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Wall of Fame ~ Ryan Jones '08

Coyle and Cassidy A Living Legacy

The story of Catholic education in the City of Taunton is truly a story about the perseverance and determination of the poor to provide a better way of life for their children.  Taunton, like so many other cities and towns, saw a large influx of Irish immigrants during the great potato famine in the mid-1800s.  Though unskilled laborers, the Irish brought with them a deep love of their faith and a deep love of education.  They understood that the only way for their children to overcome the extreme prejudice of the times was through education.  

In 1896, the poor Irish were deeply blessed to have Father James Coyle appointed Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish.  A native Irishman, born in Abbelare, County Longford, Ireland, Fr. Coyle (who would later be named Monsignor in 1916) was a visionary with a keen ability to make things happen.  At the time of his appointment, the Parish debt was over $12,000, a significant amount at the time.  Within three years the Parish was solvent because of his prudent fiscal management and creative ways of raising money.  Having resolved the debt, Fr. Coyle set his sights on renovation and construction (All in the Family, An Informal Sketch of St. Mary’s Parish, Taunton, Massachusetts, 1828-1958).

Once sufficient monies were raised, Fr. Coyle set out to build and equip a grammar school that, in his words, would be “second to none.”  On July Fourth, 1907 the cornerstone was laid and on August 23, 1908, St. Mary’s Grammar School opened its doors to 538 pupils under the auspices of the Sisters of the Holy Union (Golden Jubilee Anniversary of the North American Province Holy Union of the Sacred Hearts, Souvenir Book, 1936).  For decades to come, the Sisters of the Holy Union would provide the high quality Catholic education that Fr. Coyle so desired. 

In June 1911, at the first graduation from St. Mary’s Grammar School, Fr. Coyle announced his plans to open a Catholic High School.  That fall, two rooms in the grammar school and one in the convent housed the first freshman class while construction of a high school addition was begun.  In the years that followed, St. Mary’s Grammar School and High School thrived as enrollment grew and students achieved high academic success (All in the Family, An Informal Sketch of St. Mary’s Parish, Taunton, Massachusetts, 1828-1958; Golden Jubilee Anniversary of the North American Province Holy Union of the Sacred Hearts, Souvenir Book, 1936).

In the years that followed, then Monsignor Coyle, saved for the construction of a Catholic High School for boys.  Unfortunately, he did not see his dream come to fruition.  However, on the occasion of his funeral in June 1931, Bishop Cassidy announced that he would use the money raised by Monsignor Coyle to build the Monsignor James Coyle Memorial High School for Boys.  In September of 1933, the boys moved to the new facility on Summer Street; the new school being staffed by the Brothers of Holy Cross.  At the same time, St. Mary’s High School became St. Mary’s Catholic Girls’ High School.

 The following is a tribute to Monsignor Coyle that was published in the 1958 Yearbook:

“A Man to Remember” 

“When Coyle High School opened its doors in September 1933 there were few students, if any, who had not at one time or other actually seen Monsignor James Coyle, the man for whom the school was named.  The greater percentage of the student body were from St. Mary’s parish in Taunton and remembered with awe “The Monsignor” as he made the rounds in grade school, checking up on the progress in spelling.  Others not so fortunate in having come so close to him had known of his reputation as an orator, if they had not actually heard him speak somewhere else in the diocese.”

“Today, the average freshman who arrives at Coyle has little or no knowledge of the good Father Coyle.  A depression, World War II and the post-war prosperity have clouded the past and dulled our appreciation of him.  Yet we want to remember this man for the part he played in the story of our school.”

“For many years, Monsignor Coyle had been laying aside certain sums of money, gifts from members of his parish, to be used in the construction of a high school for boys.  His parish had long been acquainted with the Holy Cross Fathers, who, at the Monsignor’s invitation, had given missions at St. Mary’s.  Through his friendship with Father James Donahue, C.S.C. a frequent visitor to St. Mary’s, he had learned of the Brothers of Holy Cross, specialists in secondary education for boys.  He envisioned these educators as made to order for his school-to-be.  The plans of the good Monsignor for the high school had reached near fruition when he died at the age of eighty on June 20, 1931.  But his project – our school – had not been forgotten.  The man who could fulfill the cherished dream of Monsignor Coyle – his Bishop – had heard of it, and what is more he did something about it.  Significantly enough, it was at the funeral of Monsignor Coyle that the announcement of the school’s construction was made.  Bishop James Cassidy in his eulogy made it known that the Monsignor’s plans would be carried out and the school that he had wanted so much would bear his name.  Monsignor Coyle’s old friend, Father Donahue, now the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame, was only too happy to assign the Holy Cross Brother to administer and teach at the new school, which was to be the Congregation’s first permanent foundation in the East.” 

