Among the throngs of people the Diocese of Phoenix is embracing into its fold this Holy Week is a deeply-rooted religious community.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced today that the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia will establish a community in the Diocese of Phoenix and lead Saint John Paul II Catholic High School. The forthcoming Avondale campus serve the far West Valley community beginning in Fall 2018.
Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, O.P., will be the first principal of Saint John Paul II Catholic High School. She currently is principal of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.
Additionally, Sr. Mary Brigid Burnham, O.P., currently the Religion Department Chair at Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, and Sr. Mary Gertrude Blankenhagen, O.P., currently serving as principal of Overbrook School in Nashville, Tennessee, will establish the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia’s presence in the Diocese of Phoenix.
“I am grateful to God for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and their commitment to establishing a new presence here in the Diocese of Phoenix,” Bishop Olmsted said. “Their community has been committed to Catholic education and evangelizing children and their parents since their founding more than 155 years ago. We are blessed to have their contributions to the mission of the Church at St. John Paul II Catholic High School and the surrounding communities.”
The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, commonly referred to as the “Nashville Dominicans” due to their historical roots in the city dating back to 1860, are acclaimed for their expertise in Catholic education and for their academic and spiritual leadership.
In 1860, four Dominican Sisters from Ohio established a school in the Diocese of Nashville. In 1913, the Congregation of Saint Cecilia was formally affiliated with the Dominicans. Since then, the Nashville Dominicans have continued to expand, establishing schools and ministries throughout the United States, as well as in Australia, Scotland and the Netherlands. They presently serve in 43 schools, teaching more than 15,000 students.
Arizona will mark the 17th U.S. state for the Dominican Sisters and their farthest expansion west. Their closest neighbor will be at a Catholic elementary and high school in Denver.
“Our community is excited about being part of the life of the Church in the Diocese of Phoenix,” Sr. Mary Jordan said. “We look forward to meeting the people, especially the families who will one day be part of Saint John Paul II Catholic High School.”
Much of that meet and greet will happen April 5 when Bishop Olmsted blesses the future campus grounds and unveils a sign marking the site of the new Catholic high school. The short program will also include Saint John Paul II High School’s future students — pending formal admission.
It will be the first diocesan high school to open west of I-17. Bourgade Catholic High School, west of I-17 near Indian School Road opened in 1962 under what was then the Diocese of Tucson. Saint John Paul II High School will serve the ever-expanding far West Valley. The future campus will be located at 13720 W. Thomas Road adjacent to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale.
“We are delighted and blessed to be welcoming the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia,” MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Phoenix, said. “Students and families who are contemplating Saint John Paul II Catholic High School can look forward to an environment that enriches the hearts and minds of our future leaders.”
More than 14,000 students currently attend one of the Diocese of Phoenix’s 28 Catholic elementary schools, six high schools and 28 preschools throughout the Diocese of Phoenix. Students receive a rigorous, faith-filled education that prepares them for the challenges of higher education, a competitive world and for being faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Christ. An estimated 99 percent of students graduate from high school; 97 percent go on to attend college.