SOMERSET – Prepare for a history lesson when it comes to taking a look at Holy Trinity School. Picture the Perry County landscape in 1830 when Holy Trinity begins tracing its history.
Sisters from St. Catherine’s in Kentucky arrived in Perry County on Feb. 5, 1830. Eleven days later, Bishop Fenwick purchased a one-acre parcel where the first school would be erected.
The first day of school for 40 students was April 5, 1830, a mere two months after the Sisters’ arrival in Perry County. By 1831, five years before the Battle at The Alamo, the school building was completed and a boarding school was opened.
In 1845, a year before America went to war with Mexico, a Gothic chapel was added to the school that now had 100 boarders. The number of boarders gradually increased until the school had 137 in 1865, the year the Civil War ended.
The school’s steady progress came to a brief halt on June 6, 1866 when fire destroyed the school building. A mere 78 years later, Allied forces crossed the English Channel on June 6 during World War II on what became known as D-Day. On July 7, 1868, the Sisters left for St. Mary of the Springs.
In 1879 the Dominican Sisters of the Sacred Heart arrived to start a new school. The Dominicans rented the Union School building for the summer. In August that summer, they rented the Brown Building on the Somerset square for their school. By October, construction had begun for a new school on the site of the original one.
Construction was nearly completed by September 1882 when the Dominican Sisters of the Sacred Heart left for Texas.Three years later the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs returned to Somerset with novices and Sisters who become teachers at Holy Trinity Parochial School. In 1889 the novices returned to St. Mary of the Springs, but six sisters remained as teachers at Holy Trinity.
The school building was purchased from the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs by the Rosary Press in 1900. The sisters moved across the street where they took up residence in the rectory, while the priests resided on the second floor of the school building.
Holy Trinity became a three-year high school in 1904. By 1927, Holy Trinity had become a four-year accredited high school. The final graduation class of Holy Trinity High School received diplomas in 1960. The third, and present day, Holy Trinity School building was completed in 1968 while the Vietnam War raged halfway around the world from Somerset.
Why all the warfare references when chronicling Holy Trinity’s timeline? The reason pertains to the school’s principal, Bill Noll. His path to becoming Holy Trinity’s principal did not follow a college degree in education, a brief teaching careeer, and then a masters degree to escape the classroom for a principal’s office.
Noll is a retired career military man who brings a unique perspective to the position. His military training is evident in the way he has organized the school. His strategies to achieve the victories he seeks from the classrooms to the cafeteria are easily recognized. However, the aspect of his leadership that supersedes all else is the what he witnessed in a war based on religious differences.
On a surveillance flight high above a small village, he and his crew witnessed five tanks roll up a cobblestone road barely wide enough for them to advance. As soon as the tanks stopped, they started firing until the small village was engulfed in fire and death.
“We have to learn to respect each other’s opinions even when we disagree,” says Noll.
Noll’s efforts to create this kind of respect is based on service. Holy Trinity’s students have made a difference for local families through a food drive in conjunction with the Methodist church in Somerset.
Holy Trinity’s influence has also reached across the Atlantic where their fund raising efforts have helped provide clean water and educational programs for a small village in Nigeria. Sister Rita Schwarzenberger, O.P., manages the program known as Hope for the Village Children.
“I’m just muddling through this job,” says Noll of his civilian tour of duty at Holy Trinity. If that’s the case, every university in the country should have a mandatory Advanced Muddling graduate course for school administrators.