St. Peter School
One cannot begin to reflect upon St. Peter School and its history without having the name of Monsignor William Botticelli come to mind. Today we stand, 50 years later, as a tribute to his foresight and the determination of many dedicated parishioners.
Monsignor Botticelli arranged for the Religious Teachers Filippini, a community dedicated to the Christian education of youth, to come to St. Peter Parish in 1944 to assist him in the instruction of the youth in the parish. For ten years, the Sisters were involved in catechetical instruction, parish census, adult education, music, and home visitations.
In 1954, it was decided that an elementary school, for the purpose of providing Catholic instruction and education for the children of the parish, would be opened. Classes were to be held in the St. Peter Community House, beginning with a kindergarten class and adding a new grade each year until a full elementary school, with grades kindergarten through eight, would be in operation.
In August of 1955, a devastating flood destroyed the Community House, along with many other buildings in the heart of Torrington. The flood caused the 1955-56 kindergarten classes of St. Peter School to attend local schools for their kindergarten class.
The parish community was determined to provide Catholic education for their children. On January 8, 1956, a campaign to raise funds for a rectory and school was inaugurated. The goal was set for $150,000. Then the campaign closed two months later, a total of $252,000 in cash and pledges had been received. Through their generous response to this noble cause, the parishioners of St. Peter Church manifested their faith, courage, and spirit of sacrifice.
Ground was broken on February 20, 1956. The school was completed in record time by the contractor Julius Bonvicini. His cooperation made it possible for the school year to begin without delay.
A total of 91 students were registered for the first, second, and third grades on opening day, September 5, 1956. Kindergarten classes opened on September 10, 1956 with 40 students in attendance.
Sister Mary Patti, M.P.F. was the first principal. Other faculty members were Sister Sebastian Favara, M.P.F., Sister Judith Serra, M.P.F. and Mrs. Roland Calabrese. The Religious Teachers Filippini have continued to staff the school to the present time. There have been many dedicated teachers who have cooperated with the sister over these past 50 years, contributing to the education of youth at St. Peter School.
On September 23, 1956, the Most Reverend Henry O’Brien, Archbishop of Hartford, laid the cornerstone. Documents and a personal note from Monsignor Botticelli were cemented into the cornerstone of the school. The Archbishop then proceeded with the blessing of the individual classrooms and the school building in general.
In 1982, Sacred Heart School in Torrington closed its doors and in 1984, St. Mary School also closed, changing the ethnic population of the school. Many students from those two schools enrolled at St. Peter School at that time. Changes in enrollment numbers and ethnicity of the school occurred.
During the late 1980s, the predominately Italian population living near the church and school decreased. Since this time, the school body has become more culturally diverse.
During this period, our mission and purpose never wavered. We educate students who will be Christ-like leaders with a background rooted in Catholic truth and tradition. Integrating the knowledge of the Catholic tradition and blending these truths with academic, social and personal growth, we
aim to provide an atmosphere in St. Peter School that is intellectually, socially and spiritually alive.
From 1985 until June 2006, Sister Annette D'Antonio, M.P.F. served as Principal of St. Peter School. The present Principal of St. Peter School is Mrs. Jo-Anne Gauger and the Vice Principal is Sister Carmela DiMauro.
St. Francis School
On August 29, 1893, the Sisters of Mercy arrived from Meriden at the invitation of the Reverend Patrick Duggan to staff the newly founded St. Francis of Assisi parochial school, built behind the church by Farley Construction Company. The same company was engaged again in 1904 to erect the Chapel building, which housed the administrative offices and some classrooms and was connected by a tunnel to the original school building. In 1949 the Parish Mothers’ Club, now the St. Francis Women’s Club, sponsored the establishment of a cafeteria in the Chapel building. Reverend John Finn, principal from 1949–1952, was instrumental in getting the school into the national school lunch program. In 1949 a gymnasium was established in the upper floor of the
In 1962, during the pastorate of the Right Reverend Monsignor John J. Loughlin, Oneglia and Gervasini, General Contractors, built the current school at 360 Prospect Street , complete with 16 classrooms, a full-size gymnasium, cafeteria, and kitchen. On a chilly day in December 1962, more than 600 students packed up their desks and carried their belongings up Main Street to the new school building.
During the 1960s and early ‘70s the school flourished and families from outside Torrington were not allowed to send their children to the school. A lottery was established for Torrington residents to select those children who could attend. By the end of the ‘70s, society had changed radically, religious vocations had dwindled, and many of the remaining religious sisters had chosen to work in hospitals and prisons rather than schools. St. Francis School had no choice but to hire more lay teachers and tuition subsequently increased. With enrollment down, the double classroom system was eliminated in the mid 1970s to contain costs. In 1981 the school established a half-day kindergarten program, which became a full-day program in 1989. The last Sister of Mercy to serve as principal was Sr. Joan Marie Prisavage, from 1978–1985. In the early 1990s, Principal Sr. Margaret Mary Kennedy, O.P., initiated the afterschool program. For the centennial celebration a half-day preschool program was started for children aged three and four.
In 1997, Mrs. Margaret Carabelli was appointed as the first lay principal in the school’s history.
The school’s current principal, Mrs. Jo-Anne Gauger, was appointed to the position in July 2002 after 17 years as a teacher at St. Francis.
One of the true strengths of St. Francis School lies in its diversity. When the school was founded, Father Duggan was able to say that every child of school age in his parish was attending St. Francis. The school was very cosmopolitan at the time, with students representing nearly every country in Europe and even some in Asia and Africa. To this day St. Francis strives for diversity, accepting children of all races, ethnicities, and faiths.
St. Francis graduates are also distinguished by their emphasis on community service and motivation to succeed in whatever endeavors they choose to pursue. One need only look at the professionals and business owners of Torrington to see the tremendous impact the school has had upon the city and surrounding towns. Among the many notable alumni are Judge Patricia Wald ’40, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Rosazza ’48, and Rev. Robert Tucker ’56. The past two mayors of Torrington , Owen Quinn and Mary Jane Schroeder Gryniuk, are graduates of the school, as is Chamber of Commerce president Joann Ryan.
The success of the school lies in its families and its support from the community, and we consider it a great honor that several of the children at the school today are third- or fourth-generation St. Francis students. The school’s sense of tradition and its high academics and moral standards continue to serve the students themselves. At a time when so many children attend large, impersonal institutions, our students are blessed with the advantages of a family-based school.