Roman Catholic High School

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The Roman Catholic High School of Philadelphia
301 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107
United States
Coordinates 39°57′30″N 75°9′43″W / 39.95833°N 75.16194°W / 39.95833; -75.16194Coordinates: 39°57′30″N 75°9′43″W / 39.95833°N 75.16194°W / 39.95833; -75.16194
Type Private
Motto Fides et Scientia
((Faith and Knowledge))
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Established 1890
Founder Thomas E. Cahill
Oversight Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Rector Rev. Joseph W. Bongard
Principal Mrs. Patricia C Sticco
Grades 9-12
Gender Boys
Enrollment 1000 (2012)
Student to teacher ratio 20.1:1
Color(s) Purple and Gold         
Athletics conference Philadelphia Catholic League
Mascot The Cahillites
Accreditation Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools[1]
Publication Roamings (literary magazine)
Newspaper The Roman Empire
Yearbook Purple and Gold
Tuition $8,250[2]
Alma Mater The Purple and Gold

The Roman Catholic High School of Philadelphia, also known as Boys Catholic High School, opened in 1890 as an all-male high school located at the intersection of Broad and Vine Streets in Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


Roman Catholic, or simply "Roman", as it is often called, was founded by Thomas E. Cahill, a 19th-century Philadelphia merchant. He saw the need to create a school that offered a free Catholic education for boys, past their grammar school years. He died before he saw his vision come to life; however, the wishes that he laid out in his will were followed. As such, Roman Catholic opened its doors in 1890 and offered a free education to boys. Due to increased costs of staff and facilities, free admission to the school ended in the 1960s.

The school in 2013

Crisis of the 1980s[edit]

In 1985, the Archdiocese slated the school for closing due to lowering enrollment. However, the school's alumni association, with the blessing of Philadelphia's John Cardinal Krol, embarked on a campaign to save the school. Roman's Alumni Association, which had existed for over 70 years, came together to raise funds and increase enrollment. The rector of the school even applied to have the building itself kept as a historic landmark, which was accepted. The significance of the historic landmark designation means the building on the corner of Broad and Vine Streets can never legally be torn down. Also, its exterior must always stay the same — though it does not have to remain a school.

The "New" Roman Catholic High School[edit]

Before 1986, students who attended Roman were from "feeder parishes"; Roman served as the school for the boys from the Center City, Chinatown, East Falls, Fairmount, Manayunk, North Philadelphia, and Roxborough regions of Philadelphia.

Today, however, Roman enrolls boys from almost every Philadelphia neighborhood, including The Near and Far Northeast, West Philadelphia, Fishtown, Port Richmond, Mayfair, South Philly, New Jersey, Fox Chase, and the outlying suburbs.

Roman Catholic High School was built to hold about 750 to 800 students. However, because of high demand, it is above capacity and holds closer to 1100. To select its students, the school holds an entrance test every October, November, and December. Of the 600 or 700 students that apply, only about 300 to 350 will be accepted. Students who do well on these tests also may receive scholarships ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as $4000 a year. Usually, about 40 students receive scholarships.

Roman, like other high schools, has a tracking system: that is, first track (also called honors track), second track, and third track. Roman, however, is unique in that it tracks its honors class into three classes. While students in the honors classes learn the same material at the same pace, it creates a better learning system to have students of the same level together.

Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, Roman announceed the implementation of a 1:1 iPad initiative, starting with the incoming freshmen. Due to the ever-changing face of education, students require different tools and strategies. The initiative will allow students and teachers to individualize and differentiate instruction in a way that is familiar to today's students. Students will work on essential 21st century skill sets needed to meet state and national standards.[3]

Sexual abuse scandal[edit]

In July 2011, Philadelphia magazine published an article by Robert Huber regarding the 2011 grand jury report, which documented new charges of child sexual abuse by priests active in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The article included the story of Joe,[4] a 59-year-old who spoke of his abuse at the hands of Father McGuigan when in the ninth grade at Roman Catholic High School.[5]


Roman Catholic High School for Boys as it appeared in 1900

The school is located on the northeast corner of Broad and Vine Streets, and was designed in the Gothic Revival architecture. Faced in marble, it stands on a granite foundation. The building originally had a 150-foot marble tower topped in copper, which burned down in 1959. The original three-story building received a two-story additional wing in 1953, where the physics and biology labs and the cafeteria are located.[6]

Another addition – which included additional class rooms, offices, an Information Center, TV studio and computer lab – began construction in 1997. It also increased the size of the cafeteria. Then, in 2006, the 13th Street Annex, dedicated to James McSherry, an alumnus and benefactor to the school, was opened. This facility houses a sports training center, a multi-purpose room and the alumni association offices. More additions to the school are planned.[6]

The east side of Roman Catholic High School. Roman's 1953 and 1997 additions are visible in the foreground, showing the contrast between their brick facades and the marble facade of the original 1890 building.

