and Sister Josephine King, O.P. At their retirement, Sister Patricia Rucci, O.P. became principal. The school building was given a new look and hopes were high that by reducing the school to a kindergarten through fifth grade population, Catholic education could continue to be made available to children of various faiths who were coming from areas beyond the boundaries of the parish. Because of the sudden death of Sister Pat Rucci, O.P. following surgery, and despite efforts to continue the school under the direction of Principal Gary Cross, the school closed in 2004. The students of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Saint Philip the Apostle, and Christ the King schools merged in Christ the King School building on East Livingston Avenue to become All Saints Academy.

The efforts of the Support-A-Student Fund which began under Sister Pat Rucci and a committee established to aid the school’s children, continue to assist those families who began at Saint Thomas and are now attending other Catholic grade schools. It is the goal of the committee to help those who were in grades kindergarten through fifth at the time of the school’s closing to complete the eighth grade in a Catholic elementary school.