Development of the Catholic Faith in Berks County
History of Holy Name High School
Holy Name High School traced its inception to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church located in Reading. Founded in 1752, St. Peter’s established its parish elementary school with the approval of Bishop John Neumann of the Philadelphia Catholic diocese, who had been personally interested in establishing a parochial school for the parish, and who had purchased property at 225-227 South Fifth Street for that purpose. Bishop John Neumann proposed to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Michigan, that they come to Reading and staff the parish school. This request was accepted and the development of a parish school was completed with their arrival in July 1859. On the 2nd of September 1859, Bishop Neumann celebrated the first Mass in the chapel and blessed the building. A select School for Girls was opened on September 5, 1859; later on September 12th, a School for Boys was opened in the basement of the Church.
By the beginning of the 20th century in Reading there was an urgent need for a Catholic secondary school. In order to meet the advanced academic needs of the Reading high school-age population, St. Peter High School was founded in 1911. St. Peter’s High School was housed in the elementary school building at 225 S. 5th Street.
St. Peter's School
On June 25, 1914, the first annual commencement of St. Peter’s High School was celebrated. The graduates were: Grace E. Dow, Anna M. Hasson, Raymond C. Kohl and Aloysius P. McGran. Rev. John F. Kiernan, rector of St. Peter's Catholic Church, presented the medals and diplomas. On bended knees the graduates accepted the honors and bowed to the audience on their return to their seats.
By 1930, the Pennsylvania Department of the Commonwealth accredited St. Peter’s High School as a first-class high school.
Catholic education was in its prime in the early 1960s. Overcrowding at Central Catholic High School and St. Peter’s High School necessitated the need for another High School.
In 1961, Bishop Joseph McShea, of the newly created Allentown Diocese, inaugurated a massive building campaign which culminated in the construction of three new high schools: Bethlehem Catholic High School in Bethlehem, Marian High School in Tamaqua, and Holy Name High School in West Reading.
On May 6, 1963, a ground breaking ceremony marked the start of construction of a new Roman Catholic High School at Wyomissing Boulevard and McClellan Street in the 18th Ward.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph P. O’Donnell, rector of St. Peter’s Church and dean of Berks County, turned the first spadeful of earth. Also present at the brief ceremonies were the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Henry J. Huesman, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Allentown, Diocesan officials, a number of priests and sisters and pupil representatives from Central Catholic and St. Peter High Schools.
The original tract of land comprised 35.6 acres bounded on the north by Joan Terrace, on the east by the Swartz Tract, on the south by East Wyomissing Boulevard, and on the west by Parkside Drive South. The working title for the new school was West Reading High School.
Msgr. O’Donnell announced for the first time that the new high school would be known as Holy Name High School, “commemorating the sacred name of Jesus.” Noting that the proposed school has had a working name of “West Reading Catholic High School,” the monsignor said there has been dissatisfaction with that name.
The following firms were awarded contracts for the construction of the new Holy Name High School: General contract, H. T. Horst Construction Co., Reading; electrical contract, Acme Electric Co., Reading, and heating, ventilating and plumbing contract, Wertz Engineering Co., Inc., Reading. The architect was George E. Yundt of Allentown.
On August 30, 1964, nearly 8,000 persons including high Roman Catholic Church dignitaries attended the dedication ceremonies for the new $1,200,000 Holy Name High School in the 18th Ward.
The ceremonies at which Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, apostolic delegate to the United States, and the Most Rev. Joseph M. McShea, bishop of the Allentown Diocese, participated, included the procession of priests, monsignors and bishops.
The dedication talks including those of Father Loeper and Bishop McShea were interspersed with the laying of the cornerstone and the blessing of the interior and exterior of the building by Archbishop Vagnozzi.
St. Peter’s High School closed its doors permanently in June 1964.