The John and Mary McShain Library and Information Center was renovated in the summer of 2013. The new Information Center added more tables and chairs, new and sleek computers, and a new copier and printer.


Roman Catholic has been prominent in the Philadelphia Catholic League in basketball since the League's inception, winning 30 championship games since 1920. In 2015 and 2016 Catholic High won the Philadelphia Catholic league Title (PCL), Philadelphia City Title (District XII) and Pennsylvania Boys Class AAAA (Large School) State Championship.

Roman has also had success in football. In the 2006 playoffs, Roman finished with a strong 9-3 record while losing to La Salle in the second round of Catholic League playoffs. In 2007, Roman defeated Northeast Catholic, and Father Judge en route to a win in the Catholic League Championship, 10-9 over St. Joseph's Prep. This was Roman's best record ever at 12-2. This marks the team's second Red Division championship since the inception of the new Catholic League format, which began in 1999 and ended in 2007.

Roman Catholic H.S. also has a rivalry with the public high school Roxborough High. This rivalry has started an annual Thanksgiving Day football game; a game Roman Catholic has beat Roxborough at for decades.

Boys Catholic High School is home to one of the most successful crews in North America, practicing for over 10 months a year. Roman's crew team sculls (using two oars per man while rowing) rather than sweeps (using one oar a man while rowing). Recently it contributed a Lightweight Four to the Philadelphia Catholic League Rowing championships, finishing second in 2005 to Monsignor Bonner High School by six-tenths of a second. Roman's major sculling rivals are The Haverford School, Conestoga High School, and Malvern Preparatory School. In 2003 and 2005, two Roman students represented the United States at the Junior World Championships in Athens, Greece, & Brandenburg, Germany. In 2006, 2010, 2012, and 2016 the team won the Philadelphia Catholic League Championship.

The school's golf team has enjoyed many years of success as one of the top teams in the league. Led by Coach Daniel "Red" "6:10" Hoban '92, a PGA professional, the team has been able to work well together and learn many aspects of the game from Coach Hoban which has propelled the team to immediate success. Although this past season was a rebuilding year, the team still finished with a 12-5 record for the regular season but finished 8th out of 9th place at the Catholic League Championships. The school's ice hockey team started in 1993. Since then, they have won 4 championships; 2000, 2002, 2010, and 2013.


Notable alumni[edit]



  • Frank Schell (1899), Gold Medal American rower who competed in the 1904 Summer Olympics.
  • Charles McIlvaine (Hon. Diploma awarded 2014), Member & gold-medallist of the 1928 US Olympic rowing team.
  • Matt Guokas Sr. (1934), played for the Philadelphia Warriors 1947 championship team; father of Matt Guokas Jr.
  • Tom Conley (1928), football and basketball coach; captain of the 1930 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team; pall-bearer for Knute Rockne.
  • Art McNally (1943), former Director of Officiating for the National Football League (NFL) (1968-90).






Alma mater[edit]

The Purple and Gold
(Short Version)

When Day mounts the East, What flag does he hold?
He flings out his banner of Purple and Gold!
And when at the eve, He sinks to his rest,
With Purple and Gold still aflame is the West!

Then stand by the flag, The young and the old!
Its colors are yours – The Purple and the Gold!
A smile on the lip, A tear in the eye,
Salute ye the colors of Catholic High!


Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

  • Msgr. Hugh T. Henry

See also[edit]



  1. ^ MSA-CSS. "MSA-Commission on Secondary Schools". Retrieved July 31, 2009. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Roman Catholic High School - News". Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  4. ^ Huber, Robert, "Catholics in Crisis: Sex and Deception in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia",, July 2011; retrieved July 28, 2011.
  5. ^ Huber, Robert, "Inside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Sex-Abuse Scandal",, June 23, 2011; retrieved July 28, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "History",; accessed August 17, 2016.
  7. ^ Pray, Rusty (May 10, 2002). "Albert F. Sabo, 81, Abu-Jamal trial judge". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. B7. 

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