History & Mission
St. Cecilia Parish was first established as a mission of St. Peter’s Parish in Merchantville, in 1926. Fr. John B. Conway, then pastor was the guiding force. Fr. Conway, working with the Catholic families who first settled in this North Merchantville area of Pennsauken, erected a combination church and school building on Camden Avenue. The following year in 1927, the mission school opened the first three grades with an enrollment of 82 students. The school was staffed by three Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, from St. Peter’s Convent. Sr. Mary Patrick, Sr. Mary of the Angeles were our first teachers and Sr. Roberta was our first principal.
Following the creation of the new Diocese of Camden in December, 1937, Bishop Bartholomew J. Eustace, in January, 1939, appointed Fr. Raymond J. Kavanagh as its first pastor.
The school’s Parent and Teacher Association (PTA) was established in March 1939 and the first president was Mrs. Richard Ealer. During this same year the school was expanded to six grades with an addition of two more Franciscan Sisters to the staff. St. Cecilia School continued to grow when families of Polish and Italian extraction joined the area’s original predominately Irish settlers. Within months, the increasing number of children enrolling in St. Cecilia School necessitated its expansion to eight grades and the addition of three more Franciscan Sisters. The school graduated its first 8th grade class of 12 students in June 1940.
By 1953, the school had grown tremendously, enrollment of 500 students with a staff of 10 Sisters and two lay teachers. In May 1958 due to the increase in families, construction of a new school was possible. It was completed the following December at a cost of $240,343. The new building housed 8 classrooms, auditorium, cafeteria, teachers’ lounge, dispensary and administrative offices. The school was dedicated by Bishop Mc Carthy on January 18, 1959.
Fr. Kavanagh was elevated to the rank of Monsignor in October, 1959. Monsignor Kavanagh then retired in January, 1971. The Saint Cecilia School/Parish Hall was renamed to the Monsignor Raymond Kavanagh Hall on February 17, 1979, on the first year anniversary of his death. So that his memory might be kept in the hearts of the people of St. Cecilia Parish a painting of Monsignor Raymond Kavanagh was donated and is still present today.
We have offered the foundation for life since our opening in 1927. This tradition continued during the 1980s, 1990s, and into the new millennium with a diverse community requiring different needs. With the unset of a difficult and uncertain economy, St. Cecilia School was struggling to remain open.
In 2009, St. Cecilia School became one of the Catholic Partnership Schools. The Catholic Partnership Schools is a new model of Catholic Education which is commitment to providing quality Catholic Education to the children of Pennsauken and Camden.
St Cecilia School develops the whole child, challenging each to make a difference in the world. Our caring professionals prepare our children for excellence by empowering each one with the needed skills and the curiosity to learn in an attentive environment. St. Cecilia School enables our children to imagine the possibilities.
Our mission is to promote intellectual excellence. By practicing a Beatitude Attitude, we recognize diversity and cultivate an environment that preserves Catholic tradition. We commit to the spiritual, academic, and social development of all students.