125 years ago, Manchester teemed with the energy and promise of the Industrial Revolution as the mill town boomed on the Merrimack River. The smokestacks of the factories filled the city’s horizon almost as quickly as the towering spires of the Catholic churches that were built throughout the city to provide a spiritual home for the swelling ranks of European immigrants.
In was against this colorful backdrop that Catholic education on Manchester’s west side began. The bishop presented the monks of Saint Anselm Abbey with the task of building a parish in the heart of the German and French sector of Manchester. Father Sylvester Yoerg, O.S.B., organized St. Raphael’s Parish in 1888 and planned for a school to occupy the second and third floors over the new church.
The next year as the monks prepared to open Saint Anselm College they simultaneously prepared to open an elementary school at their new parish. The school, completed in 1889, was under the direction of the Benedictine Sisters from Elizabeth, New Jersey. The four sisters lived in a house opposite the church and school on Fourth Street. Thus, as a means of putting religion into education, St. Raphael’s School opened with 124 students. Graduation for the first class of 4 students was held in 1891. In 1926, the Sisters of Mercy gradually took over the teaching duties at the school. By 1928, all of the Benedictine Sisters had returned to the Motherhouse in New Jersey, leaving behind many fond memories.
To meet the growing needs of the parish in the early 1960’s, a new church and modern school were built. It was with great pride that, in 1965, the first class graduated from this new 8-classroom school complete with a library and cafeteria and a gymnasium where the old church had been.
In 1978, as a result of the consolidation of the Catholic School System throughout the city, St. Raphael’s School became the West Side Catholic Regional School – South Campus. It housed grades K-6 for the West Side parochial school children. Grades 7 and 8 were held at West Side Catholic Regional School – North Campus, formerly Ste. Marie School.
Due to demographic changes in the early 1990’s, the Diocese closed the North Campus at Ste. Marie’s, and that change left one Catholic school opened on the West Side – known as West Side Catholic School.
In September of 2003, at the request of the Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Father Denis Audet, West Side Catholic was renamed Saint Benedict Academy. The school continues to provide a nurturing co-educational environment for elementary students in Grades K-6, offering excellent academics, Catholic faith development, and life-long skills.
Today, St. Benedict Academy is a vibrant, private Catholic school of the 21st Century. Saint Benedict prides itself on enriching students and families with a strong academic education rooted in the richness of the Catholic faith and traditions. We are a lively and engaging academic institution with a strong sense of our Catholic identity and our role in building future leaders for the Church and our world.