Downtown Harrisburg has been home to Catholic education dating back to 1828, some 40 years before the Diocese of Harrisburg would be established. In 1873, the Diocese’s first bishop, Jeremiah Shanahan, established St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral school, housed in an antiquated wooden building that was poorly lighted and heated by small stoves under a leaky roof. Seeing the need to grow the school, Bishop Shanahan broke ground on a new school in the 1880s. Then in 1951, Bishop George Leech dedicated the current building – the St. Patrick Building – which has housed the school for the past seven decades directly behind the Cathedral on State Street.
May 26, 2021, marked a new chapter for Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School, as ground was broken by Bishop Ronald Gainer, Father Joshua Brommer, pastor and rector of the Cathedral Parish, and David Rushinski, principal, for a new educational facility that will give the school and the parish expanded educational capabilities.
Next year, Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School will celebrate its 10th anniversary. During the past decade, the school has brought students together not only from the Cathedral Parish, but from St. Francis of Assisi, and Holy Family parishes. The new facility will allow the school community to be in one location once again, as currently the school’s lower grades are enrolled at the Holy Family Church campus some four miles away from the Cathedral.
“The new facility will bring many, many opportunities to our school here in the downtown,” Rushinski said. “As a staff, we can collaborate, families can come together much easier, and the downtown offers so many educational opportunities like the State Museum, Whitaker Center and libraries that the upper grades have had access to, and now our younger students will benefit in those great educational opportunities.”
The new building will house ten state-of-the-art classrooms, according to Father Brommer, as well as a STEM lab, art and music facilities and a new dining hall. The Cathedral Education Center construction project will begin in early June, and the structure will return the school to its original roots planted so long ago before the Diocese existed.
According to the school, tuition will not be increased this coming year.
“We are happy and excited to begin Phase I of the Cathedral Education Center project,” Father Brommer said prior to the groundbreaking. “This first phase strengthens the security and accessibility of our school and lays the foundation for future phases of renovation for Harrisburg Catholic Elementary…securing another 150 years of Catholic education in the downtown.”
In his remarks prior to blessing the grounds, Bishop Gainer told the students, faculty and dozens of supporters assembled that it is a beautiful image to keep in mind that we are co-workers with God as we build the future. “This building will be a symbol of our vitality to the entire community here in Harrisburg,” Bishop Gainer said.
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness