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
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 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 campus is composed of four facilities with the main building located on the northeast corner intersection of Broad and Vine Streets.

Main Building-Original: Dedicated on September 6, 1890. The footprint of the School's original building property established a main entrance on the frontage of North Broad Street. The buildings' length was 140 feet and extended eastward on Vine Street for 115 feet bordered on the north with the very narrow Pearl Street and bounded eastward by a ten foot wide alley commonly known as Watts Street, rededicated to the school. The first class included 105 boys. The Victorian Gothic exterior designed three story building is faced in marble, placed on a granite base and was sited to impact majestically at the intersection by prominent architect Edwin Forrest Durang. The building has two ornamental stone facades along Vine and Broad Streets joined at a square corner tower and two brick facades at the rear of the building. The building originally had a 150-foot marble tower topped in copper, which burned down in 1959. Historically Certified in 1986 by the Historical Commission,[6][7] it is classified as Gothic Revival architecture and consistent with a number of important Catholic churches and institutions in the City.

Main Building-East Wing: In 1953 the original three-story building received an additional two-story wing along the eastside. It connected and integrated the exterior brick façade as part of the interior. The space was utilized for physics and biology labs and the cafeteria.[8] in 1996 the school received permission form the Archdiocese to build a $3.5 million expansion to the school, which was funded by the many alumni, friends, and foundations who recognized the historical importance of sustaining a Catholic high school presence in Center City. This wing, which is dedicated as Renaissance Hall housed an expansion of the cafeteria, a new discipline office, one classroom, and an information center which housed the library, computer lab, and television studio (named after broadcaster John Facenda. an Alumni). Also during this project, the labs in the 1954 wing were completely gutted and remodeled with new technology, furniture, and equipment. The Library and Information Center was renovated in the summer of 2013 upgrading computers, copiers, printers and furniture named in honor of John and Mary McShain.

Annex Building- 13th & Wood Street: In 2006, the school opened an additional building acquired from the City which had historical significance related to the City's Medical Examiner. The 13th Street Annex was dedicated to James McSherry, an alumnus and benefactor to the school. This new facility housed a sports training center, creative art studio, a multi-purpose room and the alumni association offices.

Arts Building-Howard Center for the Arts: As part of "A Vision of Promise” on May 30, 2017 the school held a breaking ground ceremony on an additional new building with anticipated completion sometime in 2018.[9] The initial stage is the construction of a 40,000-square foot building. The arts center is named for Barry and Elayne Howard, longtime supporters and benefactors of Roman Catholic. This new expanded academic facility is located about a block away at 1212 Wood Street, and includes band rooms, instrument storage space, a computer-aided design lab, a digital photography studio, a piano lab, a small theater and an expansion for art programs. More additions to the school in the Vision of Promise are planned.[8]


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.

The school’s baseball team has won two Catholic League Championships; 1978 and 1992. The 1992 team had the best record in school history, finishing the season 15-1 (27-1 overall, losing only the final game of the regular season) after beating Bishop Kenrick in the Catholic League Championship game.


Notable alumni[edit]



  • John "Rube" Cashman, head men's basketball coach for Villanova from 1926–1929
  • 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).






See also[edit]



  1. ^ MSA-CSS. "MSA-Commission on Secondary Schools". Archived from the original on September 17, 2009. 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. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "History",; accessed August 17, 2016.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Pray, Rusty (May 10, 2002). "Albert F. Sabo, 81, Abu-Jamal trial judge". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. B7.

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