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History of Saint Mary of the Hills School

 Parish Founding  

The name of the Parish – St. Mary of the Hills – was suggested to the first Pastor, Father Richard Millard, by his sister, a Sister of Notre Dame from Lowell, Massachusetts.  The name was adopted at an early meeting of parishioners by a vote of 379-1; interestingly, the other two names offered were St. Martin of Tours (whose Feast was celebrated on November 11, the day the Parish was formally founded) and St. Hilary.  Even to this day, there is something so distinctive and appealing in the name – “St. Mary of the Hills”!

In 1945 an anonymous letter from a “truly Catholic mother” requested that a school be built.  In May 1946, during Father Gately’s tenure as Pastor, the Parish bought the Hinckley Estate on Brook Road with an eye towards the future erection of a School and Convent.  The Chancery was paid the sum of $43,857 to purchase the property.  Father Shea believed that Father Millard would have loved to have built the Church on this site; but during the lifetime of Mrs. Hinckley, the property was not available.  

In 1954 Father Francis Flaherty succeeded his brother, Father Patrick Flaherty, as Pastor of St. Mary of the Hills.  Father Francis Flaherty was dedicated to the foundation of a parochial school in the Parish and its successful completion.  St. Mary of the Hills by virtue of the inspiring “team” effort of its Priests and loyal people had achieved remarkable success in every area of spiritual, pastoral and social activity.  It was fast becoming “the ideal Parish” looked upon as such by clergy and laity alike.  One thing – and one thing alone – seemed to be lacking and that was the establishment of a Catholic school for the children of the Parish and, indeed, the whole area.

The Beginning of Quality Education

Cardinal Cushing PicCardinal Cushing was enthusiastic in urging the Pastor and the people to build a school.  What was accomplished under the direction of Father Francis Flaherty and his loyal, generous people in the next five years was nearly a miracle!

In 1957 construction of the sixteen-room School began.  Classes started in 1958 with the first three grades.  With ingenious organization and boundless enthusiasm, a beautiful school and then a functional, attractive convent were built; and the entire debt was completely erased by 1961.  This was certainly an accomplishment, perhaps seldom equaled and never surpassed in the Archdiocese of Boston – and a lasting tribute to the courage, faith and zeal of Father Flaherty and his people.
Father Flaherty was understandably proud of St. Mary of the Hills School and its children and extremely devoted to the wonderful Sisters of St. Francis who staffed the School.  Unable to obtain the services of other Orders, at the suggestion of Cardinal Cushing, Father Flaherty approached Mother Helena, O.S.F., Principal of St. Clare’s High School and received the promise that the School would be served by her Franciscan Sisters.  The School was opened prior to the construction of the convent; and for the first year or so, the original four Sisters lived on the top floor of the school.  The first Sisters were Mother Eulalia (Superior and Principal), Sister Mary Matthew, Sister Cataldus and Sister Maria Goretti.

Academic Excellence

The first graduation took place in 1965 with His Eminence Richard Cardinal Cushing presiding and awarding the diplomas.  From the beginning, the students and graduates of St. Mary of the Hills School have distinguished themselves in the fields of scholarship and art.  There have been countless academic scholarships, awards, and other honors awarded to the students both in their days at St. Mary of the Hills School and especially in the various secondary schools and colleges they have attended.  On one occasion a proud Pastor remarked that the listing of the Honor Students at Fontbonne Academy looked like a St. Mary of the Hills’ roll call.  The students are continually placed in Honors classes at all of the area’s premier high schools and report that they are well prepared spiritually, academically, and socially when they embark on their future endeavors. 

The School has seen much growth in the past 50 years.  Programs have been added, space has been reallocated, and funds have been spent to ensure that the students of St. Mary of the Hills School have the proper level of resources and the facilities necessary for an excellent education. 

Technology--A Technology Center was established in the School in 1997 through a gift from Thomas F. Lombard in honor of Father Thomas Foley.  A full-time Technology teacher teaches computer skills (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, Internet, etc.) to students in Grades 1-8.  In 2003 through funding from the Catholic Schools Foundation, the two buildings of the St. Mary’s campus were wired for Internet access.  All classrooms, offices, and the Technology Center are able to access the Internet opening the doors to new methods of teaching and communicating news with parents.  In 2007 Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students were added to the weekly schedule of computer classes. 

