Sault Ste. Marie’s first Catholic secondary school has been demolished to make way for the city’s newest Catholic elementary school. Demolition of the original St. Mary’s College structure took place over the past few weeks at the site of the new St. Basil Catholic Elementary School.
The book, Guardians at the Gates of Wonder, outlines what went into building the school and much more.
In September 1956, St. Mary’s College opened on Moffley Hill boasting seven classrooms, a gymnasium/auditorium, a cafeteria and a chapel. The estimated cost of the school was $300,000. A fundraising drive raised $450,000 from the Catholic community. Due to a steel strike in 1955, only two classrooms were complete for opening day, so on many days students assisted construction workers in completing the facility. Former students Phil Esposito and Harvey Barsanti recalled that the first three months of physical education consisted of students laying tile for the gymnasium. In subsequent years, thousands of fans loyally watched Knights teams capture city titles on the same floor.
In the school’s inaugural year, staff was quite limited. Fr. Matthew Mulcahy was the principal, while Fr. Patrick Lalonde taught the entire curriculum — English, French, Latin, History, Mathematics, Physical Education and Religion — to a student body of 72 students. Within three years, the school boasted hundreds of students.
At the school’s official opening, the Sault Star reported this advice given to students by Bishop Carter, “The fathers will give you two things: first, to be good and loyal members of the Church, and second, to be good and loyal members of our country. There is no distinction between them.”
St. Mary’s College has made two moves since, the first to the old Lakeway Collegiate site on Wellington Street East and now to its current home at the intersection of Pine Street and Second Line East.
Regardless of its location, the school’s motto; Teach Me Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge, remains as pertinent today as it did 61 years ago.