Bethlehem Catholic High School – A Look at the Past
More than nine decades ago, His Eminence Cardinal Dennis Dougherty and School Superintendent Rev. Hugh Lamb of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia recognized the need, as well as the obligation to provide Catholic secondary education to the ever-increasing population of South Bethlehem. Holy Infancy Parish located on 4th Street in the south side of Bethlehem was selected by the Archdiocese as the location for the new school. The Rev. Charles Bowles, pastor of Holy Infancy Parish, welcomed this opportunity and in less than one month raised more than $50,000. Since it first opened its doors in the spring of 1926, Bethlehem Catholic High School has stood as a tribute to the generosity and financial sacrifice of those 550 families of Holy Infancy Parish who played an instrumental role in its construction.
Formal dedication of the school, located at Fourth and Webster Streets in South Bethlehem, was held on August 24, 1926. In less than six months, it was approved as a fully-accredited, four-year secondary school by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction.
Members of the first class of the new school were pioneers of sorts, as the first to experience a four-year high school education. Prior to 1926, students spent only two years in “commercial high school.” The school’s first yearbook (1927) was called the Brown and Gold – brown signified strength and loyalty; gold signified faith and purity. An article featured in the 1927 Brown and Gold captured students’ thoughts: “Only rumors of this project and its difficulties reached us who were in our 2nd year of Holy Infancy Commercial High School. Many of the students were fearful lest they be forced to add two years to their school life just as they were about to step out of the school doors. The wisdom of the parents soon changed the view of many of the boys and girls; experience has since taught us gratitude for the opportunities offered us.”
From its inception, the school was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph from Chestnut Hill, Pa. A dedication from the 1950 yearbook reads, “To the Memory of the Sisters of Saint Joseph … who have taught us, throughout our high school years, with a patience and understanding that will long be remembered; who have counseled us, at a time when we most needed guidance; who have sustained and encouraged us by a life of prayerful sacrifice …” The school’s nickname was the result of a contest held by the newspaper staff in 1934. The winning entry – BecaHi – remains a popular acronym for the school to this day.
In February of 1961, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was subdivided with the five northern counties of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill comprising the Diocese of Allentown. The Most Reverend Joseph McShea was installed as the Diocese’s first bishop. To accommodate the growing need and desire for Catholic secondary education, a new high school was planned. The school would be built on a 15-acre complex in the northeastern part of the City of Bethlehem – 2133 Madison Avenue, its current location. The design and layout made provisions for a 1,200 student co-institutional high school, with separate academic wings for the male and female students. The design also included two attached residences for the sisters and priests staffing the school.
The building was completed in 1964. The class of 1969 was the first to spend four years in the new facility. The class graduated 265 students; a far cry from Bethlehem Catholic High School’s original graduating class of 12.
Change again took place in September of 1971 when Bethlehem Catholic returned to a co-educational environment.
Bethlehem Catholic Today
When you enter the doors of Bethlehem Catholic High School today, you can still feel the strong sense of community and tradition that began with is founding in 1925 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s. Nearly 12,000 students have been privileged to pass through these doors and experience the gift of Catholic education that Bethlehem Catholic offers. The school is known for their long-standing tradition of excellence in academics, athletics, student retreat programs and community service.
Becahi has a current enrollment of approximately 550 students. The faculty is comprised of 37 full-time laity, religious and priests. The student-teacher ratio is 15:1, with an average class size of 24 students.
Bethlehem Catholic is Middle States Accredited, and offers a rigorous and diverse academic program including honors and AP courses, Vocational Technical School, and Virtual High School (VHS) online courses. Students are taught by qualified, faith-centered faculty and staff, who provide a challenging curriculum in state-of-the-art classrooms. Upon graduation, 94 percent of Bethlehem Catholic graduates continue their education in competitive colleges.
