This academic year Saint Benedict Catholic School, located in Richmond’s Museum District, is celebrating a huge milestone; the school’s 100th birthday. Founded in 1919, Saint Benedict is the oldest parochial school in the City, still serving children from all walks of life and over 20 different zip codes, with a faithfully Catholic, Classical education.
The Benedictine Sisters opened the school on the corner of Grove and Belmont Avenues, in their convent. The building you see today, along with its iconic front steps, was completed in 1924 and an addition was built in 1949 to accommodate the growing number of children enrolling in the school.
John Patrick “Pat” Gilman started attending Saint Benedict in 1932, in the middle of the Great Depression. He was just five years old. He recalls his mother running the school’s first Parent- Teacher Organization at the school. Finding proper mattresses for the nuns to sleep on and stocking their pantry with canned goods, and finding shoes for children whose parents couldn’t afford them was the work of his mother and many others during those humble days at St. Benedict.
“We were fortunate to have the sisters there teaching you and guiding you in the faith on a daily basis – taking you over to Church, teaching you prayers and hymns, and engaging you in the life of the parish,” Gilman explains, “It formed you spiritually, strengthened you morally and made you good contributors to society.”
Because of its long-standing history in Richmond, Saint Benedict Catholic School has served several generations of families. Michelle Clark is a current school parent with two children attending currently, but she herself is an alumna and graduated from the school in 1984. Clark’s father William Doran III attended in 1951, and her grandmother Bernadette Doran attended school there in 1927 and later became the school secretary. Keeping with the family history, Clark just accepted a position as the school librarian this fall.
“My parents put six of us kids through Saint Benedict and Dad has some fun stories about his time there and his mom working there when all the priests lived in the priory,” said Clark. She added that Bernadette has since passed away but left the family a treasure trove of photos and memorabilia from her time at the school.
“So many people in Richmond have a connection to our little school at the corner of Belmont and Grove,” Principal Sean Cruess shared. “We are so very proud of the contribution St. Benedict has made to the Richmond community, and we look forward to continuing that service to families for generations to come.”
Events planned for this year’s Centennial:
• August 25, 2019 – Centennial Year Opening Mass at St. Benedict Church, 11:00 am
• April 25, 2020 – Centennial Gala at The Commonwealth Club
• April 26, 2020 – Centennial Mass with Bishop Knestout at St. Benedict Church, 11:00 am
Other events include “100 Years of Service”, planned with the students that will include feeding the homeless, participating in food drives, and visiting the elderly.