Through the new millenium and into this decade, Saint Rosalia School has continued to demonstrate the great assimilating qualities that has been its trademark since its founding one hundred years ago. The strengths of the school are great and numerous, from its dedicated teachers, to its parental organizations, to the students' sense of being where they belong. Saint Rosalia Academy has created an environment for each student to have every single opportunity to grow to their potential in every aspect of their personality.
The History of Saint Rosalia Church, School/Academy
In 1900, at the beginning of a new century, a group of men, many of them immigrants, were in search of a church of their own. Years before many of these same men had settled in a community they sanctioned from the city for themselves and named it Greenfield because of the lush view of the green pastures. Having begun to settle in and build homes for their families, seeing the community growing and defining itself, they found themselves feeling incomplete. So, these men, with the urgings of their wives, and whose names are still carried on by a new generation in this very neighborhood to this day, talked in earnest about something that would complete them, something to build for their future, the future of their children, the future of the community that they loved. They wanted a church and a school they could call their very own. And, too, they wanted all that goes with it. They wanted their own Pastor and Priests to minister to their spiritual needs and their own Sisters in the parish to educate their children.
After much debate on where best to situate their new parish and school, the men decided that the best solution was to buy the Barker family farm on Greenfield Avenue. The property cost $18,000. These men decided to petition Bishop Richard Phelan, then Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Chosen to represent this delegation’s bold vision was Michael Guthrie.
While the men waited for Bishop Phelan’s decision on whether or not to grant a new parish to the community, the men went ahead and erected a frame building to be used as a church. They never lost hope or faith that they would have a parish as they waited for the Bishop’s decision.
Bishop Phelan was said to have labored long over the decision because he foresaw many difficulties. One of his fears was that it would infringe on the neighboring parishes and perhaps cause conflicts. But he could not deny the merits of the study that Michael Guthrie had handed to him on behalf of the delegation. After seeing the strong, natural demarcation between the other parishes, he knew that it was the right decision. He made the necessary arrangements to begin organizing a new parish to be called Saint Rosalia.
Father Henry McEvoy was appointed the first resident pastor. He took up his residence in the Barker mansion in 1901 which served as the priest house until a new house was erected. Father McEvoy immediately began to organize the parish. This was met with great enthusiasm and assistance, making the transition more of a fulfilling adventure than one of great anxiety.Part of the organizational process was to provide a school for the education of his growing parish. Saint Rosalia School was opened during Reverend McEvoy’s pastorate in 1903. Six sisters of Charity taught in a makeshift building for the next eight years until the civil authorities condemned it and ordered it closed in 1911. At the same time, after only a decade of administering to the parishioners, the parish took another blow during those formidable years; Reverend McEvoy decided to retire and return to Ireland.
It was a difficult period for many parishioners but the strong spirit that helped create the parish reemerged. As the parish continued to grow and its prospects for a thriving future parish became obvious, the will of the people once again overcame this hardship. Many of the “old timers” often said that it was the power of their prayers that brought a resolution to the troubled spirits.
In January of 1912, Father Faughnan was appointed pastor of Saint Rosalia Parish to succeed Father McEvoy. Father Faughnan’s first major project was to erect a new brick school building with twelve classrooms and offices. This solved the serious problem of there being no parochial school in the parish during the latter part of Father McEvoy’s pastorate because the initial school building was condemned.
The new school building was staffed by the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The parish spirit was once again revived and rededicated to educating the children in the great Catholic tradition. On February 3, 1913 the doors to Saint Rosalia School were opened and three hundred and sixty-one children were enrolled. The education of the children was to be overseen by Sister M. Loyola until the new school could be fully staffed. In September of 1914, Sister M. Alphonsine was placed in charge. Also in that same year, the school was enlarged to include a commercial high school for boys.
Sister M. Germaine, who was the administrator of the order in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was concerned as to where the sisters would be housed since there was no convent. Father Faughnan explained to Sister. M. Germaine that the top floor of the building would be made to accommodate the Sisters and assured her that the facility would be perfectly suitable.
In 1927, Central Catholic High School was opened and it was then that Saint Rosalia restricted the high school to girl students.
Once the school was completed, Father Faughnan concentrated his energies on erecting a permanent church. The church that now stands at 411 Greenfield Avenue is a monument to him and his parishioners whose continued vision made it happen. An interesting note is that Father Faughnan told his parishioners that the church would not open its doors until every penny of the expense was paid. The cost was about $350,000. When the first mass was offered in 1923, the Church was completely debt free.
