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​​​​​​​One of Christ's missions to His Church is teaching the Gospel message to all people. The fulfillment of that mission and its authentic interpretation rests primarily on the pope as the successor of St. Peter and on the bishop in his diocese. Catholic schools are a principal response to this mission. Within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the archbishop, as chief teacher of the Catholic faith, holds the ultimate responsibility for Catholic schools. The archbishop shares this responsibility with the Department of Catholic Schools​. The Department of Catholic Schools is related to all the Catholic schools in the archdiocese even though the nature of the relationship and the subsequent accountability varies depending on whether the school is archdiocesan, parish, or private.

Mission

The mission of the Depar​tment​ of Catholic Schools​ is to ensure that the leadership of the Catholic schools in the archdiocese is successful in providing the advantages of a Catholic school education to students. To this end the department has adopted five areas on which to focus its energies:

  • Articulating the vision, mission, and philosophy of the Catholic schools

  • Fostering the Catholic identity of the schools 

  • Promoting leadership development

  • Enabling responsible planning

  • Ensuring the continued quality of school programs

History of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese

The education of Catholic youth was a major concern of each of the early diocesan bishops in Los Angeles. However, Bishop Thomas J. Conaty (1903–1915) provided the first impetus to the development of a Catholic school system. Bishop Conaty, an educator and former college leader, encouraged the establishment of both archdiocesan and private schools. For 50 years prior to Bishop Conaty's arrival, Catholic education in Southern California had a slow but gradual growth, from the opening of the first school in Los Angeles by the Sacred Hearts Fathers (Picpus Fathers) "college" in 1851 and the founding of a limited number of academies or private schools that offered elementary school and high school education for students in the diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles.

With Bishop Conaty's arrival came the first plan to provide continuous Catholic-based education from kindergarten through college. In 1903 he appointed a Board of Examiners consisting of clergy to advise him on educational matters, inspect the schools, and report on the quality of the teaching observed.

In August 1903, the first teachers' and principals' meetings were held at the newly established St. Mary's Academy on 21st Street and Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Representing schools in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oxnard, Pasadena, Redlands, San Diego, Santa Monica, and Shorb (now Alhambra) were a number of religious institutes of women, namely the Daughters of Charity (St. Vincent de Paul), Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Sisters of Mercy (Burlingame), and Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union.

Annual summer institutes, first held in Santa Monica's Columbia Hall, provided in-service education and training programs for all teachers, religious and lay, in the schools of the diocese. By popular demand, these sessions were later opened to interested public school and community personnel (1906–1915). In 1906 a textbook committee of teaching staff members was formed and the diocesan "multiple listing" policy for choice of basic textbooks in the elementary schools had its origin. No recommendations for high schools were reported.

When Bishop Conaty died, he left a well-established pattern of diocesan organization of individual schools that his successor could develop. During Archbishop John Cantwell's episcopate (1917–1947), he endeavored to meet the needs of a growing and expanding diocese. He appealed to many religious communities in the United States and abroad to staff the schools. In November 1922, Bishop Cantwell laid the cornerstone for the first diocesan-financed high school, Catholic Girls' High School (now Bishop Conaty-Our Lady of Loretto High School), which was administered by Reverend Peter Corcoran and staffed by members of several religious institutes of women.

To coordinate the instructional program throughout the diocese, Bishop Cantwell established the Office of Superintendent of Schools in 1920 and Reverend Matthew Marron was appointed the first superintendent. Steps in the upgrading of staff and the coordination of the instructional program in this period included the creation of the Office of Superintendent of Schools (1920), the reorganization of the School Board as an Advisory Council (1920), the adoption of a course of study (1924), the appointment of a Board of Supervisors (1932), the appointment of a director of music (1937), the creation of the Office of Assistant Superintendent (1946), and the cooperative efforts of superintendents and religious community supervisors to improve the quality of instruction in the classrooms.

Shortly after his installation in 1948, Archbishop James Francis McIntyre established the Youth Education Fund to provide building financing for high schools and elementary schools in areas unable to finance their own costs and 17 schools were built during the first year of this program. At the invitation of the archbishop, in 1950 three of the largest teaching communities (the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) assigned sisters to full-time service as diocesan supervisors. Subsequent developments included the Manual for Teachers of Elementary Schools (1952) and the development of a curriculum bulletin and library (1955). In 1960 two superintendents were appointed: Monsignor Joseph Sharpe, as superintendent for secondary education and colleges and Monsignor James B. Clyne, as superintendent for elementary education.

Originating with 19 parochial schools and five academies in 1903 with a total enrollment of 2,895, the population of the schools has grown and there are now about 80,000 students enrolled in Catholic schools in the archdiocese. This progress has been due substantially to the continued commitment of the women and men religious who served in the schools, the vision of the diocesan bishops, and the leadership of the clergy who led the schools as superintendents: Father Matthew Marron (1920), Monsignor William North (1937), Monsignor Patrick J. Dignan (1939), Monsignor James B. Clyne (1960; Elementary), Monsignor Joseph Sharpe (1960; Secondary), Father Donald Montrose (1964; Secondary), Monsignor John A. Mihan (1969; Elementary), and Monsignor Jeremiah T. Murphy (1977; Secondary).

In 1987 in connection with the administrative reorganization of the archdiocese, Sister Cecilia Louise Moore, C.S.J., was appointed the first secretariat director for educational/formational services. Monsignor Aidan M. Carroll was appointed superintendent of Catholic schools in 1986, unifying both elementary schools and high schools into one department with an associate superintendent for secondary schools and an associate superintendent for elementary schools. During the 1980s, schools experienced tremendous growth in the establishment of kindergartens and received generous support from many donors.

In 1991 Dr. Jerome R. Porath became the first layperson to be appointed superintendent. Sister Bernadette Murphy, S.S.L., was appointed secretariat director for educational/formational services in 1999. From 2000 to 2001, the organizational structure was revised to include a superintendent for elementary schools, Sister Mary Elizabeth Galt, B.V.M.; a superintendent for secondary schools, Nancy Coonis; and a president of Catholic schools, Reverend Albert J. DiUlio, S.J. In 2003, Patricia Livingston succeeded Sister Mary Elizabeth Galt, B.V.M., as superintendent for elementary schools; Sister Mary Elizabeth Galt, B.V.M., became chancellor of the archdiocese.​ ​In July 2004, the structure was again revised to have superintendents for elementary schools and high schools and no president. In 2008, Monsignor Sabato Pilato succeeded Nancy Coonis as superintendent of high schools and in 2009, Dr. Kevin Baxter succeeded Patricia Livingston as superintendent of elementary schools. Over the years, dedicated and competent professional staffs have ably assisted the superintendents in their ministry.

During the years of educational growth, the involvement of parents/guardians in educational ministry has evolved to include not only financial support but also active participation in the educational programs and on boards that advise and assist the schools. Early childhood programs also expanded since 2000 with the establishment of preschools, and by 2014 there were over 90 licensed preschools in the archdiocese, including some that serve multiple locations.

The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) was founded in 1987 by Cardinal Roger Mahony with initial funding by the archdiocese, individuals, and other charitable entities. CEF continues to raise funds and has grown to a major resource to fund needs-based scholarships for students attending archdiocesan elementary schools and high schools.

The educational mission of the Church and the dedication of schools to Our Lady of the Angels continue Bishop Conaty's vision of an integrated ministry embracing four interlocking dimensions: message, community, worship, and service. Today the Catholic schools in the archdiocese strive to be communities of faith in which the Christian message, the experience of community, worship, and social concern are integrated into a total educational experience for students, their parents/guardians, and the members of the school staff.


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