Some of the families at Maria Regina School have been members of the community for generations. It is an institution renowned for having past graduates send their children to our school. Currently many of the attendees are children of former students. The diversity of our population makes us a unique school. In addition to our ethnic and cultural diversity, we have a unique blend of religious denominations. The school population is predominately Catholic, a portion of whom belong to families belonging to Maria Regina parish. Many of the students live and attend parishes which border ours.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary withdrew from Maria Regina parish in 1996. Throughout its rich history, Maria Regina has been served by a committed staff. In 1986, Sisters Agnes and Margaret Anne rented space from Maria Regina to begin their Writing to Read (WTR) computer program. Maria Regina was the training ground for the WTR computer literacy program for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. All the teachers attended in-services for WTR training. It all began at our school.
The school expanded and added a north wing to the property. This doubled the classroom of each grade during the mid-1960’s. Due to changing household demographics in the community during the late 1970’s, enrollment declined and the school was contracted back to a traditional eight classroom parish elementary school. A full day kindergarten program was added in 1981 to meet the needs of the people in our community. During the late 1980’s, the sisters were asked to withdraw from the school, but were still active in parish life. A lay principal served for one year, paving the way for the school to be lead once again by a nun. This time it was a sister from the Notre Dame order, Sister Barbara Courtney.
The parish and the school have a short, but glorious history.
For many years, the Sisters of the Providence of Hawaii had desired to have a convent on the West Coast as a “stop over” between Europe, New England, and Hawai’i . The repeated request from the Hierarchy of Los Angeles for Sisters to serve the needs of the growing school population provided the impetus which hastened the decision of Superiors to consider one of the many appeals made to the Sister of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Hawaii .
When Maria Regina Catholic Parish was built in 1956, it was surrounded by a swamp. Construction of Maria Regina Church began in August 1957. Fr Michael Casey was the first pastor of Maria Regina Church . Sunday Masses were held at Serra High School until the church was completed.
Reverend Mother Mary Gertrude went to Los Angeles to study the situation. Was it coincidence that Notre Mere, wishing to honor Mary, Our Mother, with a new foundation during the Marian Year, selected this particular parish – Maria Regina – named for Mary Queen and dedicated to Her Honor? Yes, they thought so and sent her Sisters to Maria Regina. Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were allowed to transfer from their mother house on O’ahu, Hawai’i to come to Gardena , California to teach in the newly built grammar school.
The school was opened in 1958. Before the convent was built, the sisters lived in an apartment building across the street (See picture above, top step Sister Rita, middle step Sister Agatha, bottom step Sister Jane Francis – picture courtesy of Sacred Hearts Academy , Honolulu , Hawaii and identification courtesy of Tom Sullivan). The school began with first through fourth grade classrooms in one building. Most children went to Purche or other neighboring schools for kindergarten. The first principal was Sister Marie Elizabeth (see above photo).
In 1962 the tuition was $125 for the entire school year for one child! Next to this building was a dirt area with swings, teeter-totter, and a merry-go-round. A second building was constructed in 1964. The social hall was built in 1966.
In the late sixties, the enrollment increased so rapidly that Maria Regina began to have two classes for every grade. On the double grades, one grade was designated “S” and the other “M”. The “S” stood for a teacher who was a Sister and the “M” stood for a lay teacher. The students would alternate every year between a nun and a lay teacher.