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Catholic Central Historical Marker

Published on
October 2, 2023
Written by
Nicolle Malson

On Sunday, October 1st, Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak, bishop of Grand Rapids, Catholic Central High School leadership and board members, current and past families, and representatives from the Historical Society of Michigan gathered to celebrate and participate in a blessing of Catholic Central High School’s new Michigan Historical Marker. This marker commemorates over a century of Catholic education in Grand Rapids.

The roots of Catholic education in Grand Rapids date back to its earliest days when Father Frederic Baraga, S.J., began The Mission of The Blessed Virgin Mary in 1833 for the native Odawa people. Father Baraga was a champion for the Odawa and opened a school first attended by 25 native and four settler children. To serve the growing Catholic community on the east side of the river, St. Andrew’s School was opened in 1858 in a house on Ionia St. and St. Andrew School in 1873. Four other Catholic Parishes around the city were educating children in grades 1-12, but by the recommendation of Bishop Joseph Richter, they combined their high school students to make one “Catholic Central” in 1906. Unique for its time, girls were included in the enrollment, making it the oldest co-educational diocesan Catholic high school in the country.

“Catholic Central High School has been at or very near the Sheldon Ave. site since its beginning. In those 117 years, over 25,000 students have received an excellent Catholic education at that site, in the heart of the City,” said Deb Moore, Catholic Central’s historian and archivist. Moore started the process for the prestigious marker in 2021. The recognizable green signpost took a year to be created and was installed on the outside plaza between the school and the gymnasium on September 27.

Catholic Central High School’s Michigan Historical Marker stands as a symbol of the enduring legacy of Catholic education in Grand Rapids, dating back to 1833, and the vital role that Catholic Central has played in the city since its beginnings.

Click here to see the marker featured on WoodTV8!

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