In 1895 in response to the growing population in the area of Passyunk, Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan
established a new parish named St. Monica. Father Owen P. McManus was appointed pastor and directed “to undertake the work of organizing the new parish and building a church on Ritner Street between 17th and 18th Streets with the church to be so built as to be used as church and school for the present.” (50th Anniversary Parish History)
Groundbreaking took place for a permanent church in 1901 and was dedicated April 30, 1903. In 1906,
the parish broke ground for St. Monica School beside the church on Ritner Street and it was dedicated
November 2, 1908. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who had been teaching
Sunday school since the foundation of the parish in 1895, agreed to staff the school. Six hundred children
from the rapidly growing parish filled the school.
By 1920, the number of families in the parish had grown from 150 to 1,100. The flu epidemic of 1919 impacted many families and in response to the needs of many parishioners who were left single parents, the pastor at the time, Father John Walsh, opened the St. Monica Day Nursery at 1615 Porter Street. In 1920, he established the St. Monica Business School enabling many students to acquire training and preparation for the business world. The IHM Sisters staffed both facilities.
In 1944, Father Aloysius F.X. Farrell was appointed pastor of St. Monica’s. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the parish, Father Farrell renovated the Church and in 1945 he established a Kindergarten. As a result of the growing school population, the Baldwin Public Elementary School at 16th and Porter Streets was purchased in 1956 as a temporary annex. On September 23, 1962, Cardinal John J. Krol blessed and dedicated the newly constructed Senior School on this same site. The new building included a cafeteria, gymnasium, and an adjacent bowling alley.
In the summer of 1964, the original Ritner Street school was razed and the foundation for a new Junior
School building was laid. Cardinal Krol dedicated this new building on September 8, 1965. This building
included a cafeteria, library and four classrooms for the Business School. In 1971, the Protestant Church
property at the corner of 15th and Porter Streets was purchased. This building was razed and a modern
Day Care Facility erected. Three, four and five-year-old children whose parents work attend this program.
The school population continued to grow and peaked in the early 1980’s with over 1200 students. The school had four sections of every grade with 40 plus students in each. With a declining birthrate and exodus to the suburbs, the school population dipped slightly through the 1990’s. The Business School closed in 1995 and classroom space made available to the Junior School for a music room, gym room, tutoring and storage. When St. Edmond’s School closed in 1998 a number of students transferred to St. Monica School so that the enrollment was over 800 students.
Upon his retirement in 2001, Bishop DeSimone established the St. Monica School Education Fund to provide tuition assistance for needy families. Father Paul Quinter became pastor in June of 2001 and continued the long tradition of support and commitment to Catholic education. As of 2002-2003 St. Monica School had an enrollment of 633 students with three sections of Grades 1 – 8 and four half-day sessions of Kindergarten. Classrooms have been divided to create counseling rooms, offices, and tutoring space. Each school had one classroom set up as a computer lab. During the 2002-2003 school year, a wireless network and internet access were installed in both schools and upgraded most recently in September 2014. In the summer of 2003, a new computer lab, made possible by a grant from the Sullivan Foundation, was installed in the Junior School. Father Quinter’s appointment to Rome in March 2003 necessitated the naming of a new pastor, Father Joseph Kelley, whose ministry for many years has been in Catholic secondary education.
This experience in Catholic education, coupled with Father’s pastoral leadership, inspires great hope and confidence in the future of St. Monica School despite many challenges facing Catholic education today.
Father Kelley has overseen several integral changes to St. Monica School that have made the institution a hub for spiritual guidance and innovative instruction. Recently the school acquired and integrated many technological resources such as Smartboards in every classroom, laptops, iPads, and Google Chromebooks. This technology is utilized in making daily instruction dynamic and relevant to 21st century learners. Furthermore, the installation of a state-of-the-art science lab enables students to have a unique, hands-on experience in participating in STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) activities, while the incorporation of a new music program and school band nurtures the whole student. With the implementation of these essential innovations, the students of St. Monica School gain necessary skills to be competitive in an ever-changing global marketplace while continuing Christ’s mission of spiritual growth. Faculty, staff, and administration have also been empowered through these upgrades and the continual support of Father Kelley to encourage students to be lifelong learners, compete in the global marketplace, and be Catholic role models and productive members of society.