The parish of Saint Mary Magdalen was founded on January 1, 1940, with Rev. James M. Boyle as its first pastor. The territory was taken from Saint Ann’s jurisdiction – the parish to its immediate south.
In 1942, a five-room frame residence was purchased from Saint Ann’s and moved on to the property. It was in this building that the first Saint Mary Magdalen School was opened in 1942. The building served as a combination of both Convent and School. Sister Mary Patricia of the Incarnate Word Sisters was the first Principal. The school had an enrollment of forty-five students in grades 1-4, and a faculty of two Incarnate Word Sisters.
The parish and school grew rapidly, and, in 1943, an addition had to be made to the five-room “cottage” to accommodate more students. In 1944, a one-room frame building was erected. While small, the undertaking of these two buildings was extremely difficult due to war-time restrictions and scarcity of building materials. In 1945, the Patio Classroom was added and, again in 1946, two additional classrooms were constructed. Then, in 1948, construction began on the first wing of the presently existing school. By 1949, with the completion of this wing, the school had an enrollment of over 300 students, a faculty of seven Incarnate Word Sisters and one lay teacher, teaching all grades from Kindergarten through Eighth.
In 1950, two more classrooms were added to the frame building, and in 1952, a three-story, nine-classroom addition was made to the permanent school building. In 1954, a convent with the capacity to house twelve Sisters was completed. Each of the Incarnate Word Sisters living in the convent taught in Saint Mary Magdalen School. In 1955, due to the rapid growth of the parish and the increasing enrollment at St. Mary Magdalen School, the Archdiocese decided to divide Saint Mary Magdalen Parish and start a new parish in the Dellview area. This new parish is now Saint Gregory the Great Parish. By 1956, Saint Gregory’s had an enrollment of over 800 and Saint Mary Magdalen’s was 972. Due to further parish growth, Holy Spirit Parish and School was founded in 1964 from Saint Mary Magdalen’s.
During the first twenty years of growth, Saint Mary Magdalen’s had gone from forty-five students and a faculty of two to an enrollment of nearly one-thousand and a faculty of twenty – ten Religious and ten lay teachers. However, in the early 1970s, like many other parochial schools across the nation, Saint Mary Magdalen’s enrollment began a downward trend.
In 1973, the Incarnate Word Sisters informed the Pastor, Monsignor Herbst, that they could no longer provide Sisters to staff Saint Mary Magdalen’s and would withdraw the principal and teaching Sisters at the end of that school year. This announcement led to the consideration of closing the school. However, Monsignor Herbst was not in favor of closing, so he approached the Presentation Sisters on Callaghan Road with the request for Sisters to administer and teach in his school. In September 1974, three Presentation Sisters were transferred from Saint Gregory the Great School, one as Principal and two as classroom teachers, to help keep the school open. With the Presentation Sisters assisted by some dedicated lay teachers and two Incarnate Word Sisters, the school began 1974 with an enrollment of 257 students from grades 1 – 8.
Many remodeling and structural changes were made over the next twenty years. In 1986, the parish formulated an expansion plan called “Vision 90-Parish Expansion Program.” The completion date for this Vision was set for 1990, to coincide with the Golden Anniversary of the founding of the parish. The major goals of this program included the razing of the original “cottage” and the erecting of a new Parish Family Center and a Gymnasium. The Parish Family Center comprised a Hall to accommodate 450 people, a separate cafeteria area, three large meeting rooms, a commercial kitchen, restrooms and storage rooms. The gymnasium was built on a vacant lot east of the school across Buckeye Street. The school continues to benefit greatly from the realization of this vision.
During this same period of parish growth, the school was undergoing a major Asbestos removal project. This was extremely costly and put a significant burden on the school budget and personnel time. An additional financial problem hit the school at the same time: the furnace in the basement had to be replaced. All of these added expenses hindered the principal and faculty from achieving many of the goals and dreams for Saint Mary Magdalen. School opened in 1994 with an enrollment of 264 and just about Asbestos Free.
From 2010-14, SMMS was a part of the Good Shepherd Network of Catholic Schools (GSN), which included seven other local, urban Catholic schools. During this time, SMMS worked toward enhancing its Catholic identity, academic excellence and financial viability, and did so in collaboration with the other GSN schools. In 2012-13, the school launched its After School Club Program and the CAL Program (an athletic program for students not old enough to participate in AIAL sports). In 2013-14, SMMS introduced its dual language program, its Maverick Values Program, and its Graduate Support Program.
The GSN dissolved in 2014, and on July 1, 2014, SMMS became a parish school again. In 2014-15, SMMS started its SuccessMaker Academic Excellence program. SMMS looks forward to advancing its mission under this renewed governance structure, confident that it proceeds through the 2014-15 school year stronger, more resilient and better than ever at witnessing its mission.