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Thursday, November 23, 2017
About Us / History


St. Elizabeth Seton School: Dedicated to Educating the Children of East Palo Alto and the Surrounding Underserved Neighborhoods Since 1978

The building we now know as St. Elizabeth Seton School was built in 1951 and was first named St. Thomas Aquinas School under the aegis of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and enrolled the children of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. A church, St. Albert the Great, was then built on the campus, and the school's name was changed to reflect that of the church beside it. By 1972 the school's enrollment was declining as demographics changed in Palo Alto and schools of all kinds closed their doors. Archbishop McGucken proposed consolidating with Our Lady of the Rosary School, also a Palo Alto school. Enrollment at both schools was still low, but by 1977 the Archdiocese took the bold step of committing itself to forming a Catholic Community School here, offering admission to children from East Palo Alto and the neighboring low-income communities. In 1978 the Sisters of Carondolet withdrew and the steering committee that was deciding the future of this school gave it a new name: St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School of Palo Alto.

Beginning in 1981 several major changes took place when the Diocese of San Jose was formed, and under the new diocese St. Elizabeth Seton School became a "mission" school supported by the St. Thomas Aquinas parish community. However, the funding was not enough to sustain the school, and in the year 2000, at the request of the bishop, the Daughters of Charity made the decision to co-sponsor the school. This meant the Daughters of Charity Foundation would subsidize the operational costs while the Diocese of San Jose would take care of the maintenance and capital repairs to the campus. The school would remain a diocesan school and the staff would remain employees of the diocese.

Why St. Elizabeth Ann Seton? In the early 1800's Elizabeth started a small school in Baltimore, MD which is considered the beginning of the Catholic school system in the United States. Other women came to join Elizabeth's mission at this tiny school and became the nucleus of the first American order of Catholic sisters, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. This community spread and today consists of six different groups of Sisters of Charity, engaged in all kinds of good works. The sisters at Emmitsburg joined with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris in 1850, as Mother Seton had apparently wished. Mother Seton was canonized in Rome in September 1975.

Elizabeth Seton's faith gave her supreme confidence that ultimately all would be well. In today's world so full of confusion, this tiny and frail woman would not be intimidated. She would simply tell us to trust God and step forward. "Remember, pilgrim," she wrote, "there are no roads. Roads are made by walking."

We are honored to carry the name of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as we continue our work with our students.

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