CLEARFIELD – Some 240 alumni and guests gathered at St. Francis School in Clearfield on Saturday night to celebrate 125 years of the school fulfilling its mission of educating minds and empowering souls.
Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie presided over a celebratory Mass to launch the evening’s activities, calling the school a “beacon of light and love” for the community since 1893.
Persico lauded St. Francis School families, past and present, for being “a testament to the value and importance” of a Catholic education and thanked parents for keeping the school flourishing for the past 125 years.
The decades have brought many changes since the founding of St. Francis School, he said, but parish families have remained unchanged in their pursuit of a Catholic education.
He thanked families for seeking a Catholic education that produces “life-long learners, lives of service and true discipleship.”
He also noted, “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Sisters of St. Joseph and lay faculty” who have led St. Francis School over the past decades.
Following the Mass, the St. Francis Alumni Association hosted a dinner for alumni in the school’s Martin N. Glynn Auditorium, named for the former Monsignor who shepherded St. Francis School for 41 years.
The hundreds attending enjoyed a catered meal preceded by the recitation of the same Catholic grace they said as students before lunch each day at the school.
John Sughrue, member of the St. Francis Alumni Association, was emcee for the evening. He recognized the following guests: Persico; Monsignor Henry Krebs and Father Mark Solomon, both school alumni; Mary Michael, class of 1946, the oldest alumna attending; Johanna Ryan, class of 2007, the youngest alumna attending; and Lanette Potter Bridgman, class of 1971, who traveled the farthest from London, England, to attend the celebration.
Father Brandon Kleckner, school pastor, expressed his appreciation to the alumni attending: “In the era of closing schools, we survive because of the people who love and support this school.”
He thanked the alumni for their past support and asked for their continued support in the future. “All of this doesn’t work without you,” he noted.
After the meal, alumni enjoyed time reminiscing, toured the school, and even joined together for a rousing sing-along of the St. Francis School alma mater led by William McNamee, former mayor of Clearfield and member of the class of 1967.
Founded in 1893, St. Francis School was originally located on land now occupied by the St. Francis Roman Catholic Church parking lot. The Sisters of St. Joseph were in charge of the school and served as teachers, along with lay faculty, through the closing of the high school in 1985.
The school expanded several times in its 125-year history. In 1957, a complete overhaul of the building began with the addition of new classrooms, turning it into the familiar façade of today.
In 1974, another major renovation project saw the addition of a new library and cafeteria. Uniforms were instituted, as well as a kindergarten program.
Most recently in fall of 2018, the school office was moved to the first floor and the library was reconfigured with the addition of more student desktop computers.
According to Sheila Clancy, principal, the current enrollment at the school is 180 in preschool through eighth grade, with one-third of the students being non-Catholic.
Today’s students enjoy a curriculum of core courses in language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, as well as foreign languages, music, art, physical education and technology, all underpinned by religious education.
“The goal of a St. Francis education is to prepare our youth to become knowledgeable Christian members of their families, school and communities. We are very proud to do our part in shaping the future leaders of Clearfield County and beyond.”