Catholic schools have been in existent in Auburn since the 1860s. At one time, there were eight parochial or parish Catholic schools: Holy Family, St. Alphonsus, St. Mary’s, St Aloysius, St. Hyacinth, St. Francis of Assisi, SS. Peter & Paul and Sacred Heart. All of these schools were staffed by religious congregations of women. There was one Catholic high school, Mount Carmel, staffed by religious men and women.
If anyone is interested in viewing a pictorial history of these schools, there is available a recently published book, “The Catholic Schools in Auburn, New York from 1860,” written by Davia Ellen Jordan and Anne Marie Saphara. Former students who attended one of these schools will enjoy seeing archival photos of the buildings, the religious sisters and snapshots of students. The book costs $25 and can be obtained by calling Davia Jordan at (315) 252-9178.
Now, in 2018, there is one Catholic elementary school, St. Joseph School, and one Catholic high school, Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, both staffed by lay men and women. What happened?
Over the years, as the number of religious sisters declined, and the number of students diminished and the cost to the parish escalated, individual schools merged or consolidated, culminating in the one St. Joseph School in Auburn. With Mount Carmel high school also having been closed, Tyburn Academy was eventually founded to provide Catholic education for high school students in Auburn and the surrounding area.
The Catholic church puts a high priority on Catholic school education. The Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano, bishop of Rochester, is enthusiastically supportive of Catholic schools and sees Auburn as a place where Catholic schools can grow, highlight their Catholic identity and continue to serve the Auburn community in years ahead.
In a Catholic school, faith and the presence of God permeate the atmosphere. Through the study of science and physics, students can be reminded of the wonders of God’s beautiful creation. The study of grammar or literature can point to the incarnate word, Jesus made flesh, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Physical education and sports can help students appreciate their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. Even anti-bullying programs can connect students to the dignity of each person and how they should act as disciples of Christ.
Exciting things are happening at St. Joseph School. A new leadership team has been put in place by the direct appointment of Bishop Matano. The new principal is Mary Jo Keba, who has taught in Catholic schools for the past 32 years and knows well the Auburn community and has a good rapport with parents and students.
Carlo Stebbings, the Faith Formation Director for most of the parishes in Auburn, is also part of the team. It was determined that all the Catholic children of Auburn, whether in St. Joseph School or in parish faith formation programs, should have the same curriculum in religious education. Obviously, those students at St. Joseph School and Tyburn Academy are exposed to their faith at a much deeper level because they are there five days a week.
Two priest chaplains also are part of the leadership team. The Rev. Timothy Niven is chaplain as the on-sight pastor, and I am chaplain as the dean of the east deanery of the diocese. The role of the priest chaplains is primarily to connect the school more to the parishes and the parishes more to the school. We would be encouraging school families, especially the children, to be more involved in their own parish, especially participating in weekly Sunday Mass.
The priest chaplains, along with the other priests in Auburn, would continue to visit the classrooms and be available for Masses and confession. But other aspects of our Catholic tradition would be introduced to our students like Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, lectio divina (how to read the scriptures), liturgical music, knowledge of the saints, the Liturgy of the Hours, retreat days, etc. We have a rich Catholic tradition and the Catholic school is the ideal place for students to be exposed to that tradition.
Tyburn Academy continues the same tradition of a strong Catholic faith and the presence of God as they form young people through their high school years.
For more information, interested families and students can call St. Joseph School, 89 E. Genesee St., at (315) 253-8327, or Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, 17 Clymer St., at (315) 252-2937.