Also during this time, Father Faughnan searched for a suitable convent out of necessity. As the school grew, so did the number of Sisters necessary to insure a quality education. In 1922, the building on the corner of Lydia Street and Greenfield Avenue, (Now the Greenfield Organization) was purchased from Henry Lawrence. A member of the parish, Henry Alter, later enlarged it. It served as the convent until 1957 when the new high school and convent were dedicated.
Father Faughnan died on February 26, 1936. He was succeeded by Father Matthew Coghlan. Father Coghlan carried on in the fashion of his predecessor. With the parish continuing to grow he saw the demand for an enlarged school facility. He began to prepare and save for the expansion but died before he was able to realize his vision for the parish. Father Coghlan died on April 24, 1954.
He was succeeded by Father Raymond J. Dougherty, the Director of DePaul Institute. One of the first decisions made by the new pastor was to see that the original school building, which was still standing, known to the parish community as the Lyceum, was torn down. The razing was done in September, 1954, and the vacancy it left became known to the students as The Pit until the new priest house was erected.
In 1955, Father Dougherty celebrated the first evening mass in Saint Rosalia history on December 8th. It was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Continuing Father Coghlan’s dream, ground was broken for the new school facility on October 21, 1956. Little more than a year later, Gaudete Sunday, December 15, 1957, Saint Rosalia High School and Convent was dedicated. The school functioned as a complete twelve year program for the next fourteen years with great energy and enthusiasm and with many accomplishments and honors garnered by its students.
In June, 1971, due to the decline in High School enrollment, the last class graduated. But the same will that founded the parish rose again and began to forge a new identity. In September, 1971, the Elementary School students in grades five through eight moved into the high school building for classes. In 1979, a Kindergarten was opened in part of the same building.
As those who headed the parish before him, Father Dougherty had plans for the future as well. He had planned to build a new priest house that would replace the old Barker mansion that was aged and in disrepair. In the summer of 1974, Father Dougherty retired as Pastor of Saint Rosalia leaving a sizable fund stipulated for use for the construction of the new priest house.
Father Paul Conroy became pastor of St. Rosalia in 1974 and implemented the plans for the new priest house. Father Conroy died during his pastorate in 1993. He was succeeded by father Joseph Reshick who still presides over the parish. (Please take a moment and meet Father Reshick by clicking onto his link Message From the Pastor).
As the population within the city has continued to decline over the last decades, the parish has once again been forced to adapt. St. Regis Parish in neighboring Oakland was forced to close its parish elementary school due to declining numbers and rising tuition costs in June, 1980. Students from St. Regis Parish are bussed to Greenfield to attend St. Rosalia Academy.
Since taking over the high school building in 1971, the school facilities are equal to any grade school in the area. As one of its foundations, Saint Rosalia has taken computer education and placed it within the curriculum at the start of the students' education. Foreign Language is introduced in kindergarten, along with Sign Language, and taught throughout the eight years.
Extracurriculars are both educational, demanding, and fun. The student to teacher ratio provides a strong learning environment for a curriculum that is rigorous, Catholic and superior, an education that has prepared the students for the demands of a Catholic high school education in the Pittsburgh Diocese. Saint Rosalia Academy students have gone on and achieved high acclaim in both high school, college and beyond in ever single field of human endeavor.
Saint Rosalia School was renamed Saint Rosalia Academy in 2002. The academy enrolls students from PK3 to 8th grade.
The men behind the dream of the Saint Rosalia Parish. The delegation that conceived and created the parish of Saint Rosalia Academy.
Henry Alter, William Doyle, John Michael, James Durkan, John King, Martin Murtaugh, Dan Deeley, Frank Keelan, Hugh Boyle, Hugh Donnelly, James Lynch, Terry Burns, Lou Schadle, Charles Kleppick, Eddie Cochran, Michael Collins, Walter Butler, Bobby Emmett, Mike Whalen, Thomas Murphy, Edward Roche, Miles McNiff, Frank Evans, Bernard McNally, James Austin, James Mahon, Michael Guthrie, William Gallagher, Michael Cain, Dan Neuman, Ed Dolan
These men are remembered with fondness and gratitude. The will, the spirit and the strength to endure that helped them bring their dream to fruition is still felt in the parish community to this very day.
The first Saint Rosalia boys to graduate from Central Catholic High School were:R.D. Cullen Joseph LeeRegis L. Egan John McCraneJames Holleran Patrick McGuireT.J. Horgan Frank SproulsWilliam Lavelle