Early Childhood Education--In 1990 the first Kindergarten class was added.  In October 1999 with no Sisters to staff the School, the former Convent was renovated to accommodate an ever-growing Early Childhood Program.  The Early Childhood Center was dedicated to Mary Lovett Corcoran.  To respond to the demand for an early start to Catholic education, St. Mary of the Hills School welcomed a group of curious and eager four year olds in 2000.  A second Pre-Kindergarten class was opened the following year.  After extensive renovations, the Early Childhood Center was rededicated to John and Mary Lovett Corcoran in 2004.  Based on the overwhelming demand, a third Pre-Kindergarten class was opened in 2007.    

Accreditation--St. Mary of the Hills School was one of the few Catholic elementary schools in the area to receive its Accreditation from the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC) in 2002.  After completing a comprehensive self-study analysis,  an independent group of educators from NEASC evaluated the School’s entire program to ensure that it met the high standards set by NEASC.  Areas of thorough examination included plant/facilities, curriculum, technology, programs, faculty development, strategic planning, admissions, etc.  In 2002 St. Mary of the Hills School received formal accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), a prestigious recognition.  In 2007 a Five-Year Interim evaluation was conducted and passed.         

Since 1958 more than 2,100 students with a religious and scholastic education second to none have graduated and entered the halls of higher learning.

Campus Beautification

The “Mary Garden” was dedicated in May 2000 in loving memory of St. Mary of the Hills School Kindergarten student Erin DaCosta.  In July 1999, Erin lost a valiant battle with cancer.  Since then each May during the School’s May Procession, the Blessed Mother statue has been crowned.

The graduating class of 2007 has left a permanent reminder of their years at St. Mary’s.  The students constructed a labyrinth at the back of the campus.  The labyrinth was a collaborative effort by the students, teachers, and parents of the Class of 2007.  It represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world.  Since June of 2007, the labyrinth has been used by our school community as a place of meditation and prayer.

Library--The library was moved to the second floor of the Early Childhood Building in February 2001 and is dedicated to the memory of a beloved Fourth Grade teacher, Connie Harrington. 

The Arts--After many years of “art by cart,” a dedicated Art Room was created 2004.  Students are now able to delve further into projects, and the halls of the school display projects ranging from clay sculptures to large scale acrylic painting.  In 2007 a dedicated Music Room was completed and opened for class instruction and after school music lessons. 
During the 50th Anniversary celebration in 2008, the Reflection Courtyard was built in front of the School adjacent to the flagpole.  Dedicated members of the School and Parish community showed their support by purchasing engraved bricks or benches.   

The Extras

St. Mary of the Hills School offers so much to the students beyond the 3 R’s. 

Before and After School Programs-- To accomodate a parent’s schedule and to ensure that the children remain in a supportive, monitored atmosphere, many enriching programs are offered:
†    Before School  7:20-8:40 am   
†    After School 3:00-5:30 pm
†    Drama (Fall & Spring productions)   
†    Middle School Socials (ice skating, pizza parties, movie outings)
†    Private/Semi-private musical instrument lessons   
†    Book Club
†    Museum of Science overnight Camp-In program      

 The Gifts of Time, Talent & Treasure

In connection with his love for the School and the expenses entailed in its management, Father Flaherty encouraged Father Paul Moriarty in his efforts to form the magnificent St. Mary of the Hills Women’s Guild.  This extraordinary group of mothers of the pupils and many, many friends of St. Mary of the Hills raised more than $250,000 for School operations in over 22 years.  Their labor of love, their devotion, and their sacrifices were monumental.  Not only were they such a financial bulwark for the School; but they contributed immeasurably to the social life, the entertainment, and the happiness of the people.  The superior quality of their functions, their generous cooperation with the Priests and Sisters, and their general interest in their work helped to generate a beautiful spirit of camaraderie and a truly Christ-like community of Faith. 

Over the years, much energy was focused on the support of the School.  As the number of Sisters declined, the support of the School families and parishioners became vital to the School.  A strong Bingo following filled the School Hall for a number of years.  In 1983 St. Mary of the Hills Guild ran a very successful auction that was attended by several hundred people who helped set a record fund-raising level of $10,000.  The Guild also ran the colorful Christmas Bazaars.  Aside from the satisfaction of seeing their hard work rewarded during the year, the ladies of the Guild were rewarded with an annual year-end banquet hosted by Msgr. Day and later by Father Foley.

