The dream of St. Joseph School began with the first pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Fr. William Fitzsimmons. In the 1920″s Fr. Fitzsimmons started a building fund to which parishioners donated twenty-five cents per week. Although this was during the time of the Depression, enough money was raised to purchase the property on which the school is built. Fr. Fitzsimmons’ dream was not realized during his lifetime, as he died in 1933. He was succeeded by Father James Vincent Hussion, who died in 1936, also prior to the building of the school.
Under the pastorate of of Fr. Denis O’Brien, A renowned scholar and educator of Mount St. Charles in Maryland, who also studied in France and Germany, the building of St. Joseph School in January 1937 was announced. The corner stone was set in place on May 30, 1937 before 800 parishioners.
St. Joseph School opened in September 1937 with an enrollment of 120 students in grades Kindergarten through Grade 3. The school was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy with Fr. O’Brien as the principal.
An additional grade was added each September until 1943, when St. Joseph graduated its first class of twenty-three students. At this time the school was staffed by eight Sisters of Mercy and one lay teacher, Mary McCarthy Leiper. Fr. O’Brien remained active as the school’s principal, and the school continued to provide an excellent religious and academic education for its children.
Upon the death of Fr. O’Brien in 1943, Fr. John D. Carey became the pastor and the principal of St. Joseph School. He served until his retirement in 1961. Under his leadership, the parish and the school enrollment continued to grow. Enrollment peaked at 300 students.
In January 1962, Msgr. Paul St. Onge was named pastor of the St. Joseph parish. At that time the need for Catholic Education in the intermediate and middle grades forced the elimination of Kindergarten through Grade 3, and the expansion of Grades 4 through 8 to two classes each. This allowed the school to serve the intermediate and middle grades needs.
A fund-raising drive, headed by Msgr. St. Onge, to make improvements in the school and church, was held during the 1960’s. As a result. a new wing was added to the school, which provided a kitchen area, small meeting room, an office and an additional classroom.
In September of 1968, Sister Susan Carlin, RSM, arrived at St. Joseph School to serve as its first teaching principal. In Spring of 1969, Sr. Susan became the full-time principal. In 1974, under her guidance, Grades 1 through 3 were reopened and in 1976, Kindergarten was reestablished.
Lay teachers gradually replaced the teaching sisters and by 1979, Sister Susan was the only remaining sister at St. Joseph. Under her guidance, a library was added within the school building and the St. Joseph Home and School Association was established. During Sister Susan’s tenure as principal, St. Joseph School received it’s first accreditation from the Diocese of Norwich and approval by the State of Connecticut. Sister Susan resigned in May of 1984, leaving a completely lay staff at St. Joseph School.
In September of 1984, Mr. Frank A. Farina, formerly a teacher at St. Joseph School, returned to to the school as principal. Under Mr. Farina’s direction the curriculum was expanded to include computer science, French, art, music, and band. New innovations were also put in place within the traditional curriculum.
In the Fall of 1988, Msgr. St. Onge retired as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, having given many years of his priestly life in service to the people of St. Joseph Parish and the children of St. Joseph School. His successor, Fr. Joseph Castaldi, continues to follow Msgr. St. Onge’s tradition of moral and financial support for Catholic Education, begun so many years before with the dream of Fr. Fitzsimmons.
In 1988, Marianne, arrived at St. Joseph School as its first teaching assistant until Mr. Farina’s retirement in January of 1998. At this time, Miss Cote became the second lay principal of St. Joseph School and remains as principal. During her tenure as the principal of St. Joseph School, Miss Cote has continued to promote the excellent religious and academic education, adding Latin to the foreign language curriculum, expanding the technology curriculum, and updating science programs. The addition of many enrichment programs in fine arts and the language arts have also enhanced the curriculum.
Upon the retirement of Father Castaldi in January of 2012, Father Mark O’Donnell was appointed the pastor of St. Joseph Parish.
In September 2017, St. Joseph School celebrated its 80th year of providing this Catholic Education for the children of St. Joseph Parish and the surrounding area. The Mercy charism of excellent faith formation and academic education, as well as hospitality, continues to be in the forefront at St. Joseph School. The St. Joseph School community is a welcoming one in which all have the opportunity to “be educated for a lifetime as their God-given gifts are nurtured in a community of faith.”