The Beginning

On June 8, 1916, Bishop O'Brien received word from the Department of Education that students would be permitted to write Departmental Examinations, that is, Entrance to Normal School and Junior Matriculation Examinations. Previously, the Department of Education was not in favour of Catholic School teaching beyond the Fifth form, which corresponded to our Grades Nine and Ten and to which limit the Government of Ontario made grants to Separate Schools.

As the enrolment increased, teachers were added to the staff. Sister St. John (McQuarrie) was transferred from the elementary section to the secondary school during the 1914-1915 school year. Sister M. Lucretia (Foley) was appointed to the staff in 1916. In 1918, Father Michael O'Brien was appointed to teach science. He has been sent after ordination to Rome to study for a doctorate, but returned to his diocese after eighteen months for reasons of health.

Until 1921 all pupils in First and Second Forms (Grades Nine and Ten) were required to write Departmental Examinations each year: Canadian History, English Grammar, Botany, Geography, Art Zoology, Physiography, and Arithmetic. At this time, Second Form pupils could write a special examination in Latin (Departmental).

The School Grows - The Twenties

On September 5, 1922, the first Fifth Form, sometimes called Upper School and presently called OAC Level was inaugurated. The class was accommodated in the teachers' or reading room on the second floor.

Teachers on the staff in the early twenties were Sister Patricia, Sister Alexis (Nolan), Sister Lucretia, Sister Josepha (Black), Sister Helen (Greenan), Sister Giovanni (Young), Sister Rita (Connolly), Sister St. Ivan (Rose), Sister Paula (Holland) and Miss Mary Ann O'Connell.

When Sister Patricia was principal, St. Patrick's Day was the occasion of the observance of her feast day. At nine o'clock, pupils of the elementary and secondary school classes assembled in the first floor corridor and on the wide stairs. After the singing of "Hibernia's Patron Saint, All Hail", presentations of spiritual bouquets and gifts were made to Sister Patricia. The gifts were usually furnishings for her office.

Bishop O'Brien played a very important role in the life of the school. Unless he was absent from the city, he and Sister Patricia stood on the main floor landing over-looking the stairs as elementary pupils marched to their classrooms to the music of an orchestra provided by secondary school students. He would then go to a classroom where Fourth and Fifth Forms were combined for his class in religion, a study of the New Testament

This custom was followed by his successor, Bishop Denis O'Connor. It was Bishop O'Brien's custom to give out reports to all secondary school classes. In the early years of the secondary school these reports were prepared monthly. When teachers complained that the frequency of examinations gave little time for teaching, the distribution of report cards was reduced to four times a year.

The Thirties

In 1930 Sister Patricia relinquished her duties as Principal, a position she had held for seventeen years. She was succeeded by a long-time assistant on her staff, Sister M. Lucretia. By 1932 the registration had reached a total of 263. In a period of nine years, thirty graduates had commenced studies for the priesthood and twenty young women had entered religious communities, chiefly the Community of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The Forties

The continued growth of St. Peter's Secondary School demanded and expansion of facilities. In the fall of 1944, Bishop MacDonald inaugurated a High School Fund Campaign, which was launched under the Chairmanship of F.J. Overend and which produced the sum of $165,097, from three city parishes. In April 1945 a High School Board was formed with three appointees by the Bishop and a representative of each city parish.

Until 1945 the staff of St. Peter's Secondary School was composed of Sisters of St. Joseph with one or two exceptions. In 1945 Father James Houlihan, a graduate of the school, was appointed to the staff; in September of the following year Father John Coughlan joined the staff, and in 1949, Father John Maskey became the third diocesan priest to teach at St. Peter's.

The Fifties

By September, 1951, the enrolment had reached 331 and for the first time in history there were no elementary classes in the school. Classes were accommodated in four different buildings. Father James Houlihan was loaned to the Peterborough Separate School Board as Secretary-Treasurer. Father Leo Leahy was appointed to the staff. In the following year, Sister Lucretia resigned as Principal and Father John Coughlan succeeded her.

On March 24, 1952 Bishop Berry announced a Diocesan Expansion Program which included a new private secondary school building. In April he presented his plan for the new school to cost $225,000, including a heating plant to serve the new and old schools. The new building would provide eight standard classrooms, one library, two laboratories, two commercial classrooms, two offices and one assembly room. The old school as designated to accommodate pupils of Grades Nine and Ten.

Building the "Senior" Secondary School began in 1953. On January 24, 1954, Bishop Berry laid the corner-stone of the Downie Street school. This was his last official act before leaving for installation as Archbishop of Halifax. At the opening of the new school on October 23, 1955 a wood carving, "Christ in the Temple" executed by Dora de Pedery Hunt of Toronto was unveiled in the library as a tribute to Sister Lucretia who had served for twenty-five years as Principal. During 1954, two changes of major significance were made in the operation of the school. Sister Marion, a long time staff member, was appointed Principal of the Junior High School Division, Grades Nine and Ten. Bishop Webster appointed a High School Board with a representative from each of five city parishes and one from each Ennismore, Douro, Otonabee and Lakefield.

