St. Catherine High School

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St. Catherine High School
St. Catherine High crest.png
St. Catherine High School is located in Jamaica
St. Catherine High School
St. Catherine High School
Location in Jamica
35 St. John's Road
Spanish Town
Coordinates 17°59′54″N 76°58′23″W / 17.9982286°N 76.9729239°W / 17.9982286; -76.9729239Coordinates: 17°59′54″N 76°58′23″W / 17.9982286°N 76.9729239°W / 17.9982286; -76.9729239
School type Public
Motto Latin: Preces et Opera Omnia Vincunt
"Prayer and Work Conquer All"
Religious affiliation(s) Christianity
Denomination Roman Catholic
Patron saint(s) St. Catherine of Alexandria
Founded September 6, 1948
Founders Sr. Mary Mercedes-Doorly RSM and Rev. Fr. Matthew J. Ashe SJ
School board Independent
School district Region VI
Oversight Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kingston
School number 876-513-7495
School code 14073
Chairman Ms. Sharon Dale
Principal Marlon Campbell
Chaplain Rev. Fr. Richard Brown
Staff 140-
Grades 7–13
Gender Mixed
Age range 11-20
Number of students 2300-
Sixth form students 230+
Average class size 40
Student to teacher ratio 17:1
Education system British West Indian
Classes offered Humanities, Natural Sciences, Business Studies and Technical Vocations
Language Standard English
Hours in school day Curricular: 7:45 to 2:40
Extra-Curricular: 3:00 to 4:00
Classrooms 59

Joined Dual

  • Junior School Campus
    (Old Harbour Road Campus)
  • Senior School Campus
    (St. John's Road Campus)
Campus size 19+ Acres
Campus type Urban
Houses Avila (yellow), Goretti (white with purple), Lourdes (red), Mercedes (orange), Orleans (royal blue) and Paschal (green)
Colour(s) White & Deep Sky Blue         
Slogan Mighty Conquerors!
Song Dear St. Catherine High; We Love You
Nickname Catherine
Accreditation Ministry of Education CXC
National ranking Top 20%
Affiliation Sisters of Mercy, Jesuits
Alumni Andrew Holness (Prime Minister of Jamaica) Kenneth Richards (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston)
Vice-Chairman Deacon David Yee-Sing
Campus Minister Sr. Doris Osondu D.D.L.
Ja. PSA Pres. Hugh Douse
NE USA PSA Pres. Eddie Edwards
SE USA PSA Pres. Mrs. Jasmine Clarke-Barnes
Foundation Secretariat Mrs. Joan Tyser-Mills JP, OD.

St. Catherine High School is a Roman Catholic co-educational traditional high school in the civic parish of St Catherine, Jamaica. It was founded by members of the orders of the Sisters of Mercy and the Jesuit Fathers in 1948.



The idea of establishing a Catholic High School in Spanish Town originated with Father Matthew Ashe S.J. and Sister Mary Mercedes Doorley R.S.M., who saw the need to establish a school for children in St Catherine -with the potential- who were unable to gain places in the traditional grammar schools in Spanish Town and Kingston.

The school was originally intended to be a co-educational Catholic High School and it was established on the Catholic ideal of the total development of the student with a focus on student centred learning.

Father Matthew Ashe S.J. (1911–1990) arrived in Jamaica on 27 August 1945, with no inkling that he would later be involved in starting a high school in Spanish Town. His first assignment was with the St. Anne's Church located on Percy Street in Kingston. In September 1947, he was transferred to St Joseph's Church in Spanish Town to replace Father Gildy S.J".[1]

Upon his arrival in Spanish Town, Father Gildy gave him a letter encouraging him to do "something for the Spanish Town mission".[1]:p.17 There was a big reception held for him at St. Catherine Primary. No sooner had Father Ashe arrived in Spanish Town than plans were afoot to start a Catholic high school.

Around the same time Sister Mary Mercedes-Doorly R.S.M. (1884–1972), a Jamaican who was running the St Anthony's Academy, a Secondary School in Port Antonio, was forced to close the school due to financial difficulties. She left the parish of Portland along with her two assistants, Mrs. Erma Blackman (née Campbell) and Mrs. Cynthia Jacobs (née Hedman), determined to open a new secondary school in Spanish Town.

