The purple and white “Save Cathedral” bumper stickers have faded. So has the crisis that mobilized a small army of Cathedral High School students, parents, faculty and alumni against the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Through newspaper ads and billboards, at demonstrations and in crowded City Council chambers, school supporters waged a successful battle nearly four years ago to reverse the archdiocese’s sale of the school to a developer.
Today, the doors of the 64-year-old Catholic boys school remain open--a testament of loyalty to an institution that has served its community well.
Tucked in a corner of Chinatown, the school--owned by the archdiocese but run by the Christian Brothers--has sustained a tradition of service to inner-city youth. Cathedral has served succeeding waves of Los Angeles’ immigrants and earned a reputation for high academic standards. About 90% of its graduates--predominantly Latinos now--go on to college.
It is a reputation that its supporters plan not only to preserve but also to build on.
The school kicked off a $5-million fund-raising drive in September and has raised about $1 million of it already, said Manuel Jimenez, Cathedral development director.
Blessing in Disguise
Jimenez, a member of “Friends of Cathedral,” the alumni group that led the fight to save the school, said the battle may have been a blessing in disguise. “It solidified the support of alumni . . . and gave the fund-raising drive added momentum,” he said.
Although the alumni group began a more modest fund-raising drive four years ago, that one was cut short when it was learned that the archdiocese had quietly sold the seven-acre school property. Archdiocese officials later explained the sale as a cost-saving measure.
Shocked and angered by what they viewed as a betrayal, the alumni group organized the opposition and even gained the support of the city, which imposed a temporary building moratorium on the property. In the fall of 1985, about 1 1/2 years into the fight, the archdiocese suddenly reversed its decision. It was one of the first official acts of Archbishop Roger Mahony after his appointment to head the archdiocese.
Saving the school from demolition was “extremely gratifying,” Jimenez said. “It was something we really believed in. . . . We put a lot of effort into it and it paid off.”
Now, he said, the alumni group’s commitment is to maintaining Cathedral as “a first-class inner-city school.”
“We’ve gone to everyone in sight,” said Jimenez, noting that contributions have come from alumni, business leaders and foundations. Dodger President Peter O’Malley, a graduate of another Christian Brothers school, is the campaign’s honorary chairman.
Beyond scholarships and operating costs, the money will go into a five-year building program for the aging campus. Plans include upgrading the school’s football field (“just an oval with grass on it,” according to Jimenez), building new science classrooms and a multi-purpose facility to replace the school’s 45-year-old gymnasium.