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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

St. Vincent Ferrer High School - Part 2

St. Vincent Ferrer was a famous Dominican missionary, born in Valencia, Spain, January 23, 1350.  His own words were "study followed prayer, and prayer succeeded study".  To become a saint, you have to demonstrate miracles.  His miracles are said to be the "gift of tongues" and his success in converting thousands of Jews and Moors to Catholicism. In his homeland, he was a bit of a politician and diplomat easing sectarian conflicts.  He is known as the "Angel of the Apocalypse".

I felt compelled to look up information about St. Vincent Ferrer.  It strikes me as funny that I had never looked this information up before.  The fact that the Dominican nuns ran St. Vincent's is no surprise since their patron saint was, in fact, a Dominican.

Back to St. Vincent Ferrer High School, Vallejo, CA........By the mid 1960s it became evident that St. Vincent's could no longer accommodate the enrollment of the high school.   In 1968,  St. Patrick's High School was opened at 1500 Benicia Road, Vallejo, CA.  This site was virtually vacant land purchased by the school and new buildings were constructed from the ground up.  This campus is set on a gentle hillside slope near the Benicia State Park and Southhampton Bay where the Carquinez Strait begins to merge into the Suisun Bay.  The high school is within a few hundred feet of the city limit of Benicia, California off HWY 780.

In 1968, St. Patrick's became the boys' campus while St. Vincent Ferrer High School on Florida St. continued as the girls' school.  St. Patrick's was run by the Christian Brothers and St. Vincent's continued to be run by the Dominican Sisters.  For the next twenty years, the two schools operated separately but with combined social and sporting events.

By the 1980s, it had become evident that the cost to run and maintain two separate Catholic high schools in Vallejo was not practical.  Maintenance on the now old St. Vincent's high school building would have been cost prohibitive.  I think back to that old building.  It was three stories with no elevator or accessibility for wheelchair plus the third floor was not deemed "earthquake safe".  With this in mind, St. Pat's expanded their campus by adding a large new classroom building.  In the Spring of 1987, St. Vincent Ferrer High School graduated their final class.   In the Fall of 1987, St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School opened the school year as a newly merged student body and faculty (with Dominican Sisters and Christian Brothers both sharing the task of education).

So whatever happened to St. Vincent Ferrer High School up on the hill in downtown Vallejo?  The building is still there.  Personally, I missed spending my senior year at the old high school.  I attended the school in the old building for three years.  It was more than a place or just a structure, it had a "soul".  It's hard to explain but let's just say that I'm not the only one who missed it.  My senior year of high school was spent at a wonderful location on Benicia Road.  There is no doubt about that.

What remains at St. Vincent's?  The old high school building is still there.  It is used as the parish community building.  I can't imagine that they use the entire building but you never know.  After the high school closed, the parish chose to teardown the old convent building on the property.  It matched in appearance to the high school building.  The elementary school is still open and exists on the parish grounds as it always has.  The church on the premises celebrated 155 years recently.   The church is gorgeous even despite the interior remodel with the weird curved pews.  We'd attend mass about once a month during the school year in this location.  It is too bad that the St. Pat's campus does not have a church.

Anyway, St. Vincent Ferrer High School and the connecting history was something that I felt compelled to post.  I know that many people of an older generation recall Catholic school as being tough and a place where you could be subject to corporal punishment.  By the time I attended Catholic school, coproral punishment had been thrown out.  I experienced a wonderful, all encompassing education in high school.  This included learning to be yourself, think for yourself, and be confident in yourself plus build community with others while demonstrating compassion and kindness.  I feel that I also learned many, many truths about being Roman Catholic which include the good, the bad, and the middle ground.  The honesty of what I learned enables me to continue as a Catholic today.  Veritas!

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