The Sixties

Until 1960, pupils attending St. Peter's Secondary School were not charged for tuition, the expense of operation of the school being borne by the city parishes and those adjoining the city. On June 29, 1960, Bishop Webster announced that fees for pupils attending Grades Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen would be charged. Grades Nine and Ten were financed by local taxation and government grants.

In June 1961, Sister Marion retired as Principal of the Junior High School and Father John Coughlan assumed the role of principal of both schools. In November of that year Bishop Webster blessed and eleven room addition to the original "red brick" St. Peter's costing $105,000.

The Seventies

Father Coughlan, as Principal of St. Peter's Secondary School, played an important role in the establishment of Trent University. He was a member of the Founding Fund Committee and Vice-President of the Board of Directors' Executive Committee. Father Coughlan resigned in 1967 and was succeeded as Principal by Frank Burke for one year, by Paul de Souza from 1968 to 1974 and by Robert O'Rouke, a former student and staff member, from 1974 - 1980. In the fall of 1973, a classroom on the ground floor of the Downie Street Building was transformed into a chapel which served as a centre for class masses, prayer services and individual spiritual response for the next twenty years. St. Peter's entered its sixty-first year of operation in 1974 with a staff of forty-one and a student enrolment of 745.

In September 1976, a Ways and Means Committee was set up to examine ways to keep the Senior School open. Those who served on this committee: Monsignor O'Donoghue, Monsignor Wise, Charles Cavilla, Frank Flynn, Sister Angela Guiry, Mrs. Pauline Kylie, Gerald McMurray, Michael O'Brien, James O'Connor and Robert O'Rouke represented the efforts of so many determined to preserve Catholic secondary school education in Peterborough. The lottery 100 effort along, chaired by Peter Moore, raised between 1976 and 1986, a sum of $1,025,414. Despite internal financial problems, student generosity to community needs never flagged. In the fall of 1977, St. Peter's Secondary School won the Shinerama Trophy for the fourth consecutive year, presented for raising the most money for the Cystic Fibrosis Association. The school year 1976-1977 was marked by the performance of the last football team at St. Peter's until it was reorganized in September 1995. In years to come, achievements would be noted in many other sports including soccer, basketball, hockey and track and field. In September 1979, for the first time, students looked forward to gaining a full credit for grade nine and ten religion.

The Eighties and Nineties

In 1980, Clement Bruder was appointed Principal. Financial problems continued to plague the school. The following year staff agreed to contribute the equivalent of one additional teacher to support the senior school. The fall of 1982 marked the establishment of "St. Peter's Alumni and Friends" under the direction of Father Bill Russell. This group was organized to raise sufficient capital funds to generate at least $100,000 a year to balance the budget of the senior school. Bishop Doyle spoke of the sacrifices necessary to preserve the dream of continuing Catholic Secondary Education in Peterborough and his challenge was met with a warm, optimistic responses from all parts of the community. Project after project, from cookbooks to spice sets, to a student Dance-a-Thon raising $10,000, proceeded successfully climaxing with an Alumni Homecoming Weekend held in May 1983 to mark the seventieth birthday of St. Peter's Secondary School.

At this time, St. Peter's reorganized its scheduling to a full credit semester system. The first computer course was offered in 1984 to 160 eager students, and teachers "went to class" to learn computer basics. The resource centre became more than a library-designed to help students obtain and use information and work effectively in independent study assignments. The new Ontario Secondary School Diploma came into effect.

It was into this setting of continued growth and financial strain that Premier William Davis announced, in the Ontario Legislature on June 12, 1984, his government's support of full funding. Senior students were able to walk into classes in September 1985, without the burden of tuition fees. Bishop Doyle dissolved the Senior High School Board of Governors and the Separate School Board assumed full responsibility for St. Peter's Secondary School.

Ministry initiatives to have St. Peter's students split their population or take over another city school were firmly rejected by parents and students. The quest had begun for a new school building and, in 1988, the Liberal Government of Premier Peterson announced that St. Peter's would receive a new 1400 pupil place school for September 1992.

With this assurance of an equitable future, enrolment and staff grew so that portable and port-a-pac classrooms jammed the properties on Reid Street; Brock Street was closed; students went to St. Mary's for drama, to Kenner for technical studies and Trent University for physical education. The last year on Reid Street involved 1201 students and 77 teachers in the school community.

In September 1992, the new school, build on 19 acres of land previously owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph, began a new chapter in the continued association between St. Peter's and the Sisters.

In June 1996 Clement Bruder retired and John Mackle was appointed Principal. On September 3, 1996 St. Peter's Secondary School began classes with 1,804 students, marking its 84th year of excellence in Catholic Secondary School education.

On Thanksgiving Weekend, October of 2013, hundreds of alumni came "home" for the 100th Anniversary of St. Peter Catholic Secondary School. The weather was beautiful and God was certainly shining down on us!