In the Fall of 1964, when Holy Name High School was built, students from Central Catholic were divided: Students on the East side of 5th Street stayed at Central Catholic, and Students on the West side were to switch over to the new Holy Name. Seniors had the option of finishing their last year at Central Catholic or moving to Holy Name. St. Peter Catholic students all went to Holy Name.
Holy Name High School
Holy Name High School
When Holy Name opened its doors in September 1964, the faculty included three Diocesan Priests, one Benedictine Priest, six Immaculate Heart Sisters, three Sisters of St. Francis, three Bernardine Sisters, and seven Lay Teachers. The Reverend Richard J. Loeper, a native of Reading, was appointed the first Principal of Holy Name. The student body numbered 566, Grades 9 through 12. The first graduating class numbered 64.
Reverend Richard J. Loeper, First Principal
In November, 1966, Rev. Richard J. Loeper was succeeded by the Rev. Edward R. Graff as principal of the school.
In June 1979, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales were invited by Bishop McShea to become part of the administration and staff of Holy Name High School, replacing the Diocesan priests currently on the staff.
In 1986, with the financial assistance of the Diocese of Allentown, through the Forward With Christ Program, an addition was constructed adjacent to the gymnasium. Included in this addition was a ticket booth for athletic and social events, a weight room and two storage rooms.
In 1987, a multimedia communications center dedicated to Bishop Joseph McShea, founding bishop of the Allentown Diocese, was constructed and included facilities for videotaping programs and a closed-circuit television station used for daily announcements.
In March 1995, it was announced that the Oblates would be leaving Holy Name High School and that Sister Joseph Eleanor Murphy, IHM, would be the new Principal.
On February 10, 1997, the Allentown Diocese and school officials announced that the school would undergo a $10.5 million expansion and renovation to include new athletic fields, computer labs, new science and technology facilities, and an expanded library, administrative offices and a chapel.
Burkey Construction Co., Reading, was the construction manager for the project. The architects were Olsen/deTurck Architects of Reading.
The expansion and renovation of the building began when classes ended in May, 1997. Before the school re-opened in September, 1997, workers had built a 10,000-square-foot two-story addition, tripled the size of the library, renovated six classrooms and three science laboratories and installed 132 computers.
In June, 1998, a graduating class of about 95 Holy Name High School seniors in robes and mortarboards strolled into a new 820-seat auditorium to collect their diplomas. The new auditorium was built onto the east end of the building during the school year.
In June, 1998, workers broke ground on a two-story addition to the front of the school to house administrative offices, a chapel, and an elevator for handicapped access.
Administration Offices, Chapel Annex
During the summer Burkey Construction Co., Reading, completed a 1,000-seat stadium for football, soccer and a track and field, complete with lights for night games, and baseball, softball and field hockey fields and five tennis courts.
On February 11, 2011, it was announced that Central Catholic would merge with Holy Name high school. A new Diocesan secondary school, Berks Catholic High School, officially opened on July 1, 2011, on the site of the former Holy Name High School.
On March 25, 2011, the Allentown Diocese named the first principal for Berks Catholic High School. Tony Balistrere, the director of institutional advancement at Holy Name High School since 2004 and the head boys basketball coach there since 2006, was appointed by Bishop John O. Barres. Balistrere was previously assistant director of development, acting vice principal and a biology teacher at Holy Name.
Below is a list of former principals of Holy Name High School:
Richard J. Loeper: 1964 – Nov. 1966
Edward R Graff: Nov. 1966 -1969
Rev. James J. Ferry: 1969 – 1971
William R. Kase: 1971 – 1974
Rev. Edward R. Sacks: 1974 – 1979
Rev. Edward Rauch: 1979 – 1987
Rev. Thomas J. Mcgee: 1987 - 1992
Rev. William E. Davis: 1992 - 1995
Sister Joseph Eleanor Murphy, IHM – 1995 - 2003
Keith S. Laser: 2003 - 2011
Berks Catholic High School, 2016
Berks Catholic High School, 2016