St. Teresa Catholic Church has the distinction of being one of the oldest Catholic churches on Florida’s East Coast. Father John O’Boyle, who made it his headquarters for the East Coast mission, first established the church in 1892. At that time the mission area was so extensive that Fr. O’Boyle often rode out on horseback to his various stations. It is recorded, that in 1907, Mass was offered at St. Teresa Church in Titusville on the second Sunday of every month and prayers and instructions were given by the priest on the evening preceding this Mass. In 1921, Father Radka became Titusville’s resident priest and he remained until his death in 1932. From that time until January 1958, St. Teresa was a mission church of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockledge. Archbishop Hurley restored parish status to Titusville with the appointment of Reverend John B. O’Hare as pastor. Fr. O’Hare was also commissioned to build a church and school.
The Space Age dawned, and with it came an unprecedented influx of scientists, engineers, and young professionals, all enthused by the challenge of conquering space. The burgeoning development of the area demanded a prompt response and so in 1960, Fr. O’Hare began to seek Religious Sisters to staff a new school.
In August 1961, Sister Stanislaus of the Convent of Mercy, Gort, County Galway, Ireland, missioned three sisters to teach at St. Teresa School. Sister Margaret Kenny, Sister Mary Mercy Mongey, and Sister Patrick Hennelly arrived in Titusville on November 12, 1961. The beginnings of the school had already taken root. Two lay teachers had started school in September with an enrollment of fifty children in Grades One through Three. Classes were held in the old church (now the Parish Center). Enrollment continued to increase through the year and the first school year ended with an enrollment of ninety students. The arrival of Sister Aloysius (Sr. Kathleen O’Brien) in August, 1962, helped meet the challenge of increasing enrollment. She taught the first Kindergarten that year.
In 1962, construction of a school building began. The first story of the original building was completed and dedicated by Father Spellman, delegate to the Archbishop, on October 12, 1962. This day also marked a momentous moment in the history of the Church. As Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in Rome, students moved into this new building of eight classrooms and administrative offices in December. In 1963, Mother Ignatius, Sister Immaculata (Sr. Philomena Noone), and Sister Paul (Sr. Marcella O’Brien), joined the community at St. Teresa. A second story was added to the school in 1964 when enrollment had reached three hundred twenty-five. Classes now ranged from grades Kindergarten through Grade Eight. Enrollment reached its peak in 1968-69 when there was a faculty of seven Sisters, eight lay teachers and a student body of 760 students.
As the decade of the 1970’s began, the changing focus of the Space Program brought its own upheaval to the Titusville area. Many of the personnel employed in the Aerospace industry relocated to other areas. As a result, businesses closed and the housing market declined. These economic challenges negatively impacted the enrollment at St. Teresa School. In 1974, the school had an enrollment of 350 students and for several years there was a decrease in enrollment. However, the same indomitable spirit that arrived with the Sisters of Mercy remained, and the school community continued to provide a Catholic education for the students still attending. In 1982, Father Michael Hanrahan built and dedicated a new church. The old church was converted to a Parish Center with facilities for student athletic programs (basketball and volleyball).
Throughout the 1980’s, the enrollment continued to decline with the lowest number being 244 students during the 1987/1988 school year. In the early 1990’s, the enrollment began to climb slowly but steadily. As the needs of the students broadened, so too did the curriculum. Classrooms initially designed as self-contained classrooms were adapted to special purposes, such as a science lab, music room, and computer room. The office area was expanded and refurbished. As the enrollment continued to rise, it became apparent that our student population would outgrow the original building, and plans for expansion of the campus were implemented.
In the late 1990’s, Father John Murray met with school and parish members, as well as architects and contractors to begin the planning phase of the school expansion. All parishioners were asked to make a three year monthly contribution toward the building fund which paid off the entire project in full.
St. Teresa School has completed many improvements to its facilities. In 1998, the two-story convent for the Sisters of Mercy was demolished in order to make space for a brand new gymnasium and education building to house the middle school. The buildings were dedicated on St. Teresa of Avila’s Feast Day – October 15, 2001. The new education building contains five classrooms, a Music Lab, Science Lab, Computer Lab, and Media Center. The stained glass windows from the Sisters’ convent were saved and are now nestled in the media center window overlooking the field. The gymnasium contains boys and girls changing rooms, the coach’s office, a snack bar, as well as state of the art gymnasium for all grade levels. There is also a meeting room at the west end of the gym and an upstairs storage area. The gymnasium has been used for many Coastal Catholic League basketball games because of the size of the facility. Members of the Youth Group, Extended Care, and adult volleyball also use the gym. School assemblies are held in the gymnasium weekly.
Our previous pastor, Father Michael Giglio, and our current pastor, Father Chris Bugno, have continued the tradition of support for the school. A Finance Committee assists with budgeting and financial issues. Their determination to inform school families of the financial needs of the school has brought a greater awareness of these needs to the entire parish community. Parishioners are asked to contribute monthly to the support of the school through a donation envelope included in the monthly packet from the parish. In an effort to increase safety for the students, the installation of a fence to surround the school campus was completed.
The mission of St. Teresa School has been, and continues to be, to provide a superior academic program imbued with Christian principles and values to the children in the Titusville area. The school will continue to adapt in response to the changing demands of the times but the dedication and commitment of the first brave pioneers will live on in the heritage and inspiration they have left us. Every adult who walks through the school gates, with a small hand in theirs, bears testimony to the uniqueness of Catholic Education. This educational philosophy is based on the knowledge that each individual is a unique creation of God and is on a journey of discovery toward the implications and responsibilities of this heritage. Therein lies our future and our mission: to direct each child to his/her highest potential, both spiritually and academically.