Sister Mercedes approached Father Ashe about collaborating to form a school and he immediately agreed. Although Father Ashe thought the odds were against them in starting the school, he nevertheless stated: "one had to look at the immediate future ... Spanish Town [had] so many townships and hamlets clustered about it far and wide [that it] possessed a great potential for a secondary school."[1]:p.27

They sought Bishop Thomas Emmet's approval to start the new school; he was initially reluctant, but subsequently approved the plan for a second high school in Spanish Town.

First location: White Church Street[edit]

In the 1948 academic year, a Catholic high school named after the parish of St Catherine opened its doors with twenty three students: ten boys in the traditional khaki uniforms and thirteen girls in the original red and white tunics and straw hats. St. Catherine High School began as a co-educational institution on the same premises that now house St Catherine Primary School at 34 White Church Street. Maria Thompson was the first and only student registered in the first term and was later joined by the others in the second term. She was recruited by Sr. Mary Fidelis-Neary RSM and came from the Cathedral High School for Girls (later St. Jago). As the numbers increased, the need for additional space became necessary.

Second location- Brunswick Avenue[edit]

In 1951, the school moved to the Convent at 5 Brunswick Street, the present site of St. Catherine Preparatory and Basic Schools. By then, it had become an all girls school.

Soon after the school started, Sister Mercedes retired due to ill-health, and returned to the Alpha Convent in Kingston. Sister Mary Clare-Burns R.S.M. replaced her as principal of the school.

In 1954, Sister Mary Stanislaus-Warburton (later Sister Anne Maries), a native of England, became the principal of the school. In a relatively short time the first results of students taking Senior Cambridge Exam showed a high percentage of pupils passing their exams; a number of students received credits and distinctions.

It was around this time in the early 1950s that the house system was introduced and the first graduation ceremony took place in 1955.

Sister Stanislaus' Superiors of her Order considered that the fledgling school would not survive as it could not compete with Grant-in-Aid Schools that received government subsidies and paid teachers better salaries. Tuition fees were not increased. Nevertheless, the Superiors were persuaded to keep the school open as Father Ashe along with others applied for Grant-in-Aid status, approved in 1958 by Minister of Education Florizel Glasspole, who later became Governor General of Jamaica.

Between 1959 and 1962 Sister Mary Pauline-Mallette R.S.M. (Sister Carol), a Jamaican, acted as principal of the school while Sister Stanislaus went on to study in the United States. Sister Stanislaus returned to the school to resume her duties as principal. In 1962, she became principal of Mount St. Joseph's Academy in Mandeville.

In 1959 Father Ashe left Spanish Town because of ill health; he later became one of the founding teachers and treasurer at Campion College in Kingston. Father Frances Jackmaugh, a Jesuit of Lithuanian descent who previously served in Kingston at St. Anne's Church and Highgate at Sacred Heart Church, assumed Father Ashe's position at St. Joseph's Church. He took an interest in the school and through his efforts land was purchased at 35 St. John's Road Spanish Town to build a new school.

Final location: St. John's Road[edit]

In March 1960, the St. Catherine High School for Girls was moved to its present address which at the time was described as a "spacious and well kept campus" at 35 St John's Road.[1]:p.47 The subjects offered at the school included cookery, literature, Latin, Spanish, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and various business subjects.

In 1962 Sister Mary Paschal-Figueroa R.S.M., was transferred from Alpha Academy in Kingston to become the successor of Sister Stanislaus. Sister Paschal, a Jamaican of Panamanian roots, had previously been Headmistress of Alpha Academy in Kingston and was the principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy, a secondary school in Mandeville. Father Ashe described Sister Paschal as "warm-hearted [but] a strict disciplinarian".[1]:p.30 Upon her arrival, Sister Paschal had to repay debts the school owed for buildings that were constructed prior to her arrival; she organised fund-raising and benefit dinners.

Under Sister Paschal's leadership, the school continued to maintain high educational standards despite the rapidly increasing student enrolment. Father Ashe recalled, "students began to converge on St. Catherine High School not only from the immediate environs of Spanish Town but additionally from ever-widening radius of hinterlands"[1]:p.30 Part of this new growth was the inclusion of a boys' school in 1972. This was sited south of the girls high school at what is now the Junior Campus and was started with the transfer of boys from the St. Catherine All-Age department. Permission was obtained from Archbishop John J. McEleney, S.J. and Sister Paschal's Superior to convert St. Catherine High School into a co-educational school.

