Paulina Mendiola, a sophomore at St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Avondale, participates in the school’s chemistry lab Jan. 10. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Gonzales/ST. JOHN PAUL II CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL)


alfway through its inaugural year, the Diocese of Phoenix’s newest Catholic high school — and its first in the West Valley — remains on course to meet its enrollment goals while establishing an educational culture of faith-based, rounded development of students despite the challenge of being a brand-new institution.

St. John Paul II Catholic High School

3120 N. 137th Ave., Avondale

Families in the far West Valley now have access to affordable Catholic education to form students academically, spiritually and physically.

(623) 233-2777

“The school year has gone great. Our students are working hard and getting to know each other and their teachers. Our community has focused on the development of the whole person with equal emphasis on spiritual, academic and athletic formation,” said Arthur Walker, dean of students and athletics director at St. John Paul II.

Staffed by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia led by Principal Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, as well as lay educators, the high school opened its doors for its first classes in August with 147 freshmen and sophomores. Sophomores will become the first juniors this fall. The first graduating class is slated for May 2021.

St. John Paul II draws primarily from four area Catholic elementary schools:

  • St. Thomas Aquinas, right next door
  • St. John Vianney in Goodyear
  • St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale.

The area has seen some of Maricopa County’s fastest growth since 2000, highlighted by the soaring Hispanic population, which rose by 61 percent during that time.

By the Numbers

Percentage of students who came from public schools


Percentage of students from Spanish-dominant families


Total number of parishes represented in the student body


Total number of varsity sports


Total number of Catholic elementary schools represented in the student body

The diversity and newness of the school meant not only establishing a culture but building student bonds — a twofold challenge both Walker and Matthew Gonzales, director of admissions and marketing, said this has been accomplished through prayer and hard work.

“The culture is growing. You can see it in the students. It’s amazing what four months have done,” Gonzales said.

The experience has had a unique impact on the Catholic faith of 15-year-old sophomore Patrick Cawley. A parishioner at neighboring St. Thomas Aquinas, Patrick had never attended private or parochial school, including his freshman year, when he went to a nearby public high school. This fall, the Cawleys took advantage of the opportunity to send Patrick to St. John Paul II and have never looked back.

“It’s benefited (my faith). Every day before all our classes, we pray. At the end of the day, we say another prayer. Every Wednesday we go to Mass. During religion class, my first period, we learn about the Bible. It’s cool knowing in a few years, I will be able to say I was part of the first graduating class,” he said.

“Catholic school initially was not on our radar, until (this) became an option,” said Patrick’s mother, Christine. “It’s been a wonderful experience for him. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made.”

Gonzales said a class of 125 new freshmen is expected in the fall; the figure projected by administrators and the diocese when school plans were initially announced.

“We visit the Catholic schools we have been marketing within bulletins. I think a lot of word-of-mouth spreading, especially within the four main feeder schools. The word is getting out,” he said.

Walker agreed.

“We are really starting to find our own niche. I believe we are well on track to evangelizing and doing some great things in the West Valley.”