The first Ten Grand Banquet for the benefit of St. Mary of the Hills School was held in 1984.  200 tickets were sold at $100 each giving tickets holders the chance to win part or the entire $10,000 prize.  That first year, Barbara Comer took home the whole prize.  The walls of Anthony’s Pier 4 Restaurant held in the laughter and excitement of the evening as everyone dined while the winning numbers were drawn.  The banquet eventually moved to Lombardo’s and continued for a number of years.

Father Foley, an avid golfer, held the first annual St. Mary of the Hills Golf Tournament in 1992.  This annual event draws faculty, faculty spouses, parents, alumni, and friends of St. Mary’s to local golf courses for an afternoon of friendship, fun, and healthy competition.  To date the “FORE the Children Golf Tournament” has raised more than $250,000 to benefit the children of St. Mary of the Hills School.

Currently the St. Mary of the Hills Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) supports the School in a myriad of ways.  Through its fundraising efforts which have included weekly school lunch sales, wrapping paper sales, candle sales, Auctions, Casino Nights, a $15,000 cash raffle, a car raffle, etc., the PTO raises over $65,000 annually to contribute to the financial obligations of the School.  The money raised is used to pay for general operating expenses, new desks, teacher “wish list” items, field trip bus transportation, cultural art and enrichment presentations for the students, and much more.  The PTO also runs monthly school-wide community building events.  The year begins with the annual Back to School picnic.  In September boys and their dads have a Father-Son baseball game.  The seasons and holidays are celebrated as a school community with a Halloween party, Turkey Shoot, Breakfast with Santa, Catholic Schools Week Luau, Father-Daughter Valentine Dance, Mother-Son bowling, and Mother-Daughter Tea.  Each of these events is a great opportunity for students and their parents to come together and celebrate being part of such a wonderful school community.  


Vocations in Education

St. Mary of the Hills School has been blessed with a community faithful to spreading God’s Word.  In June 1985, Father William Palardy, a member of the class of 1974 and son of Frank Palardy and long-time secretary Mary Palardy, celebrated his first Mass which was followed by a community reception in the School Hall.

The faculty and staff have always dedicated themselves to the pursuit of the finest Catholic education for the students.  Father Flaherty was very surprised and upset when the first lay teacher was hired and would receive a salary in the vicinity of $5000.  By September, 1981, there would be 12 lay teachers.  In 2008 the faculty and staff of St. Mary of the Hills numbered roughly 40 dedicated individuals including a Principal, an Academic Advisor, Advancement Director, Early Childhood Center Director, two Spanish teachers for Grades 5-6 and Grades 7-8, and two teachers for each class grade.  The faculty and staff dedicate themselves to furthering the Mission of St. Mary of the Hills School:   

St. Mary of the Hills School is a diverse
Pre-K through Grade 8 Catholic School
inspired by our love of Christ. 
By valuing innovation in education,
our programs promote spiritual growth,
personal academic excellence
and social development in
a safe and nurturing environment.


50 Years and Still Going Strong

With the dramatic decrease in the number of teaching Nuns and the increase in the number of lay teachers, many schools in the Archdiocese have either reduced the number of classes and students or closed entirely.  Throughout the years, St. Mary of the Hills Schools has remained strong and viable.  The School maintains the highest standards of Catholic education.

Any history of St. Mary of the Hills School would be incomplete without special recognition of the very generous people of the Parish who have consistently responded to the call for support of the School.  With the tremendous increase in the cost of education, the good people of the Parish have met every challenge.  Their support testifies to the commitment of the people of the Parish to Catholic Education; this commitment is as strong now as it was 50 years ago when the parishioners first dedicated their efforts toward building a parochial school.

The 50th Anniversary of St. Mary of the Hills School in 2008 marked a crossroads—a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past as well as to prepare for the future generation of students.  Together we have accomplish a tremendous amount.  We are eternally grateful to all those who have dedicated their time, talent, and treasure to ensure more than 50 years of successful Catholic education at St. Mary of the Hills School.