In 1975, Paschal Hall (named after Sister Paschal) was officially dedicated.

Under Sister Paschal, the school introduced industrial arts for the boys. She wrote the school's song "Dear St. Catherine High We Love You". 6th form was first introduced at this time, preparing students for the GCE Advanced Level exams.

Sister Paschal was later summoned to St. Joseph's Hospital in Kingston to rescue it from financial troubles, and became the last nun Administrator for St. Joseph's Hospital in Kingston. In 2005 the Government of Jamaica honoured Sister Paschal with the Order of Distinction (OD) for her work in the fields of education and healthcare.[2]

In 1979 Madge Anderson, a vice-principal at the school, succeeded Sister Paschal as principal. Ms. Anderson also assumed the presidency of the Jamaica Catholic Education Association. She retired in 1987 passing the baton of leadership on to Mrs. Christabel Augustus-Fuller. Serving until 1993, she oversaw the construction of The Matthew Ashe Building on the Junior Campus. Named in honour of a founding father, it added eight new classrooms and other facilities to the plant. Following was Mrs. Colleen Brown who served as principal from 1993 to 1999. Mrs. Joan Tyser-Mills OD. JP. served as principal from 1999 to 2008. A notable achievement during her tenure was the historic 2005 Manning Cup team that reached the semifinals of the competition. She also opened the Guidance Center on the Senior Campus and started to beautify the campus through planting many Royal Palm trees. Ms. Claudia Neale, an alumnae, acted as principal for the 2008-2009 academic year. In the following academic year history was created when the first male principal, Mr. Marlon Campbell, was appointed to the helm of the school. In 2015 the aesthetics of the campus was improved when the Lascelles Williams Park was opened and dedicated to the school's long time serving chairman. It provides a space for recreational activities and dining.[3]


As a secondary school in Jamaica, St. Catherine High follows the traditional English grammar school model used throughout the British West Indies, incorporating the optional year 12 and 13, collectively known as sixth form. The first year of secondary school is regarded as first form, or Year Seven, and the subsequent year groups are numbered in increasing order up to sixth form. Students in the sixth form (years twelve and thirteen) are prepared for their CXC CAPE examinations.


School crest[edit]

The school's crest is a shield with deep sky blue fill which represents truth and loyalty. Within the shield is the school's abbreviation above which is a banner and a Latin cross which symbolises faith.[4] The periphery of the shield carries the school's name and motto.


The school's motto is Preces et Opera Omnia Vincunt and is translated "Prayer and Work Conquer All." The motto (Latin) is actually pronounced 'prae-kes et op-ay-ra om-nia wing-kunt'.

The rally cry from one Catherinite to another is simply "Preces!"

School song[edit]

"Dear St. Catherine High; We Love You" written by Sister Mary Paschal.[3]


The nickname "Catherine" is the shortened version of the school's official name.


The first five principals of St. Catherine High were Sisters of Mercy, the cofounders of the school.


St. Catherine High has 6 houses. This is two more than the original four started in the early 1950s that were all named in honour of women Saints, most likely because the school was an all-girls institution presided over by nuns. Since then two of the Sisters of Mercy principals have been honoured with houses in their name. Listed below are the six:

Name Patron Mascot Colour
LOURDES St. Bernadette Soubirous Red
AVILA St. Teresa of Ávila Yellow
GORETTI St. Maria Goretti Lion Purple
ORLEANS St. Joan of Arc Eagle Blue
PASCHAL Sr Mary Paschal Green
MERCEDES Sr Mary Mercedes Orange

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ashe, Matthew. I Cared to Go to Jamaica: unpublished autobiography of Rev. Matthew J. Ashe. Archives of the Society of Jesus of New England, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA.
  2. ^ The Chancery of the Orders of the Societies of Honour. "National Honours and Awards 2005" (PDF). Kingston, Jamaica: Office of the Prime Minister. Retrieved 27 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Ashe, Matthew, Personal Notes of Rev. Matthew J. Ashe, S.J. (1911–1990), Archives of the Society of Jesus of New England, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA.
  4. ^ The Meaning Behind The Symbols.