On December 7, 1860, three School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived in Burlington, Wisconsin to begin a school at St. Mary’s Parish. This first school building was located at the corner of McHenry and Jefferson Streets and had 110 students in two classrooms.

By 1919, St. Mary’s grade school had grown and expanded, and the need arose for a Catholic High School. St. Mary’s Pastor, Fr. Van Treeck, held several parish meetings to present his plans. Though small in number, the opposition was vehement and persuasive. Even though his pleas to then Archbishop Messmer went unheeded, Fr. Van Treeck did not give up.

In 1920, Fr. Van Treeck established St. Mary’s High School in the original parish church that had been used as a meeting hall by the St. Eustachius Benevolent Society. According to L. E. Randall’s WTMJ broadcast in October of 1927, St. Mary’s High School was outstanding among the schools in Burlington, having been constructed in the St. Sebastian building for $100,000.00.

Fr. Van Treeck moved forward with ordering desks, books and other equipment. He opened the school as a two year commercial course school with an opportunity for the second year student to take sophomore subjects in English, Latin and Math. In the hectic days after World War One, equipment was slow to arrive, and the situation of the school looked bleak. But by the grace of God, Sr. Michael of the School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived to teach. A person of fainter spirit or lesser faith may have given up that first morning. According to Sr. Michael they were “quite poor as the Savior, having barely a roof over our heads.” Sr. Michael was an outstanding educator from the best schools in her Order, and with a true missionary spirit and unshakeable faith, she set about making an exemplary school out of nothing.

In 1925, St. Mary’s High School graduated its first class: Florence Bieneman, Loraine Heck, Marie Rueter and Raymond D. Bieneman. In 1926, St. Mary’s High School moved to a new building. There was a steady increase in enrollment from then on, peaking at more than 350 students in the late 1960’s. In 1970 the high school built a new gym. Growth continued, and in 1989 the high school was renamed Catholic Central High School to reflect its joint partnership with 17 area parishes and grade schools. In 1993 the Marian Activity Center was constructed, and in the fall of 1995 a second floor was added. The Marian Activity Center is home to two gyms, the Topper Hall Theater, classrooms, library, computer lab, and fitness facilities including a weight room, locker rooms and multi-purpose room.

Today, Catholic Central High School is known as a premiere college preparatory school that is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2020. Although the original books and desks have been replaced with state-of-the-art technology that includes one-to-one iPads and use of Apple TV, Catholic Central is proud to continue in the mission of Fr. Van Treeck and Sr. Michael to form students in the Catholic faith, arm them with rigorous academic knowledge, and steep them in the our almost 100 year tradition of excellence.