“And so Coyle High School came to be the physical embodiment of an idea that would not die.”

 The role that St. Mary’s Parish played in the establishment of Coyle High School should never be forgotten.  In fact, at St. Mary’s Church, during the Mass to commemorate the Silver Anniversary of Coyle High School, Fr. John Driscoll spoke specifically about the St. Mary’s legacy.

“This was the ideal of the beloved Monsignor Coyle, venerable pastor of this Church for thirty-five years, as he put away money year after year for a boys’ high school.  This was the desire of the late Bishop Cassidy as he announced at Monsignor Coyle’s funeral, that such a school would be built.”

“With the establishment of a boys’ school, St. Mary’s High could devote itself exclusively to girls.  Any silver anniversary of Coyle must pause and pay tribute to the zeal and ideals through the years of the Sisters of the Holy Union of the Sacred Hearts.” 

“Indeed, Coyle High School will be forever indebted to St. Mary’s parish which made it possible, to St. Mary’s High School and the Sisters of the Holy Union who presented it   with such a heritage.  It is a debt that Coyle must always remember and appreciate and can never forget.”

 It is important to note that not only did St. Mary’s provide the heritage and legacy for the new Coyle High School, but it was also a substantial revenue source for its construction.  It is believed that the cost of the new school with athletic fields was $500,000 with $220,000 coming from St. Mary’s (All in the Family, An Informal Sketch of St. Mary’s Parish, Taunton, Massachusetts, 1828-1958).

 In the late 1950s, it became evident that St. Mary’s High School could no longer effectively meet the needs of the girls that it served.  With the desire to provide more young women with an opportunity to obtain a Catholic secondary education, Bishop Connolly began a campaign to raise the funds necessary to construct a new school for girls.  The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Bishop Connolly upon the completion of Bishop Cassidy High School.

“With the completion of Bishop Cassidy High School for Girls, the City of Taunton stands high in the Diocese for Catholic Educational facilities.  I owe you all a word of cordial thanks and congratulations for that.  With very few exceptions, every parish in Taunton has its own school, and now with the help of the Dightons and Raynham, you have put the capstone on the system with this secondary school for girls.”

“Since this is our third Regional High School, it is fitting that it bear the name of our third bishop.  But the fact of Bishop Cassidy’s long association with the Sisters of the Holy Union, his great respect for Mother Helena, and her prayerful loyalty to him, combine to make the naming of this school a logical choice.  So now in Taunton, the Diocese will keep in grateful memory enshrined the names of two friends and inspirers of youth, Bishop Cassidy and Monsignor Coyle.  To accomplish this, I have not hesitated to invest diocesan funds in supplement of what was generously and enthusiastically provided by the parishes of greater Taunton in the course of our 1961 Memorial High School Campaign.”


 Once again the commitment of the people of St. Mary’s Parish to the future of Catholic secondary education in the City of Taunton was evidenced by their contributions to the construction of the new high school.  According to the 1961 campaign records, St. Mary’s contributed $223,877 of the $1,006,690 raised by the 13 parishes of Taunton, Raynham and Dighton.  The second highest contributing parish was St. Joseph’s at $115,347.

 At the time of Bishop Connolly’s letter in 1963, it is evident that he did not foresee the decline in Catholic school enrollment that would occur in the City of Taunton in the late 1960s.  Nor did he envision that the memory of Monsignor Coyle and Bishop Cassidy would ultimately be enshrined in the name of one school.  As other regional Catholic high schools were built, there was no longer a need for boys to be bussed to Coyle High School from Attleboro, New Bedford and Fall River.  A decline in vocations also created staffing and budgetary issues as the schools required a greater reliance on lay teachers.  Also looming on the horizon were plans to replace an aging Taunton High School with a brand new state-of-the-art facility on the other side of the river.

