More than 25 years ago three men were thinking about re-establishing a Catholic school in St. Johnsbury. When they realized they were entertaining the same goal, they set out together to make their common dream a reality.

And that is just what Bernier Mayo, headmaster at St. Johnsbury Academy; Ray Roy, a local businessman; and Tom Lovett, a teacher and coach at the academy, did.

Twenty-five years after Good Shepherd Catholic School opened in what had been Catholic Central School, it is celebrating its silver anniversary.

Both Mayo and Lovett became permanent deacons, and the latter served on the first school board as chairman; he is today too though his service has not been continuous. He recalled that during Eucharistic adoration more than 25 years ago, he had had a “real desire” to provide a Catholic education for his children, but the last Catholic school in St. Johnsbury had closed in 1971.

He, Mayo and Roy formed a steering committee, and “fund raising went incredibly well,” Deacon Lovett said.

Good Shepherd Catholic School opened as a diocesan school in 1998 in the former Catholic Central School — which had been used for various ministries in St. John the Evangelist Parish — with about 50 students in pre-kindergarten through grade six.

Now the school serves children from infants through eighth grade in two buildings with an enrollment of 85. Children attend from a 40-mile radius, including some non-Catholic students and some from nearby New Hampshire.

The school’s mission “is to prepare students for a life of learning, service, compassion, personal excellence and faith in God,” said Principal Lynn Cartularo.

The traditional curriculum includes religion, language arts, math, science, social studies, music, art, physical education, library technology, band, chorus, drama, athletics, and youth group.

There are 17 full- and part-time faculty members.

The pastor of Corpus Christi Parish (formed after the school opened from St. John the Evangelist Church in St. Johnsbury, St. Elizabeth Church in Lyndonville and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Danville) is Father Lance Harlow, and he has an active role in the school. In addition to celebrating a weekly school Mass, he teaches fifth- and sixth-grade religion, plays in the school band and is a lunch monitor.

“It makes religion more accessible to the children,” Deacon Lovett said. “They see him living his faith so well. He’s a great role model for everyone and adds a depth to our Catholicity.”

Two of Deacon Lovett’s grandchildren are students at Good Shepherd Catholic School, and three of his children are graduates; he said graduates are well prepared academically and socially for high school and are accustomed to performing works of charity — like donating food to a local food shelf and singing for nursing home residents.

He’s optimistic for the future of the school and credits its success to the effort of all involved to stay true to its faith-based mission.

Father Harlow’s hope for the school’s future is that its bond with the parish continues to strengthen and that the school “remains strong in our Catholic focus in a world that has lost its moral compass.”

Quoting a memorable homily Father Harlow gave, Deacon Lovett said the school is “an oasis of faith, hope, and love.”

The celebration of the school’s 25th anniversary has begun with the sharing of information about the school, contacting alumni, and preparing for a capital campaign. “Big plans are in the works, but we are not ready to reveal them,” Cartularo said, with Father Harlow adding, “People have been very responsive to supporting the school.”

—Originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.