Researched and written by Sr. Kay McMullen, SND
In 1866 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was established as a mission parish, first of St. Matthew’s in San Mateo, and later of The Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park. The church was at the corner of El Camino Real and Brewster. In 1885, Fr. Dempsey approached the Sisters of Notre Dame about teaching the children of Redwood City. Four Sisters, Sister Julia of St. Joseph as Superior, accompanied by Sister Mary of the Angels, Sister Isabel of the Heart of Mary and Sister Clare of the Blessed Sacrament, came to establish Our Lady of Mount Carmel School. The dedication was on July 26th. Fr. Conlon celebrated the Mass which was followed by a procession of about 80 children.
From Annals, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Notre Dame California Archives, Belmont, CA:
July 28, 1885 – Fifty children presented themselves as pupils but as the desks had not yet arrived the Sisters were obliged to send them home and it was not until the following Monday that we were able to accommodate them. Here God seemed to bless the efforts of the Sisters and since then the schools have been well attended and the kindness of our good Pastor Rev. Father Riordan through whose instrumentality our Sisters were brought to Redwood City. Rev. Father Riordan preferred erecting the Convent in Menlo Park where the Pastoral residence was, but when he consulted with Archbishop Alemany, His Grace informed the Rev. Father that ‘If the Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame was looking for a location she would prefer Redwood City.’
Snapshots from the early years:
- 1887 – Mt. Carmel was named a parish with Fr. Daniel O’Sullivan the first pastor.
- 1906 – Earthquake partially destroyed the parish buildings, so the Sisters went back to San Jose and students went to public school for about a year until buildings could be rebuilt.
- 1921 – The Charles Hanson mansion, Palm House, was sold to the church. The Sisters moved into this house at Arguello and Brewster and walked to the school each day. For many of these early years, Mt. Carmel was both grammar and high school.
- 1932-1933 – New School with students at door Under the direction of Father John Patrick Cavanagh a full city block was purchased west of El Camino Real and the new school built on Grand Street.
- 1937 – The church on Brewster was torn down to make way for the widening of El Camino Real and the school auditorium converted to a temporary church
- 1948 – The old convent on Arguello Street, “Palm House” was sold for development and the Sisters moved to the new convent on Fulton, on the same block as the school.
- 1952 – The new church adjacent to the school and convent was dedicated on October 26 and the auditorium returned to school and parish use.
- 1963 – Champions of the Interparochial League
The recent 125th celebration photo!
Many Sisters have taught here and all loved teaching the experience, including Sr. Barbara Kavanaugh who has reconnected with a first grade class she taught decades ago!