The Sisters of Providence accepted administration of the new St. Catherine School at the request of the Reverend Matthew S. Beglin, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in north Seattle. His request came in June 1941, and the necessary approval of the bishop, provincial council, and general council was quickly obtained. On August 28, six sisters took possession of the house that had been purchased and renovated by the parish to serve as their convent. They were warmly welcomed by the pastor and some of the women of the parish.
St. Catherine School opened September 8, 1941, with 150 students enrolled. The new brick building featured four classrooms and an office on the main floor, with kitchen, assembly room, and bathrooms in the basement. (Built in 1931 as part of the original church complex, the basement previously served as the parish hall.) Sister Matthew Mary was the first Principal/Superior and taught the combined seventh and eighth grades; she was joined on the faculty by Sisters Miriam Kathleen, first and second grades; Elizabeth of Jesus, third and fourth grades; Denise of Providence, fifth and sixth grades; and Rosaleen, music. Sister Elizabeth Mary served as the convent cook.
The United States' entry into World War II made the first years difficult, but St. Catherine School flourished with the support of the parish community. In keeping with the patriotic spirit of the times, the sisters planted a victory garden in the convent yard and raised chickens in the garage, while students participated in air-raid drills and victory bond contests. Plans to add another story to the school building were delayed by wartime restrictions on materials, but construction began as soon as permission was received from the War Production Board. When classes resumed in September 1945, the new floor provided five classrooms, a music room, and practice studios. The convent was also enlarged to provide for the additional sisters assigned to the school. By 1952, enrollment had climbed to more than 500 students, and two additional classrooms were built behind the main school.
From the beginning, music was an important part of the curriculum at St. Catherine School, and the students enjoyed an active schedule of sports, class outings, and religious exercises. The sisters also provided weekly religious education classes and a summer religious vacation school for public school students.
In the spring of 1966, the sisters' outdated residence was demolished in preparation for construction of a modern convent at the same location. During construction, the sisters lived at Providence Hospital, Seattle, and commuted by car to the school. They happily moved into the new convent on December 22, 1966.
In the early 1970s, several of the sisters who taught at St. Catherine School chose to live in apartments or small groups rather than in the convent. As the number in the convent and on the faculty declined, it was decided that the Sisters of Providence would withdraw from the convent on September 1, 1975, freeing it for other uses by the parish. One sister continued to teach at the school for the 1975-1976 school year, after which the long and mutually beneficial relationship between the Sisters of Providence and St. Catherine School came to an end.
The records of St. Catherine School are arranged in nine series, housed in two document boxes. The record series are: history, administration, personnel, local community, financial, facility, reports, publications, and subject series.
This collection comprises primarily chronicles, local community records, and financial files, with a small amount of supporting materials. Materials in the collection date from 1941 to 1975, with the bulk from 1941 to 1969. The history, reports, and publications series contain some information on students, curriculum, and daily activities at the school, but the majority of records focus on the sisters' community life.
Series 1: History
This series includes the chronicles and several brief histories of the school's foundation. The chronicles offer a good summary of school activities and the life of the sisters over three decades. They end in 1971, at which time the sisters began writing regional chronicles, so there is little information on the sisters' final years at St. Catherine's or their withdrawal from the school. (See Related Materials for information on regional chronicles.)
Series 2: Administration
This series contains the complete foundation request/approval correspondence, one brief folder of letters (1948-1968) from various provincial superiors of Sacred Heart Province regarding staffing assignments, and the sisters' 1941 agreement with the parish. Also found here is a folder of circular letters (1941-1946) from the Most Reverend Gerald Shaughnessy, Bishop of the Diocese of Seattle, to the administrators of parochial schools in the diocese; these contain some interesting comments regarding the impact of World War II on the operation of the schools. The fifth folder in this series contains an inventory of the school office files, noting the location of various books, forms, and manuals.
Series 3: Personnel
This series contains several complete lists of Sisters of Providence who served as principal or on the faculty; there are no lay faculty or student records.
