God’s Presence in the History of St. Mary Cathedral School:
St. Mary’s Cathedral School swung open its doors in 1939 to two hundred and thirty students. Over the course of 66 years the school has weathered numerous changes within itself, and in the population it served. Sixty years ago, the Little River neighborhood was an upper middle class area with comfortable living conditions. Today, this same area struggles over many social and economic problems. The changes have had a profound effect on the makeup of our student body and the character of our school.
St. Mary´s has been a school that rightfully belongs to the Mother of the Archdiocese. Over the past half century, the school has opened her arms; and welcomed children to a place of safety, goodness and refuge. In the early 1960´s when the first wave of Cuban political refugees came to Miami seeking freedom, St. Mary´s was a major point of entrance and the school adapted. While classes were taught in English; Spanish rang out in the classrooms and in the playground. As the Cuban families became financially fluent, they would move to the suburbs and make space for the next wave of immigrants seeking freedom and justice. In the late 1970´s Haitian migrants began fleeing Haiti’s political dictatorship. Many Haitians escaped Haiti hoping to find political and economic justice. They arrived on the shores of South Florida; and made the Little River area their new home, today this area is known as Little Haiti. Spanish began to fade as the secondary language at the school, and a new language and culture emerged. Today, St Mary’s student population consists of a variety of nationalities from the Caribbean and the Americas.
The school began with grades one through eight, and a teaching staff of eight Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine. Through the many changes, and challenges the sisters remained, as the one constant; embracing the children of God. The school added a grade each year and from 1944 to 1953 a thriving high school remained. In 1953, the high school was discontinued in order to open separate high schools within the diocese. In 1992, the school was forced to drop double grades due to financial constraints. While recognizing the economic constraints of maintaining a Catholic school today; the Sisters and clergy, made the choice to resist making St. Mary Cathedral unaffordable to low income or disadvantaged families. The Archdiocese has generously supported this challenge. In the summer of 2007, the Sisters of St. Joseph withdrew from ministry in the Cathedral parish. The Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, were missioned to St. Mary Cathedral parish and school and presently reside at St. Mary’s Convent.
Today, St. Mary Cathedral School is a Pk-3 to 8th grade Catholic school within the Archdioceses of Miami. The school received its first accreditation by the Florida Catholic Conference in 1959, and has continued to be certified by the Florida Catholic Conference, with the most current accreditation being in 2014. The rich tradition of the Catholic faith, and quality education continues to this day. Currently our school is directed by Very Reverend Christopher Marino, VF as Rector, Sr. Michelle Fernandez, SCTJM, as Principal, and Ms. Lori Bryant, as Vice Principal. St Mary’s Cathedral School has been, and continues to be “A Harbor of Hope and a Beacon of Light” to the community it serves.