Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence
In 1856, Sister of Providence Mother Joseph, accompanied by four young pioneering sisters, arrived at Fort Vancouver, Washington. Mother Joseph proceeded to open her first Catholic school in 1858 in makeshift cabins. An accomplished architect and carpenter, she supervised the building of Providence Academy seventeen years later. The Sisters operated Providence Academy, the sole Catholic school in this area.
Our Lady of Lourdes School and Parish
Our Lady of Lourdes/St. James Catholic School (now known as Our Lady of Lourdes), opened in April 1956 with nearly 450 students–many from the soon to close Providence Academy–and staffed with eight Sisters of Providence and four lay teachers. Since it first opened its doors, Lourdes’ goal has been to emulate the charism of Mother Joseph (compassionate love and creative, prophetic solidarity with the poor) by providing a quality, value-based education to all students in the community. This is done in an educational environment that respects the individual gifts and talents of each student and nourishes minds and spirits.
In 1958, Our Lady of Lourdes Church and Parish was established at the site. For many years, the school was known as Our Lady of Lourdes-St. James School. It is now known as Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
Our Lady of Lourdes is located in an established suburban area of the city where no major growth can occur. It draws students mainly from outside the immediate community. Therefore, the school serves the families of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Parish, as well as the families of at least eight other local parishes. The school community includes families from the extended Vancouver/Clark County Catholic and non-Catholic community. Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School continues to honor the rich tradition begun by Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence. Here at Our Lady of Lourdes, we believe that education is a life-long process with its roots in the family and values based on Catholic teachings. Parents are viewed as invaluable collaborators and essential team members of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
Most all of the Sister's had left the school by the mid-seventies. Sister Mary Leona Miller, who was loved by both students and parents, taught first grade until she retired in 1991. She lived in Hazel Dell and remained in the parish for many years before she really retired to a home in Seattle. The Sister Mary Leona ~ Father Dillon Fund, which provides tuition assistance for students, honors this beloved teacher and the first Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish.
A Commitment to Excellence
Our Lady of Lourdes received a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award in 2001, establishing the school as a premier educator in S.W. Washington. The school has continued to build on the attributes that met qualifications for the Blue Ribbon, establishing innovative programs to meet the needs of today’s students.
The school is Accredited through the Western Catholic Educational Association and a WCEA Member of National Catholic Educational Association. Our most recent accreditation in 2015 was by far the best the school has had; receiving scores of highly effective, which is the highest possible score, in 12 categories.
Graduates of Our Lady of Lourdes School are well prepared to attend any of the seven Catholic college preparatory high schools in the Portland/Vancouver area, as well as advanced and magnet programs in local public high schools. Our Lady of Lourdes graduates have a 99% high school graduation rate and 99% continue their education in a college or university.