Parishioners, students, teachers, parents and alumni gathered together on Saturday evening in celebration of the 125th anniversary of St. Boniface Catholic School and Parish, located along Main Street in Kersey, Fox Township.
The anniversary celebration began with a Mass at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner held inside the school cafeteria.
St. Boniface School Principal Marie Giazzoni welcomed all in attendance, including the Most Rev. Donald Trautman, bishop of the Erie Diocese.
"You have a great story to tell here and have every reason to be proud of St. Boniface School," said Bishop Trautman during his remarks. "St. Boniface School is a success story, let us tell the world about it."
At the beginning of the dinner, State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Elk/Clearfield) presented Giazzoni with a citation honoring the school's and parish's anniversary. Giazzoni also read another citation from U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) honoring the two entities.
First grade student Anna Lundin then said grace before the meal, which was prepared by school cook Diana Gahr.
Following the dinner, fifth grade students Hailee Agosti, Daniel Fritz, Jarret Ingram, Jackson Lindemuth, McKayla Wilson and Peter Pontzer, each read a short portion about the history of St. Boniface.
In 1884, Fr. John Link became pastor of St. Boniface Parish and encouraged the development of a school which opened on Feb. 2, 1885, with two classes being taught by Sister Benedict Blasius OSB and Sister Raphael Eitherlaub OSB.
At this time, St. Boniface School became the first Catholic school in Elk County and remains the oldest school still in operation in this portion of the Diocese of Erie.
In 1901, Fr. Frank Wagner became pastor. With the population and number of children increasing, it became necessary to add two rooms to the school. A total of three classes were taught.
Construction of a new and larger school began in 1955, as the old school was badly deteriorating. Fr. Charles Hacheri was pastor at the time, during which enrollment went from 98 students in 1950 to 180 students in four classrooms.
The new school opened in 1957 with eight grades being taught in six classrooms. Two new classrooms were added shortly thereafter along with a new kindergarten class in 1977 and a preschool program in 1988.
St. Boniface Parish School received its accreditation on Dec. 7, 1982 from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It was the first school in Elk County to establish an all-day kindergarten program in 2003, while at the same time its preschool program expanded to include three- and four-year- olds.
Wendy Gahr Noll was the featured alumni speaker at the event. After finishing at St. Boniface, Noll graduated from Elk County Christian High School in 1987 and obtained a bachelors degree from Gannon University and a masters degree in agricultural science from West Virginia University.
She and her family currently reside in Morgantown, W.V., where she is a soil scientist and GIS coordinator employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Noll recollected her time at St. Boniface, where she learned the four "Rs", reading, writing, arithmetic and religion, and also participated in a number of fundraisers, events and activities.
"I have had the opportunity to travel around this country and meet many great people because of the strong St. Boniface education," Noll said. "The strong example taught by my parents was reinforced here at St. Boniface."
Next, current fifth grade students McKayla Wilson and Jarret Ingram spoke about their favorite aspects of attending St. Boniface.
Kindergarten teacher Janet Dellaquila provided a teacher's perspective about the school.
Giazzoni then acknowledged all of the hard work from previous principals and teachers and staff, including priests and nuns as well as lay instructors.
St. Boniface Pastor, Fr. James Faluszczak, recognized the students' hard work and accomplishments over the years.
Bishop Trautman also provided his congratulations to the school and the parish on their anniversary.