History of St. Mark Parish
“Mother Church of Bucks County”
St. Mark Parish can aptly be designated the “Mother Church of Bucks County.” It is the oldest Church in the county, and its original territory encompassed so large an area that eventually twenty-one parishes were established from it. On September 18, 1846 the cornerstone of our parish was laid. After many hardships and growing pains, the parish continued to expand. As the industrial life of Bristol began to grow, so did St. Mark Parish and the importance of a school was immediately seen.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, our school evolved from a small one-room type setting to a fully staffed facility. From 1864-1867, a school of sorts was conducted in the parish house under the direction of Miss Hannah V. McAran. It was a temporary and insufficient measure. Under the pastoral leadership of Reverend John J. Ward, St. Mark School was formally established. Property was acquired on Radcliffe Street and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary came to Bristol on October 17, 1887 to begin the education of our children. The formal blessing and opening of St. Mark Parochial School was on December 27, 1887.
For the next half-century, the growth of the school enrollment paralleled the expansion of the population in Bristol and its surrounding areas. The development of Levittown began to have direct effects beginning in 1952, when one hundred and thirteen youngsters were registered for first grade. The building was filled to capacity until new parishes were formed and Catholic schools were erected throughout Bucks County. Church officials labeled the aging and overcrowded school a crisis situation. The parish purchased riverfront property in anticipation of erecting a new school, but Archdiocesan officials had not yet authorized a building project. Parishioners loyally met and voiced their concerns to continue a parish school. Over nine hundred parishioners signed a petition and sent it to Archbishop Krol, but the Archdiocese felt they were forced to close the school. Children from St. Mark and St. Ephrem School in Cornwells Heights would go to the newly constructed St. Ephrem School. Both parishes would support St Mark-Ephrem School. And so on Friday, June 13, 1969, the old St. Mark Parochial School closed its doors permanently. The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were to remain at St. Mark convent and be joined by the sisters from St. Mark-Ephrem.
The following month under the direction of then-pastor, Father Joseph Daly, a building fund was begun. In a statement in the parish bulletin, Father stated: “In the future we hope to increase our present funds considerably, so much so that we might show the Archdiocese that we are prepared to build for the future of this parish.” Again the loyal parishioners worked for the opening of the school and supported the building fund. In September of 1969, Archbishop Kroll announced permission for St. Mark to develop its riverfront property.
The nineteen-seventies saw a rebirth of the St. Mark Parish School. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new St. Mark School were held on May 1, 1970, and the building was opened in 1971. First through third grades attended school in this building, while grades four through eight continued at St. Mark-Ephrem. Sadly, at about the same time, a fire damaged the old St. Mark building and caused considerable damage. The property was sold to the Grundy Foundation. In May 1971, the structure was demolished. Even though the building was gone, memories remained in the hearts and minds of those who received their education there. With the whole-hearted support of the parish a project to include kindergarten and all eight grades was undertaken. In the 1977-78 school term, the new school building was opened to capacity, with a waiting list for all eight grades. A principal and four sisters were assigned to St. Mark School and our school consolidation ended.
With a decline in vocations, after one-hundred years of service to St. Mark Parish, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary departed our school and left it in the hands of the very dedicated and hard working lay faculty. The faculty of our St. Mark School continues the wonderful tradition of educating its students in a Christian atmosphere. Thousands of children have graduated from our school, instilled with the principles of a religious education. It is our hope that our present student body will also leave with not only a great education and religious values, but with a true love and respect for the hallowed halls of St. Mark.