Cathedral Preparatory School
Villa Maria Academy

About Us

Cathedral Preparatory School is a Catholic, coeducational, college preparatory school in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie. A part of the Villa Maria Cathedral Preparatory School System, Cathedral Prep has a rich, combined history uniting the legacies of two outstanding Catholic institutions. Cathedral Preparatory School for Boys, founded in 1921, and Villa Maria Academy, an all-girls school established in 1892, joined as one in the fall of 2022 to remain on the forefront of Catholic education in Erie.   

Based on faith, family, excellence and tradition, we are committed to building a learning community that challenges our students to reach their fullest potential. Every student at Cathedral Prep is offered a foundation that fosters service, moral character, leadership and academic success. We equip our students with the skills and confidence they need to face adversity and make a positive difference in the world by serving God and their neighbors.

Cathedral Prep provides advanced academic programs and cutting-edge technology in state-of-the art facilities, as well as an overall educational experience and unbreakable bond that is unmatched in northwestern Pennsylvania. The accomplishments of both our Cathedral Prep and Villa Maria Academy alumni around the globe are a testament to the legacy that lives on.

Above all, our past, present and future reflect an unwavering dedication to our mission: to develop men and women of vision in spirit, mind, and body.


Cathedral Preparatory School forms a Christ-centered, coeducational, college preparatory Catholic school in the Diocese of Erie.  With a foundation of faith, family, excellence, and tradition, we develop men and women of vision in spirit, mind, and body.


Steeped in Gospel values and the mission of the Catholic Church, Cathedral Preparatory School and Mother Teresa Academy strive to excel as a teaching and learning community by fostering strong moral character, esteemed academic success, service, and global leadership.


Cathedral Preparatory School for Boys was established in the fall of 1921 through the efforts of Bishop John Mark Gannon of the Diocese of Erie. Villa Maria Academy was founded in 1892 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In January of 2009, the Catholic Diocese of Erie revealed the formation of a new co-institutional school with two campuses: Cathedral Prep and Villa. In the fall of 2020, the Diocese announced that Prep and Villa would combine to form one co-ed school on the Cathedral Prep campus in the fall of 2022.

History of Cathedral Prep

On August 12, 1921, Archbishop John Mark Gannon summoned the pastors of Erie’s 12 parishes to meet for the purpose of discussing the “lack of Catholic education for high school boys in the city.” “Many Catholics,” he claimed, “although highly intelligent and deserving, were denied the chance to receive a preparatory education because they were poor.” His goal was to establish a school that “provided the moral, intellectual, social and physical training designed to prepare (men) to live in our democratic society…” Thus, the Cathedral Preparatory School for Boys was established in the fall of 1921.

Archbishop Gannon wanted to provide a college preparatory, Catholic education for young men to strengthen the Catholic faith in Erie and to act as a conduit for vocations. He was assisted in this venture by Rev. Joseph J. Wehrle, S.T.D. who became the first headmaster of Cathedral Prep.

The school started in humble beginnings in the hastily remodeled basement of St. Peter’s Cathedral in what later served as the Prep cafeteria. The faculty consisted of four priests and one layperson. Tuition was $50 and paid for by the students’ parishes. In 1925 Prep’s first graduating class consisted of just 42 young men.

The original school building was built as an addition to St. Peter’s Cathedral in the early 1940’s, and the ties to church and school would forever be indelible. In 1953, an auditorium and a three-level classroom addition were constructed as enrollment grew. The last major addition to the school was the addition of the science wing at the corner of 10th & Myrtle streets in 1964.

The archbishop's vision was a clear success as Prep’s brotherhood of alumni have made a significantly positive impact on our community, our region and our country. In addition, over 200 of these men have gone on to become Roman Catholic priests.

History of Villa Maria Academy

In the early 1890’s, the Rev. Thomas Casey saw the need for young ladies to have an opportunity for study and education. In order to fulfill this need, he donated property covering one city block from West 8th to West 9th streets and Liberty to Plum streets to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Mother Eugenia Quirk received his donation knowing that Casey would want to be involved and give generously toward the building project.

Villa Maria Academy formally opened in 1892, and the building was declared the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1897. The institution provided a boarding school, day school, music lessons and private lessons in painting, drawing and languages. In 1908 Villa boasted an enrollment of 100 day-students and 85 boarders from 15 states. The last boarders graduated from Villa in 1945.

When the school first opened, the curriculum included Latin, English, French, German, polite literature, botany, astronomy, logic, bookkeeping, algebra, plain and fancy sewing, painting, drawing, crayon, music, stenography, telegraphy, typing and obviously religion. Classes were offered for girls of all ages, from first to 12th grade. In 1928 the separated into Villa Maria Elementary for grades 1-8 and Villa Maria Academy for grades 9-12. In 1953 Mother Aurelia A’Hearn relocated Villa Maria Academy to West 8th Street, which was staffed by 18 nuns (sisters) and two lay women at the time.

Villa began accepting male students in 1989 but returned to an all-girls school 20 years later. The return to an all-girls school came in 2009 when the Sisters of St. Joseph announced the ending of their sponsorship of Villa Maria Academy. The Diocese of Erie declared the formation of the new diocesan governed co-institutional school with two campuses: Cathedral Prep and Villa.

In the fall of 2020, the Diocese announced that Prep and Villa would combine to form one coed school on the Cathedral Prep campus on West 9th Street, following the completion of a massive expansion and renovation project.

One thing that has remained constant and will never change is the sisterhood and family bond that allowed for growth, development, faith formation and the positive impact of thousands of successful Villa alumni around the world.

Fast Facts

Accreditation and Memberships:

  • Accredited by Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools
  • Member of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA)

Student to teacher ratio: 12 to 1

Average class size: 18

Acceptance to the freshman class at Cathedral Prep is based on the results of the mandatory Entrance Exam, elementary school transcripts, elementary school disciplinary record, and recommendations from the elementary school teachers and principal. Transfer students are accepted based on the transcripts, disciplinary records, and recommendations from the teachers and principal from the previous school.

Non-Discrimination Policy:
Although Cathedral Preparatory School is a distinctly Catholic school, it welcomes young men of all backgrounds and does not discriminate against any qualified student on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, national origin, disability, or age, as required by law, in the administration of its educational policies, admissions procedures, financial aid/scholarship awards, and/or any other school administered programs.