Series 4: Local Community
Local community records, which concern the governance and administration of the convent (local community), include a list of the sisters who served as local superior; minutes of the annual visits of the provincial superior (proces verbal); the sisters' daily schedule (horarium); and an inventory of books in the convent library.
Series 5: Financial
This series includes the deliberations of the local council (the governing body made up of the local superior, her assistant, the house treasurer, and appointed sister councilors), which are primarily a record of the monthly meetings in which the financial account books were reviewed and approved. Also found here are an incomplete set of the provincial and local council Acts of Council regarding loans and purchases; two internal audit reports; and miscellaneous documents related to bank accounts, petty cash, and budget. These financial records shed some light on the operation of the school, but are primarily documentation of the sisters' living expenses.
Series 6: Facility
This series contains hand-drawn floor plans for each level of the school and original convent, detailing the use of each room and location of various utilities and appliances, and an inventory of convent furniture and household items.
Series 7: Reports
This series contains a complete Criteria for Evaluation of Catholic Elementary Schools, as formulated by the National Catholic Educational Association. The various sections of the evaluation were completed between 1968 and 1971. The report is a self-assessment of all areas of the school, including philosophy and objectives, faculty, curriculum, facilities, and student/family background.
An incomplete set of Personnel and Works Reports, compiled for the religious community, provide valuable statistical and financial data from 1941 to 1956, and statistical data only from 1968 to 1975.
Series 8: Publications
Found in this series are two items: a small, hand-printed yearbook from 1948, and a brochure published in 1973. The yearbook is an interesting example of student artwork and gives a brief summary of the activities in each grade. The brochure provides information on the school's goals, philosophy, faculty, curriculum and tuition. According to notes on the accompanying draft and press release, the brochure appears to have been prepared with the assistance of J.W. Tobin, Director of Public Relations for Sacred Heart Province.
Series 9: Subject Series
The three folders in this series are arranged in alphabetical order. The Fiftieth Anniversary and St. Catherine Parish files include publications with interesting historical data and photographs. The third folder contains a program from the school's first operetta, "Old Ironsides," presented in 1942.
Providence Archives is a private repository; access to some records is at the discretion of the Archivist.
The activities of the Sisters of Providence living or teaching at St. Catherine School from 1973 to 1976 are recorded in the Chronicles of the North/Central Seattle Region. These chronicles mention briefly the transitions experienced by the sisters and their move from the convent, but do not provide information on students or school activities.
The records of the education apostolate and the Education Division of Sacred Heart Province contain related correspondence, reports, and the annual "school bulletin," a detailed record of enrollment statistics, student involvement in ancillary groups (e.g. Sodality, safety patrol), and special programs (music, vocational preparation, etc.).
See separate index for articles on St. Catherine School printed in the periodicals Caritas, Providence Sister, and The Good Work, published by the Sisters of Providence, Sacred Heart Province.
A small number of photographs are stored and inventoried separately.
September 28, 2000, by Terri Mitchell, Assistant Archivist
SERIES 1: HISTORY
Chronicles, 1941-1971 (2 sets)
SERIES 2: ADMINISTRATION
Foundation Request/Approval, 1941
Provincial Superior, 1948-1962
Agreement with Parish, 1945
Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy, Diocese of Seattle,
Office File Inventory
SERIES 3: PERSONNEL
SERIES 4: LOCAL COMMUNITY
Proces Verbal, 1941-1963, 1968
Quinquennial Report, 1956-1966
Library Accession Register, 1941-1969
SERIES 5: FINANCIAL
Deliberations of the Local Council
Local Council Acts of Council, 1951-1969
Audit Report, 1958, 1964
SERIES 6: FACILITY
School/Convent Floor Plans
Inventory of Convent Furniture/Equipment, 1951-1965
SERIES 7: REPORTS
Personnel and Works/Semi-Annual and Annual
Criteria for Evaluation of Catholic Elementary Schools, 1968-1971
Miscellaneous Reports, 1945, 1969
SERIES 8: PUBLICATIONS
SERIES 8: SUBJECT SERIES
Anniversary - Fiftieth, 1991
St. Catherine Parish
School Operetta, "Old Ironsides," 1942
October 20, 2000