Building on a Strong Foundation of Excellence
Pope Francis High School in Springfield, MA offers its students the best of what its legacy schools, Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School, have to offer.
Pope Francis High School was established by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield through the merger of Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic in 2016. The new regional Catholic high school provides a beautiful, safe environment for students to worship, learn and succeed.
Cathedral High School History
On the morning of September 3rd, 1883, a small group of students marched up the winding stairs of Springfield’s St. Michael’s Cathedral and into two storerooms that had been converted into classrooms. It was day one of the storied history of Cathedral High School.
The increasing number of Catholic immigrants living in the Springfield area had prompted Bishop Patrick T. O’Reilly to seek a teaching staff for a high school. Ten members of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Flushing, New York were sent in response to the bishop’s request. Nellie McQuade and doctrine, Latin, English, algebra and history. Greek and French were added in the sophomore year, and the sciences offered in this classical tract were physics and chemistry. Cathedral also offered in those early days a series of commercial classes that included writing, spelling, shorthand, typing, and bookkeeping. Upon the death of Bishop O’Reilly, his successor Thomas Beaven had the foresight to convert the old convent on Elliot Street into the new home of Cathedral High School.
In the 1950s, the growing high school age population in the greater Springfield area brought about the necessity of a larger building. Under the direction of Bishop Christopher Weldon, the diocese purchased the 30-acre Simon Kervick farm at Wendover and Surrey Roads. Ground was broken for the present school on March 17th, 1958, and the “new” Cathedral opened its doors on September 9th, 1959. This date marks the first time that Cathedral students wore uniforms, consisting of a green wool blazer, plaid wool skirt, tailored white blouse, white socks and saddle shoes for girls, and a gray wool blazer, white dress shirt, tie and color-coordinated pants for boys. Both uniform blazers displayed the Cathedral seal on the left breast pocket.
While the school’s size and location have changed over the years, the core mission and the quality education offered have not changed. Cathedral today is a college preparatory school, where 99% of our graduates continue their education at some of the nation’s best private and public colleges and universities.
On June 1st, 2011, a tornado swept through Western Mass with Cathedral directly in its path, rendering the school unusable. The diocese rented the Memorial School in Wilbraham, and with much hard work Cathedral High School was able to open for the fall semester in September 2011.
Holyoke Catholic High School History
In the early part of the 20th century many Roman Catholic churches started schools to educate children of their parish. Though the schools were relatively successful, they were small and it was difficult for small parish high schools to offer competitive athletic programs. Monsignor Timothy J. Leary, headmaster and athletic director at St. Jerome High School in Holyoke, had the idea to bring parish teams together to play as one so they could compete against larger high schools. In the fall of 1947, the parish high schools of Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart, and St. Jerome played sports for the first time under the banner of Holyoke Catholic. “So that all may be one” was the motto for Holyoke Catholic. The athletic partnership proved successful and in 1963 the Diocese of Springfield would officially merge the three parish high schools to form one school, Holyoke Catholic High School. Later, the high school Precious Blood Parish would also join Holyoke Catholic. Holyoke Catholic High School, although composed of students from the four founding schools, began to serve an increasing number of students from throughout western Massachusetts. Neighboring cities and towns saw Holyoke Catholic as an option in education, and the school grew into a larger regional high school.
At first the school was located in the building at St. Jerome Parish in Holyoke. Soon, however, the school found the need to use other buildings in the neighboring area. Temporary trailers were also brought in to accommodate a student population from throughout western Massachusetts. After several decades of use, the buildings’ condition had deteriorated, and the Holyoke location was forced to close. During the summer of 2002, the school moved to the site of the former St. Hyacinth Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts. Holyoke Catholic stayed in Granby for six years. The campus, though large, was isolated, and the search for a more suitable permanent home continued. In 2008, the Assumption Parish School property near Elms College on Springfield Street in Chicopee was selected and in this location a new school was constructed. This new proximity to Elms College fostered a partnership involving the use of some Elms facilities and the opportunity for Holyoke Catholic students to take courses at Elms.
Despite the moves to Granby and Chicopee, St. Jerome Parish in Holyoke continued to be the location for its commencement ceremonies.
Pope Francis High School
In the spring of 2015, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski announced that Cathedral High School and Holyoke Catholic High School would merge into a new regional Catholic school beginning in 2016. He accepted a recommendation of the joint Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic high schools’ Student Advisory Committee to call the new regional Catholic high school Pope Francis in honor of the current Pope.
Currently located in the city of Chicopee at the Holyoke Catholic High School (former Assumption Parish School) on Springfield Street, a new facility is planned for the former location of Cathedral High School at the intersection of Surrey Road and Wendover Road in Springfield. Beginning in 2016, both Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic High School students will attend Pope Francis High School at the Chicopee location. The new school in Springfield is expected to open for the 2018-2019 school year.