Then and Now: Twenty-Five Years of Academy History

July 08, 2022
Source: Academy Arcadia
This fall Our Lady of the Angels Academy celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary.

 Twenty-five years of trueness are the proof of a school that has stood the trial of its worth in spite of the many obstacles to the truth in this modern world.

 When the Our Lady of the Angels parish opened its doors to adherents of the Tridentine Mass, Monsignor Charles P. Donahue already foresaw the need for a school, and the church basement provided classrooms and a dining hall for the future academy. The thriving community that the parochial life offered could not stop short of instructing the numerous children of the families who attended. Yes, the cafeteria served the staple coffee and doughnuts after Sunday Mass, but the space would only fulfill its destiny when children filled its rows of seats to socialize during school meals. In fact, the Monsignor intended to involve the ladies regularly with preparing hot lunches in the cafeteria. Parents clamored for an environment in which their children could experience a total commitment to their Catholic Faith. The demand was there, a hunger for the true faith as it had been taught for almost two thousand years. Then the growing church in Arcadia lost its founder, surrendering him to his Creator.

 

 

A kindergartener attacks the Guadalupe piñata which holds a treasure of candy.

 The first pastor to arrive from the Society of Saint Pius X was Father Charles J. Ward, a Chicago native with an edge that balanced his mild manners. Father's administrative prowess not only rectified the new chapel's standing, but it also drove him to realize the hopes of the Monsignor and his faithful followers. And within a year of his arrival, Father Ward had staffed enough teachers and faculty to open Our Lady of the Angels Academy and welcome its first twenty students in the autumn of 1997. The new academy, which spanned grades Kindergarten through eighth, featured a group of teachers, carefully chosen from our parishes around the country, whose unrivalled work ethic and desire to cultivate the souls of the children entrusted to them set the school apart from its counterparts. Thanks to its first principal, Father Ward, Our Lady of the Angels Academy began imparting to its students the same spirit of sacrifice that its teachers exemplified in devoting enormous time and effort to their vocation. The class sizes began fleshing out through the years, always staying below an optimal average of seven students per teacher. Families moved from Idaho and drove from across the county to send their children to the academy. What was it that drew them in? Certainly there were conflicts even among traditional Catholic movements such as this one. But the alternatives were harrowing. Our Lady of the Angels was the only one of its kind in the entire state where a family could attend the Latin Mass, the Mass of all the popes and all the saints throughout the centuries of the Church, enjoy the community of fellow Catholics living the same life in the world, and enroll their children in the care of genuinely inspiring teachers. School events paced the academic progress and contributed to the intellectual growth: field trips, academy fairs, Christmas plays, Jog-a-thon's, and even a visit to a Benedictine monastery for the boys colored the years with spirit. The school mascot, the Sentinel, bore the significance of preserving the transcendental values of goodness, truth, and beauty. And in 2000, the first graduating eighth grade class waved their goodbyes to the Alma Mater to the melody of the academy song, "Onward Sentinels". Not long after the school's number broke fifty, the eighth graders won the inaugural National Religion Exam in 2008, marking a prestigious scholastic achievement, especially on the part of the teachers. In 2022, the academy would have achieved first place ten of the fourteen times that its eighth grade size qualified. Returning alumni remark that aside from aesthetic improvements, the academy has remained the same, in loyalty to the tradition it passes on. A tremendous privilege for the student body was to participate in the jubilee anniversary of their beloved Father Ward's ordination to the priesthood in 2011. His departure the next year should not have disturbed many, as the academy's patroness would continue to protect and guide her little school. Today, graduates go on to become parents, nurses, marketing professionals, automobile mechanics, law enforcement officers, chefs, soldiers, emergency medical technicians, freight drivers, cosmetologists, medical doctors, commerical fishermen, physical therapists, mixologists, accountants, craftsmen, pregnancy advocates, animators, business owners, athletes, computer programmers, religious brothers, construction managers, scholars, and seminarians.

  This commemoration of the school's founding indeed celebrates the past quarter century of formation, but the chorus of the school's anthem lyricizes a more rallying tone: "Let us march onward, ever upward, our eyes ever looking toward our goal." Twenty-five years later, the Sentinels, thankful for their education, hold fast to the gifts they received at Our Lady of the Angels and fortify in particular their souls to protect the honor of the Catholic Church.