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 | By Mary P. Walker | Senior Correspondent

St. Mary’s Catholic School Celebrates 125 Years in Temple

This school year marks the 125th anniversary of St. Mary’s Catholic School in Temple. Principal Theresa Wyles said while there have been many changes over the years, the school’s core Catholic values have created an enduring legacy.

Founded in 1897 as St. Mary’s Academy, Father Pius Heckman worked with dedicated parishioners and Sisters of Divine Providence to open the school. In 1919, Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament continued the school’s mission. Although the school transitioned to lay leadership when Loris Edwards was named as principal in 1974, the sisters’ presence lasted until librarian Sister James Philip Davison retired in 1995.

Through the years, the school has formed generations of Catholics and offered a quality education that prepares students to excel. Today, in addition to students from St. Mary Parish, children from six other parishes attend, with a total enrollment of 206 in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Megan Hubbard-Swoda was a student over 30 years ago. She wants her three children to be educated in the same supportive and faith-filled environment.

“I’ve never had to worry about what my children are learning in school. I’ve always known that if I have any questions, I can ask the teachers,” Hubbard-Swoda said.

She has wonderful memories of her school years. Her mother helped in the library, and at a young age, Hubbard-Swoda knew she wanted to do the same for her own children. Both she and her son have served as lectors at the weekly school Mass.

Another fond memory is an eighth-grade project. The teacher passed out a list of the names of the students in the class. Classmates then wrote a virtue associated with each student. The teacher collected the responses, printed them and gave each student a list of the virtues attributed to them.

“I still have mine. It’s nice to pull it out and look at the beautiful virtues people associated with you,” Hubbard-Swoda said.

Her oldest son, Michael Hubbard, graduated from eighth grade and is now a freshman at Holy Trinity Catholic High School. He said the school prepared him well for the challenges of high school and that the teachers “are there for you and they care.” Her other son, Luke Swoda, 5, is in the pre-K4 class, and younger daughter Kaelynn Swoda, 3, is excited about going to St. Mary’s next year.

Angelika Stolp, a pre-K4 teacher, taught Megan and Michael and now teaches Luke. Trained as a kindergarten teacher in Germany before emigrating, she came to St. Mary’s 34 years ago because she wanted to teach in a Catholic environment.

When asked what it was like teaching the children of her former students, Stolp said, “It is an awesome feeling. It was a privilege to teach the parents and know that they are putting their faith in me to teach their children.” She explained that while things have changed over the years, the values and traditions that make St. Mary’s a special place have stayed the same.

The school recently transitioned to a classical model of education, which seeks to develop the whole person: body, mind and soul. The curriculum is coordinated across subjects, helps the students develop critical thinking skills and fosters an appreciation for truth, beauty and goodness.

The school community has a strong history of parish support and is integrated with parish life. Hubbard-Swoda remembers then-pastor Father Charles Davis standing in the doorway holding a dog and greeting the children as they came to school.

Father Kurtis Wiedenfeld, pastor for the last four years, also has a personal relationship with the students. In addition to celebrating the weekly school Mass, Father Wiedenfeld teaches Latin two mornings a week to the sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

“It has been a real joy. There is no better way to be part of the school than to be teaching,” Father Wiedenfeld said.

He praised the dedication of the teachers, administrators and staff, who work in harmony to communicate Christ’s love to the students under their care. Father Wiedenfeld also thanked parishioners, parents and others who financially support the school.

“We work hard to make this Catholic school available to anybody who wants their children to attend,” he said.

For more information on St. Mary’s Catholic School, visit or call (254) 778-8141.

Mary P. Walker has written for the Catholic Spirit for more than 20 years. She and her husband are parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in College Station.