History of St. Bernard School
1806-Early settlers to Indiana County build the first church, St. Patricks, in Cameron’s Bottom.
1847-Catholics are served by churches in Blairsville and elsewhere until 1847 when twenty German families came together to build St. Bernard Church on Oak and Mahoning (Fifth) Streets.
1861-Rev. Ferdinand Wolf oversees building of St. Bernard’s first Catholic School. School was staffed by two Sisters of St. Agnes and a Captain Snickberger and classes were offered in English and German. This early school did not thrive and closed in a few years.
1884-American bishops met in the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884). There they put forth a plan for the establishment of a comprehensive parochial school system. They directed local churches to establish elementary schools for the education of the parish children. Across the nation, elementary and secondary schools would develop religious curriculums emphasizing Catholic doctrine along with a secular curriculum very similar to that of the public schools.
1898-Rev. Neil McNelis, born in Ireland and educated at St. Francis College and St. Vincent’s College, is assigned to St. Bernard’s Parish after serving as Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In the third decade of the 20th century, he was joined by Assistant Pastor, Fr. James Brady, also born in Ireland.
1927-Catholic students of Indiana State Teacher’s College met at St. Bernard Church to organize a Newman Club under the direction of Fr. McNelis and Fr. Brady. (October 2, 1927)
1930-Fr. Brady led the parish in a fundraising campaign to finance the building of a second school (the first had burned in 1887). Funds were raised through parties and dinners hosted by Ladies’ Aid societies, through paper drives held by the parish children and donations from the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of America. The new school was built on Fifth Street, a block from the church. Formal dedication was held on August 29, 1930.
1930-St. Bernard School opened offering classes in six grades to 120 students. Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden made up the teaching faculty. The principal was Sr. Mary de Lellis. (September)
1931-1932 Seventh and eighth grades are added to St. Bernard School
1933-32 students participate in St. Bernard School’s first graduation
1953-For two decades, school was taught exclusively by Sisters of Saint Joseph. In 1938, a lay teacher, Mrs. Anne Vogel, was hired.
1958-A second lay teacher was hired, a two room addition added, and enrollment reached 375. The Regina Guild organized the first library.
1978-Construction of the Church on a hill above the cemetery separated the Church from the school.
1987-Msgr. Robert Shuda, former head of diocesan education, was appointed administrator of parish and a major fund raising campaign was launched to finance a new Learning Center. $ 950,000 was raised to finance the new facility.
1990-New Learning Center with seven classrooms, a library, an adult education room, all-purpose room, and offices on Clairvaux Drive, near the church, was dedicated. (August)
2009-St. Bernard Regional Catholic School, the only Catholic School in Indiana County, offers a fully accredited program that is staffed by certified teachers with impressive academic credentials. Embedding spiritual studies in a rich curriculum which includes art, music, and technology, its students score above the national average on standardized tests. Its alumni continue to excel academically in high schools and at universities across the nation.
For more on the history of St. Bernard Regional Catholic School and Parish see St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Indiana, PA, 1847-1997