St. Rocco School History

In 1942, the Missionary Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart, now known as the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, arrived in St. Rocco Parish.  Founded by Mother Clelia Merloni, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus had been in the United States since 1902.  The Missionaries

of  St. Charles/Scalabrinians staffed the predominantly Italian immigrant parish.  They invited the sisters to share the faith with the next generation of St. Rocco children.  They took up residence in the old rectory and immediately had an impact on the development of the parish. The sisters’ work was focused on religious instruction and sacramental preparation.  They also assisted with the religious and social activities of the parish.  However, after the new St. Rocco Church was completed in 1953, their work took on new direction and meaning.  The old church was converted into a nursery, kindergarten, and youth center.  The new nursery was blessed on February 8th, 1953, and opened the next day.  These were the first steps in the development of the school.

St. Rocco School, through the efforts of the Missionaries of St. Charles and with the blessing of Bishop McVinney, opened its doors in the Diocese of Providence, on September 9, 1963.  As pastor of St. Rocco Parish, Fr. James Viero’s dream was to build a  school that would educate the largely Italian American population of the parish.  To ensure its success, Fr. Viero appealed to the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to embrace this future school as their own. With the sisters’ affirmative response and the parish’s generosity, the challenge of building a school began.  In addition to the regular classrooms, the completed school complex included a library, and industrial kitchen, a spacious hall, a playground, a ball field, and parking facilities.  Under the direction of the first principal, Sr. Ann Marie Signorino, A.S.C.J., four sisters and one lay teacher began the mission of providing quality education for the 230 students enrolled in Kindergarten through Grade three.  Two new classes were added to the school each succeeding year. By 1968, there were two classes of Kindergarten through sixth grade with a total enrollment of 520 students.  The empty top floor of the school was rented to Johnston Public Schools until 1976 and

was known as the Thornton Annex.  In 1976, the school expanded with a nursery and a seventh grade.  One year later, there were two classes from nursery to eighth grade.  Enrollment grew to 572 students in 1978 with a staff of seven sisters and thirteen lay teachers.  During the next two decades, the school’s enrollment remained strong with well over 400 students.

In 1994, St. Rocco School was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education.  The entire school community took pride in this accomplishment. The 1990’s also brought many changes to the physical plant. The school opened a new addition at the turn of the millennium to provide needed classrooms for the growing school population. St. Rocco School joyfully celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2003.

Today, St. Rocco School remains a vital parish elementary school in Rhode Island with an enrollment of over 200 students.  The school is staffed with more than thirty employees. Ms. Regina Hand is the school principal. Our current parish pastor is Fr. Angelo Carusi. In 2014, Fr. Carusi officially announced the arrival of Religious Sisters from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden order. They became a part of both our Parish and School Community.  Their mission has its origin in the mission of Christ, and follows the founder's inspiration of service in the church as well as schools, hospitals, social services, parishers, youth and adult ministries.  The school continues to strive for academic excellence in an environment that instills Catholic values and nourishes the development of the whole person.  Integrating technology across the curriculum and ensuring that the faculty and staff continue to grow in technological competency are emphasized at St. Rocco School.  In the 2004-2005 year, St. Rocco School adopted the Girls and Boys’ Town Educational Model of Social Skills.  Based on Gospel values, this model is designed to assist the entire school community. Most importantly,
“Sharing the Love of the Heart of Christ” remains the foundation of the St. Rocco School community.