The school’s International Students Program began in 2008, with just one student from South Korea. Over the years, the program has continued to grow, and is thriving. The program now includes more than 35 students from Spain, South Korea, China, France, Germany, Mexico, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
In addition to our strong academic program, students can participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, which allow opportunities for our students to grow spiritually, mentally and physically. Beca’s Campus Ministry supports dynamic programs such as Beca Students for Life, Overnight and Weekend Retreats, Romero Center Urban Challenge Weekends and Summer Service trips. The Hawk Ambassadors, Cops ‘n’ Kids Volunteers, Fact Club, and Key Club are just a few of the service related clubs available.
Competitive challenges abound. The athletic and intramural sports programs continue to grow and include 19 sports teams and a variety of intramural sporting events throughout the year. Students are challenged academically through their participation in Debate and Chess Teams, Math Competitions, Mock Trial, National History Day, Scholastic Scrimmage and Science Fairs.
The Fine Arts, Music and Theater programs are outstanding, and provide many different outlets for students to not only hone their skills, but show them off. The band front, dance team, photography club and yearbook allow students to express their artistic talents and abilities. Students interested in music can participate in the concert, jazz and marching bands. The Drama and Theater Department affords students the opportunity to participate both on stage and behind the scenes. A variety of drama and musicals are performed each year, supported by our own stage and technical crews.
Additional opportunities for student involvement include the Biology and Eco clubs, International Club, Peer Listeners, Student Council, and World Language Clubs. There is definitely something for everyone.
New Programs, Renovations and Upgrades
The year 2006 saw the opening of our newly renovated performing arts auditorium. The following year the gymnasium renovation was completed, and the new physical fitness center opened. The faculty lounges were also renovated in 2007.
In 2008 the academic wing renovations began. The first phase of the project concentrated on classroom renovations, with the completion of the first technology equipped classroom in freshman hallway. This phase of the renovation project included the removal of the platform, installation of a computer and interactive SmartBoard system, new lighting, wiring, paint and ceiling tiles. Freshman hall was the first floor to be completed. Sophomore hallway was completed next. Phase 1 renovations were completed in junior and senior hallway in the summer of 2010.
In 2009 work began to improve the athletic fields. The baseball and softball fields were resurfaced and new score boards were put up. In 2010 a synthetic turf practice field was installed. An outside snack stand opened during the 2011-2012 school year. In the spring of 2013 the Lacrosse team made its debut and bleachers were added behind the outfield on the softball field.
The Golden Hawk Student Snack Shop was remodeled during the summer of 2012. The following summer work began to convert the former library into a Media Center and Guidance Suite. The Media Center was completed by the start of the 2012-2013 school year. A couch, new desks and chairs, carpeting and paint brightened up the room, which now features a teleconferencing system, 30 iPads, 10 e-readers and 6 lap tops. The Guidance Suite was completed the fall of 2012.
The summer of 2013 saw many additions and renovations. New computers were installed in the two computer labs, the distance learning labs, and some of the administrative offices. New energy efficient lighting was installed in the academic hallways, a project that had begun with the replacement of the lighting in the cafeteria in the summer of 2012. The Band room was renovated, adding Internet access, a computer and SmartBoard system. State-of-the-art chemistry and computer labs are planned for 2014.
The building still houses the Sisters of Saint Joseph convent. The priests residence was converted to offices.
Mission Statement Bethlehem Catholic High School, a Catholic, Christ-centered educational community, strives to empower its students to live their faith, achieve academic excellence, serve with compassion, and be life-long disciples. Bethlehem Catholic Belief Statements Christ-Centered We believe that Jesus Christ is the…
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Founded in 1925, Bethlehem Catholic High School is a Roman Catholic, co-ed, secondary school in the Diocese of Allentown. In an atmosphere of faith and knowledge, our students are motivated to excel academically; to think, write and speak critically and creatively; and…
Bethlehem Catholic High School 2133 Madison Avenue Bethlehem, PA 18017-4699 From the West Take 78 East to Route 22 East. Take Route 512 exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left and proceed to the third traffic light. Turn left…