St. Mary's Elementary School
Marist Catholic High School had its beginnings in a single room of the old St. Mary's Elementary School located on the corner of 11th and Lincoln in Eugene. The first freshman class enrolled in 1918, and four years later, seven young women comprised the first graduating class. The school was staffed and operated by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who arrived in Oregon from Montreal, Canada in 1859.
Because only one parish existed in Eugene during the first half of the twentieth century, St. Mary's offered the only parish school. Eventually, enrollment outgrew the building. By the 1950's, Eugene had added three new parishes and students from these parishes formed the new Catholic high school community. St. Francis High School (now O'Hara Catholic School), built on West 18th Street, opened its doors to 108 students in 1950 and was part of the Archdiocesan system of Catholic education. During the 16 years of its existence, enrollment grew beyond its boundaries.
In the early 1950's, Monsignor Edmund Murnane had already founded Catholic Charities of Lane County (now known as Catholic Community Services of Lane County) and overseen the purchase of the land that would become St. Paul Parish Church and School. Murnane saw the need for the continued growth of Catholic secondary education in Lane County. He called on the Marist Brothers to oversee the construction of the new Marist High School.
On May 23, 1967, ground breaking ceremonies launched the construction of Marist High School. By September of 1968, on what just a few years previously had been 30 acres of lush Oregon farmland along the banks of the Willamette River, stood a spacious modern facility dedicated to the continuing Christian education of youth. The school was then staffed by nine Marist Brothers, eight Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and a complement of lay men and women. The new school derived its name from the Marist Brothers, an international community of teaching brothers in the Roman Catholic Church.
Saint Marcellin Champagnat was a Catholic priest who founded the Marist Brothers of the Schools in the small village of La Valla, France on Jan. 2, 1817. He envisioned the Brothers as a group of men dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God - hence the name "Marist" - whose primary work would be teaching children in the remote towns and villages of 19th century France. By the time of his death on June 6, 1840, there were 278 Marist Brothers and 48 Marist schools in France and the South Pacific. Today, there are just over 3400 Marist Brothers in 78 countries.
Having been invited as long ago as the 1850's, it was not until the early 1960's, at the request of Monsignor Murnane, that the Brothers actually came out West. From 1968 until 1993, the Marist Brothers administered the school for the Archdiocese of Portland. In 1992, the Brothers decided to withdraw from their ministry in Eugene due to its personnel commitments in Chicago, Boston and New York. Though the Marist Brothers have withdrawn, they have left an indelible mark on the school and the greater community by their dedication and example.
From 1993 through 1998, a priest of the Dominican Order served as Principal. Currently, a lay professional serves as Principal of the school. Marist Catholic High School, accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, is part of the education system of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon.
May 1967 Marist Catholic High School groundbreaking ceremony. (L to R) Urban Moore, St. Francis High School student body president; Rev. Charles Scott, former St. Francis High School principal; Monsignor Edmund Murnane, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, Eugene and founder of Marist High School; Gale Roberts (leaning on shovel) general contractor of Roberts Construction; Bro. Timothy Joseph Craven, F.M.S. St. Francis High School principal; Bob Craviotto, St. Francis High School & Marist High School parent.