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Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic growing slowly but steadily |

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic growing slowly but steadily

Elizabeth Behrman
| Sunday, October 2, 2016 5:15 p.m
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Students tour Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School during the school's open house, Sunday, October 2, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Kristen Cress, of Fombell (middle) walks to the parking lot with her daughters, Lizzie Cress, 7 (left) and Julia Cress, 11, (right) after touring Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on behalf of Cress' son, Robbie Cress, during the school's open house, Sunday, October 2, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Anthony Vargo, of Mars (left) walks with his son, Anthony Vargo, 14, (middle) and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School Junior, Nate Saar 16, of Pine Richland during the school's open house in Cranberry, Sunday, October 2, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School Junior Grace Phillips 16, of Franklin Park (right) walks with Lia Burchianti, 13, of Mars during the school's open house in Cranberry, Sunday, October 2, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Logan Schade 9, of Mars looks at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School's physics lab during the school's open house, Sunday, October 2, 2016.

When Julia Razzano visited Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School recently with her eighth-grade class, she knew immediately she wanted to apply.

She and her parents went back on Sunday for the high school’s fall open house. They followed current students on tours of the state-of-the-art facilities, learning about the academic programs, extracurricular activities and mission trips to other countries, which especially excited her.

“It just seems like it will help you to grow as a Catholic and as a person,” said Julia, 14.

Her family was among about 250 who visited the school this weekend, officials said.

Two years after the Diocese of Pittsburgh closed North Catholic High School in Troy Hill and built the new school in rapidly growing Butler County, school leaders said enrollment is increasing slowly but steadily. The school enrolled 447 students this year, including about 140 ninth-grade students. When the Cranberry school opened in September 2014, 286 students were enrolled.

The school hired a dozen additional faculty members this year, and now has 22 sports teams and 26 student clubs, said Emily Skirtich, admissions outreach and advertising coordinator.

Named for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former Pittsburgh bishop and current archbishop of Washington, the school is the first Roman Catholic high school in Butler County.

“I think it’s a beautiful facility,” said Katie Razzano, Julia’s mother. “It’s very modern, and it represents our faith, which is important to us.”

When the diocese built the $70 million facility two years ago, it was banking on Cranberry and Butler County’s rapid growth to fill the school, which has room for about 1,000 students.

The school replaced North Catholic High School in Troy Hill, which, like many other schools in the diocese, struggled with declining enrollment.

In 2000, about 24,000 students were enrolled in 102 schools through the six-county diocese. This year, about 12,000 students are enrolled in 59 schools.

Overall enrollment at the eight diocesan high schools has held relatively steady, said diocese spokeswoman Ann Rogers. In 2013-14, the diocese enrolled 3,920 students. Last year, the diocese enrolled 3,928.

Benjamin Sobel, 13, toured Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic with his grandparents Sunday and was impressed by what he saw. And he knows he won’t be the only new face next year.

“You feel very welcome, because you’re new and the school’s new,” he said.

Elizabeth Behrman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7886 or

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