 In 1971, a critical decision was made to insure the sustainability of Catholic education in the City of Taunton.  Monsignor Coyle High School would merge with Bishop Cassidy High School on the corner of Adams and Hamilton Streets to become Coyle and Cassidy High School and thereby return to its coeducational roots.  Under the capable leadership of Sister Virginia O’Hare, S.U.S.C., the first principal of Coyle and Cassidy High School, and then Reverend Richard Beaulieu, Coyle and Cassidy High School emerged as one of the finest high schools in Southeastern Massachusetts.  Drawing from the fine traditions of excellence from both Msgr. Coyle and Bishop Cassidy High Schools, Coyle and Cassidy became renowned for its academic rigor and student preparedness.

In addition to merging the two high schools, the Diocese also opened Taunton Catholic Middle School in September of 1971.  That fall, over 500 students in grades six through eight were moved to the former Coyle High School building from the local parish elementary schools (Immaculate Conception, St. Jacques, St. Anthony’s, St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s, Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes).  Today, St. Mary’s and Our Lady of Lourdes continue to educate students in grades pre-K through 5.  Though the transitions were difficult, history has proven that these consolidations worked.  Their success was in large part due to the commitment of school leaders, dedicated families and resilient students. 

The following is from the first Coyle and Cassidy yearbook in 1972.

 “All things evolve as time passes.  People strive toward personal fulfillment; some undoubtedly stumble while others triumphantly succeed.  It takes a measured amount of courage to face each new venture.  Often unification is necessary in order to create a strength which could not exist otherwise.  When two groups do consolidate, they find that in order to promote harmony they must compromise.  With enough patience and understanding these once separate units can be built into one tremendously successful whole.”

“The Senior Class of 1972 contributed to molding our school into this by imaginatively dreaming and daringly accomplishing these dreams.  We managed to achieve a united class spirit, which at times seemed to be a somewhat unconquerable task.  Each member unselfishly offered his unique qualities, receiving a degree of self-betterment in return.  Through these individual efforts and the combined effort which was born, the Class of ’72 was able to set down a solid foundation on which future senior classes may build.”

“TOGETHER, we have contended with the hardships that confronted us.  UNITED, we have met our challenges and reach our goals.”


 With the exception of the high school enrollment crisis of 1975 that coincided with the opening of a new Taunton High School, Catholic education in the City of Taunton has thrived over the last forty years.  In fact, enrollment peaked during the economic boon of the early 2000s.  However, since the economic collapse of 2008, Catholic schools nationwide have experienced an enrollment decline as rising tuitions have dissuaded families from investing in Catholic education.  As a result, Catholic schools must seek new models of sustainability to insure that Catholic education remains affordable and remains true to its commitment to excellence.

In a move to provide students with more opportunities and resources for their Catholic education, Coyle and Cassidy High School and Taunton Catholic Middle School joined together as one school, serving grades 6 through 12, beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year.  The newly combined school utilizes the facilities of what was the Coyle and Cassidy campus to house both the high school and middle school in separate parts of the building, each with its own designated entrance.

 The school now offers a seamless and integrated 6-12 curriculum, allowing college prep education to begin at an earlier age.  As a result, students have more opportunities for advanced level courses prior to high school education.  Middle school students who are qualified are now able to participate in high school level courses, athletics, arts, and other activities that were not available to them in the past.  Middle school students are now exposed to high school math, have the opportunity to take Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Chinese, can participate in chorus, band and drama, and for the athletically talented, can play high school sports.  In addition, middle school students have use of the school’s modern facilities. 

 During the past 10 years, Coyle and Cassidy has seen the third floor transformed into the Miles Alfieri Fine Arts Center, the complete renovation of Hopewell Park through a joint grant with the City of Taunton, the establishment of multi-sport practice complex with tournament-ready softball field, a complete renovation of the gym and weight room, renovation of locker rooms and bathrooms, renovation of the library and computer lab, and the acquisition of the Holy Rosary Parish Center.  This past summer 11 poles with lights were installed on the practice fields and we completed Phase II of the Burns Science Center with the renovation of the biology lab.

With a rigorous high school curriculum and a unique middle school program that is distinctly different from others in the area, Coyle and Cassidy continues to be a leader in education in Southeastern Massachusetts.  Today, our school remains fiscally, programmatically, and spiritually strong with the faculty and resources to prepare our students for college and for life!  We hope that you will choose to be part of this rich history!

Coyle and Cassidy High School......Tradition Lives Here!