SEPTEMBER 1952—THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR ST. JEROME’S
Submitted by Anita M. Mance, Historian
The history of St. Jerome’s School began with the dream of the CYA—Columbus Youth Association. In 1938, under the direction of Pastor Father Bernard Gefell, the parish organized the CYA as a way to give ER youth a place of recreation. It was located on the third floor of the Eyer Building. The Church paid rent to use the area. The programs were open to all youth regardless of religious affiliation. There, youth could play basketball, ping pong, chess, checkers and learn photography techniques. It remained there until 1947, when the building was sold. In order to continue to have a place for youth activities, Father Gefell decided to build a recreation center on the corner of West Avenue and South Garfield on property owned by the church. The hall would also be used for St. Jerome’s religious and social functions. The building opened in 1948 with most of the construction costs paid thanks to the support and generosity of Father Gefell. Programs included: crafts, woodworking, photography, basketball, boxing, movies, and dances. Father Gefell lived until 1950, and saw his vision of a place for youth to play and learn come to fruition. While his dream of a school did not happen during his lifetime, the beginnings of a place for children had been accomplished. It remained for the next Pastor of St. Jerome’s, Father Morphy, to complete the dream.
Having a school of their own had long been a dream of church leaders. However, renovations to the CYA, church, and rectory prevented work on a school until 1952. Conditions were becoming crowded in the public school, and many parents wanted a religious alternative for their children. Arrangements were made for the use of two rooms on the second floor in the CYA for the beginning of a Catholic school in East Rochester. And so, the first year for St. Jerome’s School began September 3, 1952, in the CYA building. Kindergarten and First Grade were the two grade levels offered with the hope of adding another grade each year. Reverend Mother Helene, Superior General of the Sisters of St. Joseph, selected some of the finest nuns for the school. Sister Jamesetta Slattery was chosen to be Principal, Sister Anne Michelle was asked to teach Kindergarten, and Sister Laura was chosen for First Grade. Thirty-eight children were registered for Kindergarten and twenty-five for First Grade. The first Kindergarten graduation was held on June 2, 1953. By the fall of 1953, Kindergarten-Grade 2 registration totaled 118 children.
With the consent and advice of Bishop Kearney, a decision to build a school next to the CYA was announced in the spring of 1953. A fundraising campaign began in October, with pledges totaling $205,000. In June 1954, work began on the construction of the school. This building opened in September 1955, with Sister William Margaret as its first permanent Principal. The building would house grades K-8, and would include a principal’s office, nurse’s office, library, faculty room, and lunchroom. Later, in 1958, a convent was built on West Filbert Street next to the school building. The CYA closed in 1965 when the school had expanded and needed more room. St. Jerome’s School was very successful for many years. However, due to declining enrollment, the school closed in 1987. The dream had lasted for 35 years.