History of McDevitt

Bishop McDevitt Catholic High School was dedicated on December 8, 1958 and began its service to students the following day. The school celebrated its first graduating class in June of 1961. Soon after, McDevitt established many wonderful and lasting traditions now cherished by all who walked the halls.

The school added vocational and technical education in 1965; won its first boys Philadelphia Catholic League title in 1966; became coeducational in September of 1970; won its first girls Philadelphia Catholic League title in 1979; welcomed its first lay principal in 1985; opened its first computer lab in 1987; achieved its first Middle States accreditation in 1988; started a Development Office and Alumni Association in 1989; and moved into open enrollment and a restructured president and principal model of administration in 1993. In 2010, McDevitt welcomed Our Lady of Confidence to McDevitt, a special education school that was located on the ground floor of our building.

On November 18, 2020, the Office of Catholic Education and Faith in the Future announced that Bishop McDevitt would close after the 2020-2021 school year.

Bishop Philip R. McDevitt

Philip Richard McDevitt was born of Irish parents in Philadelphia, on July 12, 1858. The McDevitt family was one of the oldest and best known in Kensington whose names figure prominently in the early history of three Catholic parishes. Philip McDevitt entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the fall of 1877 at the age of nineteen and was ordained on July, 14 1885.

His interest in schools and teaching began when he was an assistant at Nativity B.V.M. Church in the Richmond section of the city. He became one of the first priests in the country to devote his efforts to modern educational problems in a practical way. Archbishop Ryan recognized Father McDevitt’s interest in education and appointed him as Superintendent of Schools, a position he assumed in May of 1899.

Under Father McDevitt’s direction, three girls’ Catholic high school “centers” were opened in Philadelphia. From 1900 he labored tirelessly for a girls’ Catholic High School and his labors came to fruition in 1910 when ground was broken for the school now known as the John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School.

His work as a priest was acknowledged in 1916 when Pope Benedict XV named Monsignor McDevitt as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg. During his eighteen years in Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt’s accomplishments were vast and included ten new parishes with resident priests were established, schools were opened in twelve parishes along with eight “centers” for Catholic high schools.

Bishop McDevitt took sick in early November, 1935. On November 11, 1935 he was scheduled to bless one of the first churches he had established in Harrisburg. Instead the presiding bishop began the dedication with the words, “Our Father is dead.” Bishop Philip R. McDevitt was seventy-eight years old. His deep faith, unaffected holiness and attention to detail grew as he advanced in wisdom, age, and grace. His work with education and schools is an outstanding contribution to the Church in America.