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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
St. Catherine’s officially becomes St. Catherine’s Military Academy with Captain Daniel Healy as its first commandant.
Lt. (later Major) Charles Schmitt begins his 40-year tenure as commandant.
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.
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.”
Major Larry Zaborowksi takes over as commandant, a position he would hold for 30 years.
St. Catherine’s Academy celebrates 100th anniversary.
Colonel Barry Bizzell takes over as commandant.
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.
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
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