By consent of the right Rev. John Henry Luers,first Bishop of Fort Wayne, the
foundation of St. Bernard Church was begun in 1864 under the pastorate of the Rev. John
Ryan from Lagro.
After St.Bernard Chruch at 429 W. Maple St. was completed under the Rev. George Steiner and the Rev. M.E. Campion in 1871, a 30 foot by 20 foot frame school was started by the Rev. F.C. Wiechman in 1877.
The school failed through lack of support and was discontinued the following year. A few decades later, the church property on Maple Street was exchanged for a church and house located on the corner of Sinclair and Cass Streets, formerly owned by the Methodist Chruch.Although the new church was dedicated on Sept. 23, 1900, a school was not founded for several years.
The Rev. Edmund A. Ley opened a parochial school in the first floor of the church, called St. Bernard Hall, on Sept. 5, 1922. Sisters Marie, Cecilia, and Clare, nuns from the St. Joseph Convent of Tipton, Indiana were assigned to administrate the school and teach.
School walls were formed by partitions which divided St. Bernard Hall into practical facilities with plumbin as well as heat provided by a pot-bellied stove. Stored away for several years, old desks were located for the students. Texts were obtained form the public schools. Forty pupils were registered in six classrooms with the hope that enrollment would increase. By the next year 1923, 70 students werehoused in eight grades in St. Bernard Hall.
The Rev. Charles Scholl, pastor during the 1930s, began a building fund to create a new church and school. His successor in 1940, the Rev. Leo A. Hoffmann succeeded in completing Scholl's fund drive a decade later. The old convent was torn down to become the site of the new St. Bernard School, which opened its doors on Sept. 4, 1951. One-hundred and forty-one pupils attended classes in an area that accommodated four rooms, a small library and an office. Chapel was held in the basement of the school until the church could be completed. Upon completion of the new church, the school basement was converted into a modern kitchen where hot lunches were served to the school children.
Under Rev. Hoffmann, the congregation grew from 175 Catholic families to 273 Catholic families 10 years later when a second floor was added to the school. A single classroom now lodged only one grade where previously they held two.
The three sisters, one lay teacher, and one study hall monitor welcomed an additional two layteachers to complete the staff in the early 1960s. By 1969 the shortage of sisters forced the St. Joseph convent at Tipton to consider withdrawing their teachers from the staff at St. Bernard. A year earlier, the seventh and eighth grades had been discontinued at the school.
When members of St. Bernard parish deluged the mother house as well as Bishop Gallagher of Lafayette and Bishop Pursley of Fort Wayne-South Bend with letters and calls of protest, Sisters of St. Joseph at Tipton reviewed their decision and remained teachers at the school. In the fall of 2001 St. Bernard parish was again graced with the presence of a nun: Sister Marilyn Ellert, O.S.F. who was the principal of St. Bernard School until 2006 when Theresa Carroll became principal and holds that position at the present time.
Presently the school services approximately 70 students in classes that include nursery, pre-school and kindergarten through fifth grade and after-school care.
Nearly half the school's enrollment is non-Catholic. All children attend Mass and classes in religion, but only Catholic students receive the sacraments.
Additional projects at the school provide extra income along with good public relations. With the support of parishioners and the public at large, St. Bernard Home and School association raises money through its annual "Ball and Auction". The SCRIP program also raises money for the school.
During the week of the Ground-breaking Ceremony in July 1950, Father Hoffman stated: "Wabash is known as the city of churches. It has been a great effort for the people in the parish of St. Bernard's to add, not only another beautiful church to our city, but a modern school for the education of those today, who will be leaders in our civic life tomorrow." Later during a Solemn High Mass Monsignor Charles Feltes stressed the importance of spiritual education for children and the Christian principles of life for others. Those ideas voiced that day in 1950 continue to be at the heart of St. Bernard School in Wabash Indiana in 2006. May they always live strong and loud.
History of St. Bernard Parish...
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