A Look Back Through the Years
The First 50 Years
York Catholic High School was founded to serve the Catholic community of the York Deanery, York County, and nearby areas. Plans for the high school were implemented in 1927. Originally named St. Mary’s High School, and located on South George Street in York, the school received full State recognition by 1929 and was renamed York Catholic. Three Sisters of Saint Francis made up the faculty and on June 11, 1929, three females received their diplomas as the first graduating class of York Catholic High School.
Athletic teams were introduced in 1931 and have long been an integral part of York Catholic’s history. The teams were born in humble beginnings: they wore hand-me-down blue uniforms from Mount Saint Mary’s College. The original nickname for YC teams was “Dukes.” School historians note that because of strong anti-Catholic sentiments at the time, many games involved fights where players had to “put up their dukes,” and numerous games were suspended mid-contest and never completed because of the brawls.
In 1938, the school uniform was introduced: girls wore jumpers, the boys coats and ties. In 1940, additional space was needed to accommodate the increased enrollment of 309 and the high school was moved to West King Street.
In 1948, students sang their Alma Mater, “Fondly, We Hail Thee,” for the first time. Father Fitzpatrick, the principal at the time, composed the music and Sister Maria Leona, I.H.M. and Sister Catherine Gertrude, S.S. J., wrote the lyrics. That same year, YC won its first state championship in boys’ basketball. In the early 50s, the athletic teams’ nickname was changed to the “Fighting Irish.”
As enrollment continued to grow, it soon became evident that York Catholic would have to expand even further or build to meet the large influx of students. In 1954, Catholic authorities purchased land adjoining Memorial Park as the site for the new high school. Ground was broken in September of 1957 and the new building was opened to receive students in September of 1959.
New Building… Same Tradition
Students settled into the new building and focused on the academic regimen that has become a tradition of excellence. Student fund raising allowed the construction of a school chapel in 1965 and students and faculty now had a dedicated space for Mass, reflection, and spiritual services.
In 1978, during York Catholic’s Golden Anniversary year, the Fighting Irish boys’ basketball team won the state championship on St. Patrick’s Day. The following year, they repeated the title and the girls’ team also won the state championship. This was the first time one school won both titles in the same year in the history of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. The cross country team earned state championships in 1983 and 1985. The boys’ basketball team completed an undefeated season in 1987 with yet another state championship.
The first issue of “Greensleeves” was printed in 1986 and continues to keep alumni up-to-date on their alma mater and their classmates. In 1989, major renovations to parts of the building provided a new chapel, an art room, an attendance office, a computer room, and a career/guidance room.
In 1990, the boys’ basketball team won another state championship and the Gaelic Club was established to recognize major contributors to the school. The Junior High program for grades 7 and 8 began in September, 1992 and during that school year the building expanded to accommodate a weight room and storage areas. The football field was created on campus and the library was computerized.
With the turn of the century, many upgrades were made to the building including remodeling the auditorium and lobby, refurbishing the cafeteria, replacing the windows with energy-saving glass, building a prayer garden dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and creating a peaceful prayer grotto dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
The athletic teams continued to win numerous division, league, district, and state championships in multiple sports. The girls’ basketball made state history by winning 10 consecutive District titles and competed in the state championship 7 times since 2006, winning gold in 3 of those trips.
In 2018, York Catholic embarked on its first Capital Campaign to revive our facilities in three specific areas: (1) Academic, (2) Student Life, and (3) Extra-Curricular. In 2019, classrooms were updated and accommodated with air conditioning, a turf field was placed at the stadium, and an elevator was installed. Additional projects are planned in the summer of 2020 including renovated science labs, creation of a lobby-level student center, and relocation of the chapel. The 2nd Phase of the Capital Campaign includes renovation of the Junior High wing and additions to the stadium including grandstands, concession stand, locker rooms, and restrooms.
Founded upon the principles of the Catholic philosophy of education, York Catholic continues to nurture academically strong, faith-filled young men and women ready to fulfill their roles in church and the community. The family continues to grow and the tradition of excellence endures.