Bellefonte

St. John the Evangelist Catholic School celebrates 125 years of history, tradition

Linda Plozner poses outside of St. John Catholic School in Bellefonte, which is celebrating 125 years. Plozner and multiple generations of her family have attended the school.
Linda Plozner poses outside of St. John Catholic School in Bellefonte, which is celebrating 125 years. Plozner and multiple generations of her family have attended the school. knetzer@centredaily.com

There’s a history of tradition at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School that’s been a part of some local families for generations.

For the Mulfinger family, it started in the 1800s with Alois Kohlbecker, the great-grandfather of Ed Mulfinger, who graduated from the school in 1968.

“He was one of the earliest people at the church and at the school,” Mulfinger said. “That’s where our family got its start with St. John, I think.”

Kohlbecker had eight children, the youngest, who was Aloysius Kohlbecker, the grandfather of Mulfinger, graduated from St. John school in 1912. His grandmother, Dorothy Marie Hassinger Kohlbecker, was a Class of 1920 grad.

As far as Mulfinger knows, nearly every member of his family attended the school that is celebrating its 125th anniversary this school year.

It was the kind of place that I think shaped our family. ... I think we look at St. John as giving us a good base for being successful later in life

Ed Mulfinger, Class of 1968

“There are deep roots,” Mulfinger said. “It was the kind of place that I think shaped our family. I’m one of six who attended the school along with my siblings, grandparents and everyone else, and I think we look at St. John as giving us a good base for being successful later in life.”

His mother, Patricia Kohlbecker Mulfinger, graduated in 1941.

The Capparelle family doesn’t have roots that go back quite as far, but includes at least 19 family members who attended — or currently attend — the school, dating as far back as 1943.

Linda Capparelle Plozner, a Class of 1966 graduate, said “it’s an important thread that runs through our family.”

The St. John enrollment in her family started with her father, Carl Capparelle, 87, who graduated from the school in 1943.

He has two brothers and a sister who also attended the school, along with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and even a son-in-law.

“I guess we all kind of feel it’s a wonderful thing to have your family go to such a family-based school, and have your faith and education follow that,” Plozner said.

Principal Kristina Tice said among the family base they have, the school also runs on a tradition of faith, academics, service and respect that she thinks made the school last for 125 years, and what she thinks could be a factor in a hundred more years of success.

“When you’re here, it’s like you’re with family,” Tice said. “There’s a long history of families who go here and it’s just a really special place. I went here in the ’80s, and we have several faculty and staff who have roots here.”

St. John the Evangelist Catholic School founded in 1890

The school was founded as a branch of the church in 1890 by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of Scranton, who also taught at, and operated, the school in the same East Bishop Street location it’s been at for 125 years.

Tice said it operated as a primary and secondary school before limiting it up to eighth grade, and then to sixth grade and currently to fifth grade.

In 1980, the school added a preschool program.

“There has been a lot of change in that way, but it always stuck to its tradition that dates back to the beginning,” Tice said. “Our mission is to focus on faith, academics, service and respect, and to carry on the tradition of the sisters who started the school.”

Twenty-three years ago, St. John also made a transition from a nun-taught school to using traditional certified teachers.

“The reason that they are no longer here is two-fold,” Tice said. “There were less women becoming sisters, but also their order, Servants, Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, dictates where they serve. The sisters that were here were given other missions.”

On Saturday night, the school hosted an informal open house at its 116 E. Bishop St., Bellefonte, location, and a dinner event that followed at Mountain View Country Club to celebrate the milestone.

I think we create that same success by keeping our tradition

Kristina Tice, principal

“I think we create that same success by keeping our tradition,” Tice said. “It’s important to remember how we started, but also important to bring up-to-date curriculum and technology to education. I think we hope to keep a solid enrollment that brings students and their families the faith-based education we strive for.”

Tice said according to the earliest records in 1897, there were 125 students. This year, there are 132 students.

Each grade, Tice said, is capped at 24 students.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

MISSION STATEMENT

In the tradition of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the mission of St. John the Evangelist Catholic School is to provide a foundation rich in the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith. The school encourages responsibility, academic excellence, individuality, service and, above all, respect.

BELIEF STATEMENT

We believe:

▪ Every child is a gift from God made in his image and likeness;

▪ Every child has unique talents and is capable of learning;

▪ Students should experience spiritual, academic, and physical growth each day;

▪ Prayer, service and liturgical experiences are integral to the school;

▪ Instruction and assessment will be of the highest quality and provide for the diverse needs and abilities of our students;

▪ Staff development should be an ongoing process that enhances instruction and increases student achievement;

▪ Faculty and staff will serve as strong Christian role models, guiding our students with love and discipline;

▪ Students, staff and parents will show respect for God, themselves and others;

▪ Parents, parishioners and community play a vital role in the success of our school and the growth of each student.

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