Women’s school uses anniversary to celebrate its excellence

St. Catharine Academy’s original location on 152nd Street in Washington Heights. The school was founded there in 1888.
Photo courtesy of St. Catharine Academy

One Bronx educational institution is celebrating a big milestone this year.

St. Catharine Academy is turning 125, and will commemorate the anniversary with a series of events starting this September.

The school was founded in 1888 by the Sisters of Mercy on West 152nd Street in Manhattan, and moved to the current location in Pelham Parkway in 1953.

Over the years, the school’s curriculum has adapted to the times, said school president Sister Patricia Wolf, but the mission of educating women in leadership and service has been constant.

“Some things change, but the basic core values do not,” said Wolf.

The school has shifted to emphasizing Science, Math, Engineering and Technology to encourage and enable the students to take advantage of opportunities in the growing fields. More course options have also recently in art, said Wolf, because it can be applied to a wide variety of jobs.

These expanded choices give the students the chance to prepare for a wide variety of opportunities open to them. And although women have many more options when they graduate today than in earlier years, Wolf said the school has always worked to give women the skills and spirit to fulfill their potential.

“Even those early alumni say they were encouraged to do what they want,” said Wolf.

The tradition of girls-only education has also contributed to the long-time success of the school, said Wolf.

The female-driven environment means that the students can try things, take risks, and lead without the pressure of wondering what male classmates might think.

“It’s like a leadership incubator for women,” said Wolf. “I’ve seen it over and over again.”

The foundation of the school is the strong community of alumnae, said Wolf, who will be welcomed back to St. Catharine’s throughout the celebratory year.

She hopes that by interacting with alumnae spanning more than 50 years of St. Catharine’s education will inspire her students to continue carrying on the torch of traditions at the school.

There are four goals of the anniversary year, said Wolf.

They are: to honor the gifts of Catholic Mercy heritage; to celebrate the pursuit of academic excellence, women’s leadership, and service; to give witness to the contributions and achievements of alumnae; and to establish a firm financial footing for St. Catharine Academy.

“Each of our activities build on one or more of these goals,” said Wolf.

The year kicks-off with an Opening Liturgy and reception at the school on Saturday, September 13. The school will host a Turkey Trot around the school building on Saturday, November 29. In the spring they will host a “Makers: Women Who Make America” panel and discussion on March 21, and a Women of Distinction Gala Dinner honoring alumnae on April 23. The year will close with a liturgy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on September 13, 2015.

Wolf, who graduated from St. Catharine Academy in 1962, said she’s honored to be a part of all the celebrations.

“It means the world to me,” said Wolf. “I’m very proud I’m an alum and president at the time of the 125th anniversary.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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