In 1942, Bishop John J. Swint, later the Archbishop of Wheeling, announced that the Parkersburg and surrounding areas were to have a Catholic high school, a first in the area.
Children of the Catholic faith had been attending school in the former Hersch mansion, an imposing residence on a high knoll at the corner of Ninth and Juliana Streets, since 1924. It was under the supervision of the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus, a teaching order of nuns from England, Germany, and the Benelux countries of Europe, who were brought to the Diocese by the Bishop of Wheeling.
The first elementary school for both boys and girls was known as St. Francis Xavier. The then new St. Margaret Mary Parish in the northern part of Parkersburg had established its own parochial school in 1923, a priority with its first Pastor, the Reverend P.J. Browne. This substantial brick structure is still in use, not as a school building, but a community center.
In 1949, the old Hersch building was deemed inadequate for the constantly increasing numbers of Catholic students in the wide area.
The aggressive pastor of St. Francis Xavier, the Reverend John B. O’Reilly, noticed when he arrived in Parkersburg, that the church school was not sufficiently fireproof, that there were stairways to the second floor, side by side, with a thin wall between them. From that moment of discovery, Monsignor O’Reilly said he never had one good night’s sleep.
A campaign was organized to raise funds for a modern, safe school in 1949, and the new functional school building opened in the fall of 1950. The establishment of St. Michael Parish in Vienna in 1956 further strengthened the pupil enrollment.
In 1970, St. Francis Xavier and St. Margaret Mary parishes consolidated their elementary schools, called Parkersburg Catholic Elementary School, in the downtown.
With the establishment of the first Catholic High School on Fairview Avenue, in 1958, the families of the Catholic students were drawn together in a large scale, enthusiastic drive to provide their young people with the finest possible educational facility, to be second to none in the diocese. The cost of was $700,000 of which $200,000 was raised locally. The diocese financed the remainder of the cost. The large edifice was dedicated by Bishop Swint in 1959.
Parkersburg Catholic High School is also a community-oriented center. Its facilities, particularly its spacious gymnasium, are frequently utilized by non-Catholic groups as well as the various church organizations.
The sound and inspired Catholic tradition of education began in 1856 by the Very Reverend Henry Francis Parke, in the tiny school house for boys behind the St. Francis Xavier rectory, has thus resounded one hundred and twenty-nine years later to a flourishing, ebullient Catholic presence in the beautiful high school on a pleasant hillside on Fairview Avenue in North Parkersburg.
Administrators of Parkersburg Catholic High School, as Principals or Coordinators, have been the Reverend Robert H. Wanstreet; Sister Mary Innocentia, P.C.J, and the Reverend Robert G. Park, Coordinator; the Reverend Carl E. Bauer; the Reverend Robert V. Arkle; Brother Charles Scanlon (Order of Christian Brothers); Joseph Varacalli; Kenneth Wagner, the Reverend Thomas E. Langer, Mark F. Lynskey, Judith Minear, and Lou Bett. From 1991 to 2002 M. Robert Hattman was principal of our school. The 2002-2003 school year saw two intern principals. Father Bill Matheny and Dick Wildt. Marie Held was principal from 2003-2010. Our new principal is Karen Robinson