St. Paul Catholic School

It is impossible to appreciate the current St. Paul Catholic School (SPCS) without first establishing its historical setting: both place and time. It is located in New Bern, North Carolina, a southern town and home of NC's first Catholic Church. The school's complex history has been described as being "patchwork." This metaphor adequately depicts the school itself, its founders, and its students of diverse economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Regardless of the various adversities and cultural changes the school has faced, it continues to educate children using Christian values and principles as its foundation. Although revised slightly through the years, SPCS's mission statement is one based on love, prayer, service, and academics ("Mission Statement," 2008).

The Beginning: St. Paul & St. Joseph

The first year St. Paul Catholic School tried to open was just after the end of the Civil War. In the beginning, it was only opened to white children and only operated for a few years due to financial instability. Several other attempts were made in the late 1800s to reopen the school, but they all failed due to financial difficulties. However, in 1887, Fr. Thomas Price opened St. Joseph Parish and School for black families and their children. Fr. Price sought to provide much needed "education skills that had been so long denied [to] the recently freed black men, women, and children" despite the South's prejudices against blacks and of the Catholic faith ("St. Paul's celebrates," 1987, A5). This school met the needs of the black community and was so successful that its enrollment averaged 150 students, most of whom were non-Catholic.

Sisters Come to Serve: St. Pauls Tries Again

In 1926, three Sisters, servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), came to New Bern to offer aid at St. Joseph School. The success at St. Joseph Catholic School caused the parishioners at St. Paul to ponder launching another attempt at offering Catholic education to New Bern's white children. In 1929, St. Paul Catholic School started with 53 white students. With extensive help from the Catholic community, this attempt was successful through even the financial burdens of the Great Depression. The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, formed by Pope Pius XII in 1924, bestowed financial backing for the cause ("Sisters teach," 1976).

Father Julian Endler, the IHM Sisters, parishioners, and students of St. Joseph experienced a great loss when a fire destroyed the parish and school buildings in 1943. However, Fr. Endler's commitment to continuing to offer a Catholic education to black children in the area drove him to not only rebuild the parish and school but to also add a high school in 1945 with more financial support offered by the Diocese of Raleigh and Bishop Waters ("Dedication of St. Joseph," 1963). Strong families, students, and the Catholic community united to continue to offer blacks the opportunity to obtain an education based on Christ's love and service. Adversity struck again in the '50s when another fire took Egan Hall.

  Integration: Together but Still Apart

St. Joseph remained in existence until 1962 when it merged with St. Paul. Although the schools combined their black and white students, separate buildings located eight blocks from one another housed the elementary, middle, and high school students. The building that once housed only black students was renovated and later renamed William Gaston Catholic High School. This high school was the first integrated high school in North Carolina and also served students from neighboring counties. The union of races was a visible sign to the region of Christ's love and acceptance of all His children. The institution fulfilled State requirements and prepared its graduates to enter the work force or to continue with secondary education. It offered exceptional Home Economics training and a state-of-the-art science lab with experiment tables and equipment for up to 24 students. Unfortunately, "problems arose, and the high school closed in 1969" ("Dedication of St. Paul," 1991, p. 11). Three years later, the primary school moved to St. Joseph's building. Administrating the two buildings was a challenge to the Sisters and faculty, and the convent was still in a third location. However, challenges were not unfamiliar to these servants of God or the school. Unifying the buildings would be the next big change.

Today: Loving, Praying, Serving, and Learning

In the 1980s, Monsignor James Jones took great initiative and trusted God's plan for St. Paul Parish and School. He undertook three major construction projects on the same campus: a new church to replace the tiny, original building from 1840, a convent, and by 1991, a school named St. Paul Education Center (SPEC) (Ruede, 2008). In 2010 the school was renamed to St Pauls Catholic School (SPCS).

Today St. Pauls Catholic School educates Pre-K-8th graders in the same building and is only a parking lot away from the church and convent. It still serves a variety of students (whites, Hispanics, blacks, Catholics, and non-Catholics). Students pray together daily, attend and participate in weekly Masses, and support the community through service projects and community outreach ministries.

SPCS is accredited by SACS and is a member of NCEA. Its curriculum is challenging and delivered by a loving and dedicated faculty, both Catholic and non-Catholic. SPCS is now faced with and meeting the demands of technological integration. IHM Sisters have served through teaching and supervising the school for 80 years; the 2007-2008 school year was the first year in the school's history that it did not have a member of religious life as its principal. Being able to adapt to the many changes in its student enrollment, administration, and its environment and community have attributed to the school's successful ability to teach children in the New Bern area through Jesus' love.


Dedication of St. Joseph High School. (1963, March 31). [Dedication Program]. New Bern, NC: St. Joseph High School.
Dedication of St. Paul Catholic Education Center. (1991, September 15). [Dedication Program]. New Bern, NC: St. Paul Catholic Education Center.
Mission statement. (2008). [Electronic Version]. St. Paul Education Center Student and Parent Handbook, 1. Retrieved July 3, 2008, from http://www.stpauleducationcenter.com/pdfs/spec_sh_0807.pdf
Ruede, E., Fr. (2008, June). Pastor's Corner. The Epistle.
New Bern, NC: St. Paul Catholic Sisters teach Catholic pupils. (1976, July 2). The Sun Journal, p. 5B. St. Paul's celebrates centennial. (1987, May 1). The Sun Journal, p. A5.

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