History of West Catholic Girls’ High School


West Philadelphia Catholic Girls’ High School was founded on September 6, 1927 and opened its doors as the second all girls Catholic High School in Philadelphia. His Eminence Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, officiated at the opening. The initial enrollment was 1420 students about half of which transferred from it’s mother school, John W. Hallahan.

The first class of 268 graduated on June 13, 1928 of which 199 were graduates of a 3 year commercial course. Beginning in 1929 all students completed either a 4 year commercial or academic program.

Reverend Leo D. Burns, D.D. managed the new school along with serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese. Dr. Burns was assisted by sisters of 6 religious orders. The initial faculty consisted of four Religious Sisters of Mercy, two Sisters of Notre Dame deNamur, eight Sisters of St. Francis, seven Sisters of St. Joseph, six Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, four Sisters of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and three lay teachers. In 1928 two Sisters of Christian Charity joined the faculty. The day to day operation of the school was supervised by the Prefects of the seven religious orders.

In the 1930’s, West had the honor of hosting Cardinal Eugene Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII.

In 1952, Father Francis A. McDermott was appointed the first Principal of West Philadelphia Catholic Girls’ High School. Father led the school for 12 years. In 1964 he was succeeded by the Reverend Arthur W. Nugent who served in that capacity for ten years. Reverend James P. McCoy was his successor. In 1980 the school received its first woman principal with the appointment of Sister Catherine McDonald, S.S.J.. Sister remained principal until 1989 when the school was merged with West Philadelphia Catholic Boy’s High School.

The new school, West Catholic High School opened its doors on September 8, 1989, with Brother John McDonnell, FSC as President, and graduated its first class in June 1990. The mission statement encourages intellectual growth, spiritual development and material needs of the students. This allows each student the opportunity to develop his or her talents.

During the 2012 school year West Catholic formed Partnerships with several universities, namely, Penn, Drexel, University of the Sciences, and St. Joseph’s.  These partnerships afford the students the opportunity to learn more about these schools and to gain first hand experience and knowledge to better prepare them for college.

In July 2013, Brother Richard Kestler, FSC, President of West Catholic announced that the school would be going through another change with the upcoming school year.  With the approval of the Bishop and the Board of Trustees, the school would now be known as West Catholic Preparatory High School.  On September 12, 2013 the official name change was celebrated at the school and the WCHS seal and flag were retired.

In 2014 West Catholic Prep in collaboration with Drexel University launched The Engineering Technology Academy.  In addition, The Lankenau Hospital Health Career Academy was introduced.  The detailed information on these programs can be found on the school’s website, www.westcatholic.org.