A FAMILY TREE ROOTED AT SAINT PETER’S
By Erin Pant, Our Parish Times, September 2021 Edition
In August of 1957, Saint Peter’s Parish opened the doors to its day school. The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill arrived in Olney from Philadelphia to teach the 160 pupils. One of the students in the inaugural first grade class was Catherine Yates.
Catherine was one of fifteen siblings who each attended Saint Peter’s School. Her parents were very active in the parish and school. Her mom, Marie, took on many roles including working in the school office and coordinating church wedding receptions. Her father Richard, a doctor, provided medical care to the Sisters, and was instrumental in many parish affairs, including securing the commission of the statue of Saint Peter, which remains the parish’s signature symbol today.
“In those days, Olney was very country,” said Catherine. She recalls having to walk through farmland, dodging past cows on her way to school each morning. Catherine has especially fond memories of the Sisters, “I loved the nuns, they were very special. Saint Peter’s was always a happy and holy atmosphere. It was a wonderful place to be.”
Catherine married Bill Mooney in 1971. The ceremony was held in Saint Peter’s Parish Hall, which at the time was the main church. The Mooney’s had two children, Brian and Karen, and when the time came, they proudly enrolled them at Saint Peter’s. “They loved the school from the start,” recalls Catherine.
When Brian and Karen attended Saint Peter’s in the 1980’s, it had undergone several changes since their mom’s time at the school. Most of the faculty were now lay people, and in 1989, a major milestone occurred when the new church was completed.
“Our teachers were wonderful, I still remember many of them vividly today,” said Brian Mooney. “There were high expectations, but we had a lot of fun.”
Karen Mooney recalls the many special community events, some of which continue today, like spaghetti dinners, bingos, and Donuts for Dad.
Both Brian and Karen enjoyed the strong sense of community that Saint Peter’s provided them. So much so, that years later, when they each became parents, they made the decision to send their children to Saint Peter’s, forming a three-generation tradition.
Brian’s son Nathan is now in 4th grade. “We wanted to give Nathan a strong academic foundation and sense of community, and St. Peter’s felt to be the natural choice,” said Brian. “School has changed a lot, but there are these moments that harken back to the time that I spent there, and it is really feels special to share that with him.”
Karen’s daughter Harley is in 2nd grade, “I wanted my daughter to be in a loving environment that focused on faith and education. There are many times that Harley will ask me about how things were when I was there. I try to explain that there was only one hallway, and she can’t even comprehend it!”
While many things at Saint Peter’s have changed over the decades, from the expansion of the school building to the curriculum to the uniforms, the experience gained within the walls has not.
“Through all of the years and all of the changes, it’s clear that the core of St. Peter’s is the community,” said Brian.
“It is very reassuring to know, based on my own firsthand experience, that my daughter is in the right place,” added Karen.
Today, Catherine attends school masses as often as she can. “I just love seeing my grandchildren there.” She also enjoys accompanying them down the same halls she once walked, though she admits she sometimes gets lost navigating the newer parts of the building. “I couldn’t be happier with my own children’s choice to follow in our footsteps and send their children to Saint Peter’s, it’s such a blessing.”