On September 30, 1955, Archbishop John Mark Gannon established three new parishes in the Diocese of Erie, one which was St. Jude the Apostle Church. Archbishop Gannon quietly purchased 9 acres of land bound by Lowell Avenue, West 6th and West 8th Street.
Fundraising efforts of every type were undertaken by early parishioners. Using the lawns of homes of parishioners, they hosted festivals, ice cream socials and countless other efforts to raise funds for the land which would become the site of the future school and parish. The pastor of St. Jude, Msgr. Thomas Griffin, was a driving force in these efforts. Msgr. Griffin’s belief and commitment to Catholic education allowed for the foundation to be laid and a journey to begin. A journey with the support and dedication with the Sister’s of St. Joseph leading the way.
On May 1, 1958 less than three years after the parish was established, ground was broken for the parish school. Plans called for the building to be constructed in two stages – the auditorium and the main wing completed first and occupied, and the north wing to be a shell and to be completed as needs arose. Just prior to the opening of the new St. Jude’s School in 1959, the Diocese informed the parish , that the school would serve as a combination for both St. Jude and St. Julia’s Parishes, and it would be renamed “Our Lady’s Christian School”.
The Sister’s of St. Joseph staffed the school as administrators, teachers, cooks and housekeeping. The “former” Sister Beatrice Marie Bricher served as Principal in 1959. Sister Beatrice was joined by the talented and dedicated staff of Sister Frederick Prenatt, Sister Mary Alice Reed, Sister Eileen Moyer, Sister Gertrude Wojasik, and Sister Ann Stephanie Stano. Delicious lunches were prepared and served by Mrs. Marie Neer. The beautiful Library was maintained by Mrs. Jean Junewicz. Mrs. Junewicz prepared and served delicious meals for students and staff to enjoy. Together, the Sisters of St. Joseph along with the many devoted parishioners of St. Jude’s and St. Julia’s allowed for the parish children to have a school they learned to love and enjoy.
The school took off with enrollment in the 1970’s under the steady hand of Sister Mary Rita. Sister Mary Rita made tremendous strides in both the academic and spiritual arena. Mrs. Ann Vinca’s genuine smile and years of dedication to Our Lady's Christian School allowed for the atmosphere to be welcoming. Mr. James Brown’s interaction with the students and passion for Catholic education made a significant difference at OLCS.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s almost 500 children attended Our Lady's Christian School. Overcrowding forced the location of the Kindergarten and Preschool programs in the rectory basement. We were the only school in the diocese without a cafeteria. Students were fed daily by juggling the gym program to set up and tear down tables and chairs. In 1986, Msgr. Henry Kriegel reached out to the parishioners for a place for the children to eat. The Parish Center was built and allowed for children to enjoy school lunches with their classmates.
In the 1990’s, Marilyn Reiser served as Principal and with the support of Msgr. Kriegel they continued the journey of faith and knowledge at Our Lady's Christian School. The school population continued to grow and our children needed more on a Technology/Library level. With a steady hand, Msgr. Kriegel reached out to the parish with Project 2000. Our school children were the recipients of a new fully equipped computer lab and a breath taking library with skylights and many windows for all to enjoy. Additionally, the teachers enjoyed a new lounge, a place they could relax and plan their lessons during the course of their day. Project 2000 allowed Our Lady's Christian School to be set apart from other schools. The Library remains the school’s #1 asset that potential families enjoy.
Msgr. Robert Brugger joined our parish school in 1998. The school’s enrollment remained steady but there was a need for more to allow Our Lady's Christian School to remain financially secure. Msgr. Brugger implemented the Marketing and Advancement Offices in 2005. Our Lady's Christian School was the first school within the Erie Diocese to execute these positions. Msgr. Brugger had the vision and shared this with the School Board and together with the Strategic Planning Committee they implemented the school’s Strategic Plan. This plan was developed to enhance the school’s academic programs and focus on the spiritual, community and financial needs of the school.
The Strategic Plan along with the generosity of many philanthropic donors welcomed the Enrichment Math Program. In 2007, a new all-day preschool was introduced for 4/5 year olds. In 2008, 33 flat screen computer terminals were purchased as well as a state of the art server allowing students to access their desktops from home. Tuition Assistance grew from $20,000.00 per year to $99,600.00 in 2009 making a Catholic education more affordable for all families.
In 2006, St. Andrew’s School joined the Our Lady's Christian School family. Msgr. Sullivan and Msgr. Brugger laid the ground work for a smooth transition for the 88 students into the school. The St. Andrew’s families were a welcome addition and they truly support Catholic education.
Today our school stands tall and proud. With enrollment at 460, we welcome all who have the willingness to learn and support the mission and vision of Our Lady's Christian School. Our families volunteer endless hours to build our school community and allowing for only the best for teachers and students.
As OLCS celebrates 50 years, we cherish the memory and commitment from those before us who believed in a dream and allowed for the dream to become a reality. A dream where the doors opened 50 years ago and remain open today with the same dedication and belief. In 1959, the foundation was built and now we need to continue this tradition for another 50 years.
Thank you to all who made this possible.