Most Rev. William Cardinal O'Connell, Archbishop of Boston

Cathedral High School’s founder, the Most Rev. William Cardinal O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston

In 1926, His Eminence, Most. Rev. William Cardinal O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston, founded Cathedral High School next door to his seat at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End. The school’s founding was made possible by the generosity of the estate of a benefactor, Mary C. Keith, and its history of philanthropy-based education continues through today.

Cathedral High School was created to serve the youth of the city of Boston to “develop [them] spiritually, intellectually, and socially, and to train Catholic leaders” in the words of the founding mission statement.

The school adopted the personal episcopal motto of its founder, Cardinal O’Connell: Vigor in Arduis — Latin often translated as “strength in the face of adversity.” It was to be an incredibly apt choice for Cathedral which has served generations of immigrants, first-generation Americans, and inner-city youth from all walks of life.  The motto highlights the resolve of Cathedral scholars who persevere through academic and personal challenges to achieve great success.

Science Lab in the 1950s at Cathedral High School Boston

Students at Cathedral study in a science lab in 1950.

From the beginning and for many decades, the school was primary staffed by Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston (CSJ). The religious order of sisters taught and administrated the school for many decades. Today, several full-time Sisters of Saint Joseph continue to serve the students of Cathedral High School.

The school was elevated from a parish high school to an archdiocesan central high school in 1950 recognizing that it was one of several such schools in Boston to serve a population much broader than its parishioners.

Modern Day

In 2004, Cathedral High School became an independent Catholic high school, legally incorporated under the governance of a Board of Trustees.

The Gymnasium at Cathedral High School

The Cathedral High School Gymnasium and athletics facilities opened in 2006

A new 13,000 square foot gymnasium and multi-purpose space was opened on the school grounds in 2006. The added athletic facilities include an outdoor basketball court, a weight room, sports medicine and physical therapy space, and accommodations to hold school-wide assemblies. The construction was funded entirely by the generosity of Cathedral’s donors and benefactors.

In order to begin to prepare students earlier for college, Cathedral added the junior high or middle school grades (7th and 8th grades) in 2010, which have since steadily expanded.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Grammar School in Roxbury and Cathedral High School announced a Catholic Urban Partnership in 2014 creating a more seamless and supportive pre-kindergarten to college pathway for Boston youth.

In September 2018, a brand new, 15,000-square-foot Applied Learning Center was opened in a wing of the school which once was the Cathedral Convent. The state-of-the-art facility, the result of an $8 Million “Full STEAM Ahead” campaign, enables Cathedral to expand programs for STEAM-based learning: science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. The Applied Learning Center includes a design-based learning makerspace lab, complete with a state-of-the-art Autodesk 3-D printer, an area dedicated to arts and cultural activities, as well as seven additional collaborative learning spaces.

Today, the school serves more than 360 students from across 40 different communities in greater Boston—particularly Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, and Hyde Park. Together with dedicated lay and religious faculty, an updated school facility, and a rigorous applied learning curriculum, 100% of Cathedral’s seniors have graduated high school and 100% have earned college admission for over 20 consecutive years. Cathedral continues its nearly 100 year mission driven history of making unparalleled educational opportunities accessible to the young people of Boston.

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