Renamed school “taking flight, bold in the spirit”

Father McCaffrey and his dog Ailis visit with students at St. Vitus School earlier this year

More than a century after a Catholic elementary school in New Castle first welcomed students and 70 years after it reopened, educators and faith leaders are ready for another new beginning.

St. Vitus School officially becomes Holy Spirit Academy on July 1. The school takes its name from the new Holy Spirit Parish serving Lawrence County.

“The value of Catholic education goes far beyond books and academics,” said Father Joseph McCaffrey, pastor. “It’s an experience of Catholic Christian community and faith in the context of family, and makes a huge impact on a young person’s life.”

Catholic schools help bring young people into a relationship with Jesus while preparing them for life, providing spiritual formation that encourages virtue. Gospel values promote respect, compassion and service.

“We start every day with morning prayer, which is a constant reminder to our students that God is in their lives, watching over them,” said principal Ed Sharbaugh. “We also provide service opportunities that teach responsibility to take care of our neighbor while building community.”

Top achievements of the past school year include an improved technology curriculum with students in third through eighth grades benefiting from Chromebooks, a STREAM program (science, technology, research, engineering, art, math) and the Google Classroom web service.

Sharbaugh said when the pandemic arrived, teachers were prepared for remote learning and the transition went well. Earlier in the school year, educators improved various aspects of student life, expanding the school band, adding golf, tennis and a chess club, as well as organizing new social events for families.

St. Vitus School first opened in 1908 with students taught by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The school closed in 1928 when the Franciscan sisters left for a new assignment. In 1950, St. Vitus School reopened in a new building, led by the Missionary Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart, later known as the Apostles of the Sacred Heart.

Today, with the help of donations earmarked for marketing, supporters are helping to increase enrollment, running radio ads, putting up billboards, contacting families in the parish faith formation program and advertising on social media. Many connect with the school through their Facebook page:

“We have a new school name and a fresh start,” Sharbaugh said. “Some new families have registered and we’ve received other inquiries.

“As our motto says, we are ‘taking flight, bold in the Spirit.’ I’m excited.”

Below photo: Students gather after Mass at held at St. Vitus church, part of Holy Spirit Parish.