For the past 125 years, the mission of St. Joseph Catholic School has remained the same: Help students develop in mind, body and spirit through a faith-based education.
Though first established in Galveston, the school moved to Bryan in 1901 following the Great Galveston hurricane of 1900.
Now, St. Joseph Catholic School serves students from 8 weeks old in the Early Learning Center through high school seniors.
President and Principal of St. Joseph Catholic School Jim Rike is a product of the school, having attended the school from 1986 to 1996. As the school was only open through eighth grade at the time, Rike then made the transition to Bryan High School. St. Joseph’s eventually added a high school, with the first graduating class in 1998. A secondary campus on Coulter Drive opened in the early 2000s.
“That was a transition,” he said. “It was a transition because the numbers. I went from a class of 30 to 1,500.” The rigor at St. Joseph, though, prepared him for the pre-AP classes he took in high school. “We didn’t have pre-AP [at St. Joseph]; it was just the norm, so I was really prepared for public education.”
That foundation, he said, helped set him up for success in high school and carried him through multiple careers, ranging from the military to education.
When he began his career in education, he said, he jumped at the opportunity to return to his former school as a junior high history teacher before moving into an administrative role.
“We are constantly, constantly trying to serve our community and serve our students in their academic, their spiritual needs. I was just so impressed with [how it expanded],” he said about his return to the school in the 2008-2009 school year.
The addition of the high school meant students could spend their entire educational career at St. Joseph. That opportunity provides consistency for the students and staff, he said.
“They know our system. They know what we stand for,” Rike said. Because of administrative changes over the past 10 years, one thing he is committed to is bringing more consistency to the school through the administration. “And I don’t plan on going anywhere; this is really my home away from home. I’m very, very passionate about Catholic education and St. Joseph and this community.”
The mission, no matter the grade, is to develop each student through mind, body and spirit, and to prepare each student for the next step in their life, he said, whether that is taking over the family business, going to college or joining the military.
“After 10 years of being here and after going to school here and being a product of this school, my love for this campus grows stronger and stronger because of what we can offer this community, and I see it in the students,” he said.
As the only Catholic school in the area, St. Joseph has become a regional school with students traveling to the Bryan campus from College Station and farther out, including coming from places such as Caldwell, Edge, North Zulch, Plantersville and Hearne. The school also has international students who attend the school.
In addition to an education rooted in the Catholic faith, Rike said, the school also offers a smaller school community that feels more like family where students and teachers can develop relationships that go beyond grades.
“You can know and trust that when your child leaves here, they’re going to know the truth about their faith and they’re going to be able to determine what is right and what is wrong in this world that is ever changing,” he said. “… You’re going to see loving, caring teachers and staff that are all on the same page that are all working together with the one mission. That’s what you’re going to get.”
With students from all different backgrounds, Rike said, they approach each student with open arms and love so each one has the opportunity to succeed. As a private school, he and others at the school look for grants and donations to help provide financial assistance to families whose only hesitation to enrolling their student in St. Joseph is the cost.
“When you look at our congregation and you look at a group of students, you don’t see color. You see our uniform. You don’t see Catholics or non-Catholics. You see students,” he said, noting the school does not discriminate based on the students’ religion but does emphasize the obligation students have of attending Mass and participating in religion classes.
To mark the milestone year, the school will have a special anniversary Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 1. The Mass will be led by Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of the Diocese of Austin with St. Joseph students, staff and area priests will be participating. St. Joseph families, alumni and community members are welcome to attend.
A reception in the St. Joseph Parish will follow.
Reflecting on the anniversary, Rike said, “I think the big thing looking ahead is doing everything we can to ensure that we are still here offering the Brazos Valley a Catholic education to the community. … Just making sure our relationship with the community is as strong as it can be. … We’ve been here for 125 years; we hope we’re here for another 125 more.”