In the past 125 years, more than 2,000 students have walked through the doors of St. Mary School, New Richmond.
These students “have received an outstanding education, increased their faith and learned to give back to their community through the school’s many years of dedication to excellence and tradition,” said Jacquie Graham, who does marketing for the school.
St. Mary marked its 125th anniversary June 25. To honor the milestone, the school hosted an inaugural alumni golf tournament June 26.
The school and Immaculate Conception Church will also host a fall festival, noon, Sunday, Oct. 3. All are welcome to join them for family fun, a farmers market and a craft/vendor show. A hog roast will follow the 5 p.m. Mass.
The school was started by Fr. Walter Fardy, who was responsible for designing and building the first parochial school in New Richmond.
He drew plans for a 46- by 50-foot stone basement, with a two-story structure to be erected.
The walls were to be solid brick with a mansard roof with a deck of tar and gravel. It was to have a belfry and a spire.
There were two classrooms on the first floor, and a classroom, music room and laboratory on the second floor.
“The school was practically hand-built by Fr. Fardy and his parishioners,” Graham added.
Work began on June 25, 1890, with construction completed early in 1891, when St. Mary’s was established as an elementary school and a high school academy.
In 1894, a class of four graduated from St. Mary’s Academy. “The Catholic Church in Wisconsin,” a book published in 1896, stated the parish of Immaculate Conception had a parochial school with an enrollment of 120 pupils.
Both St. Mary School and the public school survived the cyclone of June 12, 1899.
The Sisters of St. Agnes of Fond du Lac arrived in September 1906. The brick rectory between the school and the church was turned over to the nuns as a convent; they taught at St. Mary’s until 1920.
In the fall of 1926, seven Benedictine nuns arrived from St. Joseph, Minnesota, and served St. Mary’s until 1928.
Fr. Patrick Mahoney came to New Richmond in 1927, and for the fall of 1928, secured the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth on the Lake from Superior. For the next 53 years, sisters from this order served St. Mary School.
A new building
By the 1950s, the school was falling into disrepair. Enrollment had climbed to over 250 students in a building built for 120 students.
The building was razed in 1953, the same year ground was broken for the new school and convent. The class of 1955 was the first to graduate from the new school.
In 1973, the Knights of Columbus renovated the second floor. They have continued to support St. Mary School in many ways, including contributions to help the athletic program and scholarship fund.
In 2003, the school was remodeled and an addition was built.
“Over the years, St. Mary School has strived to fulfill the school’s mission to ‘Grow in Knowledge, Follow in Faith, and Serve in Harmony,’“ Graham said. “The students score higher on average than the national norms.”
New Richmond High School statistics show 25 percent of valedictorians and salutatorians from 1945 to 2015 were St. Mary School alumni, she noted, most recently in 2002, 2010 and 2015.
Looking to the future
Students and staff participate in community service projects, go to weekly Mass and participate in the music ministry at Sunday Mass, Graham said. The school has grown to include not only Kindergarten through eighth grade, but also preschool and 4K charter classes.
Principal and teacher Laura Jo Jarchow said the enrollment for the 2015-2016 school year includes 90 students in K-8 classes and 66 children in the preschool and 4K charter programs.
“A long-term project that the faculty and staff are looking at for the coming year is working on developing a more visible presence in the community for our school,” she said. “We are looking to actively engage our elected student council in a number of community projects. We also are expanding the role of our school students in the parish.”
According to Jarchow, students might also be able to take advantage of the diocese’s new blended/virtual Catholic high school.
“We currently have a partnership with the local high school, where our seventh- and eighth-grade students are welcomed to take advanced placement math classes,” she said. “We are, however, watching the development of the online high school with interest. We are not ruling anything out at this time and hope at some point in the future to participate in that program.”