On Wednesday, August 23, Holy Trinity Catholic School in York opened for year five, and Nicole Pasch, director of development and marketing, pulled out all the stops for the school’s opening day.
Downtown, the mascot of the York Revs baseball team was on hand to give high-fives and hugs. Mayor Michael Helfrich and York City Police were there with their K-9 partners; the dogs were delighted to accept hugs and pets from excited children.
Tim Pasch, founder and CEO of Pasch Companies, was on hand to present a $50,000 check from the Pasch Foundation in the form of EITC money to Holy Trinity. He is a strong supporter and product of Catholic education and said he was honored to be able to provide tuition assistance money to families pursuing Catholic education for their children.
For Nicole Pasch, the day was perfect. “I’m just so proud,” she said. “We have an incredible staff and faculty. It took us the first five years to build to where we are, but we have worked very hard to have good people in place.”
“Our staff are all-in,” she added. “They’re all-in for wanting what’s best for these kids, and they are to be commended for being supportive during the tough times.”
In addition to celebrating five years, Holy Trinity welcomed a new principal, John Scimeca, this fall. With his arrival, Pasch says she sees opportunities for further growth and development.
For his part, Scimeca attributes his arrival at Holy Trinity to “a God-nudge.” Earlier this year, as his children approached school age, he and his wife knew it was time to relocate closer to family.
“We knew we were going to move to the area where Kate’s parents are,” he said, referring to his wife, who is a native of York and an alumna of St. Joseph’s in Dallastown.
Scimeca said he and his wife had already enrolled their older two children at Holy Trinity when the principal position came open. “I really felt like it was a God-nudge,” he said, “for a position to open just seven miles from my in-laws. It’s the best-case scenario for us to be here.”
A life-long product of Catholic education, Scimeca says he thinks one of the best features of Catholic schools is that “children are told things here they aren’t told in public schools. They’re told they’re loved and special.”
The support children get is evident to parents as well and is the biggest reason they have chosen Holy Trinity for their children.
“We wanted faith to be an important part of our children’s education, so we chose to send them to a Catholic school rather than a public school,” said Carolyn Smith. “I am an alumna of St. Patrick’s School and was happy to see the school continuing to thrive so I could send my children there as well. We love that the school is smaller and each teacher knows every child’s name. As parents, we know the school is student-focused and cares about each child. We also appreciate the diversity shared within the school which is an important aspect of respect, belonging and friendship.”
PTO president Becca Skehan echoed those sentiments. “My husband, Joe, and his seven siblings all graduated from St. Pat’s. My daughter started at Holy Trinity in 2019, its founding year. We have been blessed to be a part of this wonderful school community which has allowed our children to grow in faith and intellectual curiosity. There’s no better way to celebrate Holy Trinity’s five years than by welcoming Principal Scimeca, whose experience and dedication to Catholic education are true assets to the school.”
For Aida Gonzalez, enrolling her daughter in HTCS led to a full-time job. “I loved the school from the first day I went to the open house. The school is very welcoming and I felt like family. Holy Trinity Catholic School was the school I chose for my daughter and it was the best decision I made. The most important things for me are founding values and Catholic education. I want to continue adding to the blessings that this school has given me and my family. Today, I am the new cafeteria manager of the school. I am very happy to be here again. I am very grateful to Mr. Scimeca and Mrs. Pasch for giving me this great opportunity,” she added.
For other parents, the safety and security a Catholic school offers is what drew them. Erika Solorio said she chose Holy Trinity because “my son suffered a lot from bullying at the public school he attended. I like that everyone is a very good person with all the children and with the parents, and that there is a lot of communication.”
Communication is key, and Scimeca’s bilingual fluency is a welcome addition and enormous benefit to the school.
“The fact he’s bilingual is huge. Just huge. It’s awesome that he can reach out to our families in their native language, that he’s able to interface directly with them without needing a translator, without needing to bring another person in to what may be a sensitive situation,” Pasch said.
When Scimeca started in July, the school’s faculty was in flux. “I got to shape the (hiring) process, and it was really helpful to meet the candidates and be part of the interview process,” he said. The school is fully staffed, and despite the national teacher shortage, Scimeca said there was no shortage of qualified candidates seeking to teach at Holy Trinity.
“We really had a lot of good, qualified candidates,” he said. “They know teaching at a Catholic school, they’re answering a call – answering God’s call.”
“Mr. Scimeca has been a wonderful addition to our Holy Trinity family. He is very thorough, and has really taken the time to get to know all of us and has appreciated our input. I am excited to be supported and encouraged! Although I wasn’t here for the start, I am so excited to be a part of the continued success of our school,” said Gabriella Wilt, second-grade teacher. This is her third year teaching at Holy Trinity.
The school opened in 2019, the result of a merger between St. Joseph School, Dallastown, and St. Patrick School, York.
“From when it was formed, the conversations started,” regarding Immaculate Conception being a supporting parish, said Father John Kuchinski, pastor.
“The Holy Trinity enrollment has grown,” he said. “St. Mary’s has more students (at the school) than the other two parishes combined.”
The difference between an affiliated parish, which St. Mary’s was previously, and a supporting parish, which it is now, comes down to how budgets are calculated.
“We have, as a parish, a financial obligation to Catholic education,” he explained. As an affiliated parish, St. Mary’s was charged on a per-student basis for enrollment at Holy Trinity, but the assessment can’t exceed a certain percentage of the budget. For the last several years, the per-pupil assessment has exceeded that number.
“With so many (St. Mary’s) students, it made sense to rearrange the relationship,” Father Kuchinski said. On the advice of the parish’s finance council, and in consultation with Daniel Breen, Diocesan Secretary for Education, St. Mary’s sent a letter to Bishop Gainer, petitioning for a change in status. That was granted by the Bishop in one of his final acts before his official retirement.
“We’re excited to have a seat at the table,” Father Kuchinski said. “They have really good people who are really committed to Catholic education. Tremendous work has been done, building to where we are now. The time was right for us to make this decision.”
With St. Mary’s on board in a new capacity, Pasch says she sees that as the first step in continued growth. “Our growth encompasses not just our parishes, but other parishes and public schools as well. We’re reaching the people we need to,” she said.
“I feel so blessed to have this opportunity,” Scimeca said. “God calls us all to do extraordinary things, and I hope we can make Holy Trinity extraordinary.”
(Lauren Gross is a freelance writer for The Catholic Witness. Photos courtesy of Holy Trinity Catholic School.)
By Lauren Gross, Special to The Witness