Catholic prep school celebrates Founders Day

WEST HILLS — As white and gold banners flapped in the Santa Ana winds, a cheering crowd celebrated Chaminade College Preparatory’s 50th anniversary this past week.
“It was an outstanding day,” said James V. Adams, Chaminade’s president and deacon. “We had been praying for good weather because the Mass and celebration were held outside. It was actually a little too warm.”

The event was held Wednesday during the school’s annual Founders Day Mass on the West Hills high school campus.

Bishop Gerald Wilkerson and the Rev. David Fleming, who came from Rome representing the Marianist community worldwide, were the guest speakers and celebrated the Mass.

The Marianist (Society of Mary) order founded Chaminade as an all-male boarding and day school in the Cheviot Hills area of Los Angeles in 1952. Cardinal J. Francis McIntyre suggested that the school relocate to the largely undeveloped San Fernando Valley when the school outgrew its original site in the late 1950s.

“Cardinal McIntyre had the vision to relocate the school to an area that was thought wouldn’t be able to support the school,” Adams said. “The school’s success is due to the gifted and visionary leaders. They established our own feeder school and adapted to become coed. The leaders were able to keep the school relevant over the years.”

A National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, Chaminade has the largest enrollment of any Catholic school in the San Fernando Valley, with about 1,700 students. Among its well-known alumni are actors Tracey Gold, class of ’87; Beverly Mitchell, class of ’99; Jonathan Taylor Thomas, class of ’00; and Ron Insana, co-anchor of CNBC’s Business Desk.

“It would be kind of hard to select just one program that we’re most proud of. What we are really proud of is the sense of community that involves the parents, students and the faculty,” said Franciscan Brother Tom Fahy, the Chaminade High School principal. “One of the main characteristics of the school is our family spirit.”

Christine Hunter, middle-school principal for 15 years, said all students attend daily religion classes as part of the regular curriculum. Although less than 50 percent of the student population is Roman Catholic, Hunter doesn’t find it unusual that students of other faiths would attend the school.

“We have a great group of parents from other countries who were taught by priests or brothers in those countries. They have an incredible appreciation for a Catholic education,” Hunter said. “I don’t think they’re worried about us converting their children. Parents today who are good Jews or good Buddhists are looking for schools that teach values. That’s not happening in the public schools.”

Surveys of Chaminade parents have shown that a safe environment, a strong academic program, a program in which morals and faith-based values are taught and a lot of extracurricular programs are qualities that parents are seeking.

“Children who are able to make the right moral and ethical choices in a place where there is reverence to God are important to the parents,” Fahy said.

All Chaminade students study the Bible, church history, the sacraments, Christian morality and lifestyles and social justice as they progress in grade levels. Community service and retreats are part of student life at the school.

“You learn about religion with the prayers, the liturgy and by going out and doing for other people. It’s not just book learning,” Hunter said. “I think children are more interested in religion than we give them credit for. I think they find the religion classes interesting, enriching and practical.”

Source: Los Angeles Daily News
Author: Holly Andres

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