Fifty years ago on Sept. 10, students and faculty entered into the brand-new Elk County Christian High School. Now called Elk County Catholic High School (ECCHS) and part of the Elk County Catholic School System (ECCSS), the school community is excited to celebrate this milestone with many different events and activities.
On Thursday, Aug. 30, beginning at 5 p.m., a Mass and the Friends and Family Picnic and bonfire will be held; on Friday, Aug. 31, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., an open house and tours of ECCHS during the school day will be offered so that visitors may have the opportunity to see what students are doing and see what has changed and what has not inside the building over the years. That same evening beginning at 7 p.m., a social with pizza and wings will be held at Gunners Restaurant; an RSVP is appreciated for planning purposes. The social features entertainment in the form of a band and there will be a cover charge at the door. On Saturday, Sept. 1, tee times between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. will be available for foursomes at Bavarian Hills Golf Course; it is not a tournament format, just a chance to get out on the greens and visit with friends old and new, and there is a special rate for ECC alumni. Planners will also hold a tailgate for attendees with an alumni tent during the varsity football game against Smethport beginning at noon at St. Marys Area High School. A dinner/dance will be held Saturday evening at The Red Fern from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with a cash bar and a cost of $25 per person. Mass will be held at the auditorium at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 2, followed by a "State of the School" talk and a complimentary continental breakfast by the ECCHS Alumni Association and the ECCSS Advancement Office. On Monday, Sept. 10, a school system-wide Mass with Bishop Donald W. Trautman, will be held along with a rededication of the school, burying a time capsule, and planting a tree. RSVPs for the open house, Gunners, golf foursomes at Bavarian Hills, dinner/dance, and breakfast following the Mass on Sept. 2 are requested by Friday, Aug. 24. RSVP forms listing the events are available at the ECCSS Advancement Office, 114 Queens Rd., St. Marys; and are also available online at 222.eccss.org/50thanniversary. Completed forms may be returned to the office and questions may be directed to email@example.com or by calling 814-834-1480.
ECCHS was built to replace Central Catholic High School, which had served the area well but was no longer ideal structurally. Sept. 10, 2012 will mark 50 years to the day the school opened its doors, according to ECCSS Advancement Director Mary Meyer, a Class of 1965 graduate who was part of the school's first sophomore class at ECCHS, fondly called ECC by many.
"I was in the first sophomore class (at ECC), so I had a taste of both. I had a touch of Central and then the first class at Elk Catholic," Meyer said. "It was just so different from Central. It was a new building, a new way of doing things because we now had a headmaster. We wore uniforms, which we didn't have prior to that. We had special lockers. It was big stuff to go there as a sophomore. It was a big transition."
The new building also brought in new faces from all over Elk County.
"That was fun for us, too, because we now had students coming from Ridgway, Johnsonburg. We made new friends. I have lots of friends that I still know that were from the outlying areas that we didn't have when we were at Central," Meyer said.
Fr. Michael Ferrick, the president of ECCSS and pastor of Queen of the World Church, said ECCH's construction came about because community residents wanted to be able to provide a continuous Catholic education to anyone who desired it.
He said while changes throughout the school system have taken place throughout the years, including the consolidation of the various buildings and schools into one system, some important and central principles have not.
"Growing up, my home pastor was Father Martin, or Msgr. Martin, who was the founding headmaster at Elk Catholic, or Elk Christian, and he died in 2006, a couple months before I was assigned here. But he always used to, again, being an outsider coming into St. Marys, I can remember him talking about how dedicated people in this area, St. Marys, were, are, to Catholic education," Ferrick said. "The move from Central to a regional school, really could, people could have really fought it. But again, people saw the vision. They saw the good in what they were doing. And they supported it. And that's why we're here 50 years later.