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History of Bishop McNamara and La Reine High Schools: Educators in Faith

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Bishop McNamara High School, built adjacent to Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Forestville, Maryland, thrives today as a result of Msgr. Peter Paul Rakowski’s vision to build Catholic high schools, one for boys and one for girls, in southern Prince George’s County.

In 1962, Patrick A. O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., extended an invitation to the Brothers of Holy Cross, (members of the Congregation of Holy Cross), an association of Catholic religious brothers and priests founded in 1837 by Blessed Basile Moreau to make God known, loved, and served), to administer and staff the new high school for boys. The Brothers of Holy Cross called the new institution Bishop McNamara High School to honor the legacy of Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., John M. McNamara, who at the time of his death in 1960 had ordained more priests than any other Bishop still living in the United States.

In 1964, Bishop McNamara High School admitted its first classes of 334 boys (freshmen and sophomores) staffed by ten Holy Cross Brothers and two lay teachers. These individuals set the course for these boys to develop into young men of character.

Two years earlier, Cardinal O’Boyle asked the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, a Catholic women’s religious order founded in the latter part of the nineteenth century who answer God’s call by following in the footsteps of Francis and Clare of Assisi, to administer and staff a high school for girls in the same area.

La Reine High School, established in nearby Suitland, Maryland, was the result of this inspiring call to action and the School opened its doors in 1960 admitting 130 freshman girls, adding a class each year.

Over the next 32 years, La Reine High School pursued excellence and received numerous honors in academics, art & design, and athletics. The School’s crowning achievement came in 1985 as La Reine High School was named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the Council of Private Education, one of only 65 schools nationwide to be so honored. In 1991, La Reine High School announced its closing, and Bishop McNamara pledged its future to embrace a co-educational mission of secondary education. In 1992, the first women from La Reine High School entered the halls of Bishop McNamara. The legacy of La Reine High School and the charism of the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters as educators in the faith presently lives on in the memory and future vision of Bishop McNamara High School.

Bishop McNamara High School today promotes a co-educational Catholic liberal arts curriculum rooted in the Holy Cross tradition that seeks the “harmonious development of the whole person,” which was the challenge given at the School’s founding in 1964 by Brother Ephraim O’Dwyer, C.S.C., then Provincial of the Brothers of Holy Cross, Eastern Province. This challenge echoes the educational philosophy established more than 180 years ago by Blessed Basile Moreau who stated in his defining work Christian Education, “We shall always place education side by side with instruction, the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”

Bishop McNamara High School educates the “hearts and minds” of close to 900 students from nine different counties in the Washington Metropolitan region in a dynamic, inclusive Catholic school community rooted in the Holy Cross tradition. The School remains devoted to its four pillars - Being Family, Building Respect, Educating Hearts and Minds, and Bringing Hope - as we prepare students “to think with Christ,” which was Bishop John M. McNamara’s ecclesiastical motto. Through the shared conviction among all members of our community that “the cross is our only hope,” we strive to be men and women with hope to bring preparing the world for better times than these.

Make haste, therefore; take up this work of the resurrection, never forgetting that the particular goal of your institution is, above all, to sanctify youth. -Blessed Basile Moreau, Christian Education