The mission of Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School is to support the growth and development of our students by modeling a faith-filled life, encouraging self empowerment, inspiring the pursuit of excellence and by promoting global knowledge in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The History of Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School
The history of Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School is a living testament to the dedicated men and women who shared the vision of Catholic education in Athens, Georgia. Bishop Gross of Savannah purchased the site of Saint Joseph Church on the corner of Prince and Pulaski streets in 1873. At that time, there were only ten Catholic families living in Athens.
In 1910, after years of service from traveling priests, Saint Joseph Church got its first resident priest, and with him came visions of a future that includes us all. Father Harry Clark came to Athens with enthusiasm and foresight. In 1913, a large church building and rectory were completed. This would house a school one day. The dream of Catholic education in Athens was on its way to becoming a reality. In 1944, 28 years after the construction of the first rectory, parishioners voiced interest in establishing a Catholic school.
In the fall of 1949, under the careful direction of Father Walter J. Donovan, Saint Joseph Church began their school with 35 students in grades 1 through 6 on the bottom floor of the rectory. The people of Saint Joseph Parish worked together to enlarge the basement of the rectory/school building in order to provide space for a cafeteria and meeting room for parishioners. The faculty consisted of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus whose community so lovingly ran St. Mary's Hospital. The first principal was Sister Maria. The dream of Catholic education continued throughout the 1950s as the Athens community grew along with the number of families joining Saint Joseph Church. Five years after the first academic year the student population had increased fourfold from 35 to 170. In 1953, Father Donovan received permission to expand the current school to include grade seven.
The Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart withdrew from Saint Joseph School in 1968. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, took over the administration of Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School.
Three hundred students celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School with renewed dedication to Catholic education and a need for a larger facility. Having secured permission from the Archdiocese to build a new school, Father Calhoun appointed a special building committee. In 1984, four hundred students were welcomed into the new building.
Again, in 2000, the school saw the need for additional facilities; in 2001, modular buildings were purchased to house the middle school - grades 6-8. The new facility added six additional classrooms to the school along with more office space.
Two important milestones in the history of Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School were celebrated in the 1999-2000 school year:
Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School celebrated fifty years of providing excellence in education and religious instruction to the Athens community.
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of providing educational leadership at Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School.
The dream of Catholic education in Athens continues to be fulfilled by the hard work, determination, and dedication of the fine men and women of Saint Joseph Parish and the Athens community. Years have passed since Father Clark first dreamed of a Catholic school in Athens. Saint Joseph Catholic Parish School is a testament to his vision.
The administration of the school changed as of July 1, 2005, as the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary withdrew due to the diminishing numbers of teaching Sisters. The new administration assumed responsibility in July of 2005.
In 2004, under the direction of Father David McGuinness, the Saint Joseph Community was asked to begin serious study of how to accommodate growth. As a result, many people gathered and analyzed information on all areas of need. It was decided to explore the feasibility of acquiring new property that could eventually house all our current needs and provide for future growth. In the Fall of 2006, Saint Joseph Parish began Phase I of its Capital Campaign to raise money for future facilities. Saint Joseph Parish purchased 46 acres on Epps Bridge Parkway on the Clarke/Oconee line and began building the school and multipurpose building. We are currently in Phase II of our Capital Campaign, Forward in Faith: The Future is NOW! Phase II continues to raise $3 million towards the $6 million cost for the construction of the school, a multipurpose building with a gymnasium, chapel, and walking track. Thanks to the donations and pledges of many people, the new school and multipurpose building opened for the 2012-13 school year.