History

SCA_1903

Founded in 1889 by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, St. Catherine’s Academy is Orange County’s first Catholic school. Beginning as a coeducational school and boarding academy for girls, SCA was also an orphanage before adopting its current format as a Catholic school with a military tradition for boys in transitional kindergarten - 8th grade.

1889

St. Catherine’s Academy opens its doors with 19 day students and 11 resident students. The school was originally intended to be a day school for local children and a boarding academy for girls.

1894

Always seeking to serve the needs of the community, St. Catherine’s Academy becomes an orphanage for boys. By 1903, St. Catherine’s Orphanage reaches capacity, housing 200 orphans.

1913

Despite being recognized as one of the best orphanage schools in the state, Mother Pia concludes that she must sell St. Catherine’s Academy for financial reasons. On their way to sign the papers, Mother Pia and a fellow Sister are followed by a swarm of bees, a symbol of good luck. Taking the bees as a sign from above, Mother Pia turns the carriage around and decides not to sell.

“Bees bring good luck. God will surely bless us.”

1916

Enrollment shifts from orphans to day and boarding students when the Bureau of Catholic Charities introduces a new policy of placing orphans with families in private homes. The Sisters engage retired military officers as teachers for the older boys.

1925

St. Catherine’s officially becomes St. Catherine’s Military Academy with Captain Daniel Healy as its first commandant.

1934

Lt. (later Major) Charles Schmitt begins his 40-year tenure as commandant.

1936

St. Catherine’s Academy begins accepting international students from Mexico who wish to learn English and experience life in America. Today, the ELL program continues that tradition and includes students from around the world.

1955

Universal Studios films The Private War of Major Benson at St. Catherine’s Academy. Charlton Heston stars alongside actual cadets who are cast as extras.

1958

The St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel is dedicated. The chapel contains awe-inspiring artwork by famed religious artist John Henry de Rosen, including a 90-foot mural called “The Descent of Truth.”

1974

Major Larry Zaborowksi takes over as commandant, a position he would hold for 30 years.

1989

St. Catherine’s Academy celebrates 100th anniversary.

2010

St. Catherine’s Military Academy changes its name to St. Catherine’s Academy. Maintaining its format as a Catholic school with a military tradition, SCA educates young men of exceptional faith and character, prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow.

2014

St. Catherine’s Academy celebrates 125th anniversary.

Information from Seed & Growth: The Story of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose by Sister Mary Thomas Lillis, OP