O’Hara Catholic School is our parish school and Fr. Ronald Nelson is the current pastor of the school. Below is some history.
O’Hara Catholic School has a long history as an enriching influence in Eugene and its surrounding community. Fr. Francis S. Beck (pastor from 1887-1894) saw the need to establish a Catholic school in the Eugene area. He arranged for some Benedictine Sisters from Mt. Angel to run a school in Eugene from a “four-room building which faced Willamette Street.” The sisters arrived in 1889. The school was called the “Academy of Our Lady of Victory” – affectionately known as St. Mary School. Later in 1895, the Sisters of Mercy took over for the school. During Fr. John A. Moran’s time as pastor (from 1911-1920), the Sisters of Mercy took over the Eugene General Hospital on College Hill in 1912. Consequently, Fr. Moran arranged to have six Sisters of the Holy Names come to run the school in 1916.
In 1919, Fr. Moran had purchased property in the West 11th Avenue block between Charnelton and Lincoln streets. Later, Fr. Edwin V. O’Hara(pastor from 1920-1929) would move the Holy Names sisters in 1921 to the house at 1116 Charnelton St., which is currently part of the Poole-Larsen Funeral Chapel. The school building was moved to northeast corner of 11th and Lincoln.
In 1921, the State Superintendent of Schools, J. A. Churchill, would accept St. Mary as a “standard school” of the State of Oregon.
During the time of Fr. Edmund Murnane (pastor from 1950-1969) an eight-classroom addition to St. Francis High School was built on the property on 18th Avenue and Jefferson Street for a junior high school, which was used for the upper grades of St. Mary School. It was called St. Mary’s Junior High School. Work began on the additions in January 1955. St. Francis High School was relocated to what is now Marist High School. All of St. Mary school was moved to the location on 18th and Jefferson in June 1969.
Under Fr. Emil H. Kies (pastor from 1969-1987), St. Mary Grade School became an area school in which “participating parishes selected the lay members of a policy-making school board and each parish agreed to subsidize those students of St. Mary’s School who lived within its boundaries.”
The school became the first area school in Oregon in 1971, serving multiple parishes. In 1978, the school was renamed O’Hara Catholic School in honor of Bishop Edwin V. O’Hara, a former pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and School. Archbishop O’Hara was instrumental in developing a strong focus on the mission of Catholic education. He was the first Superintendent of Catholic Schools of Oregon and the sponsor of the first Catholic high school in Eugene.
O’Hara Catholic School continues to serve as an area school to several parishes including St. Mary, St. Jude, St. Peter, St. Mark, St. Thomas More Newman Center, St. Alice, St. Helen, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Henry.
In the late 1960s, the school ceased to be the “sisters’ school” with the decline of religious vocations and the increase of lay teachers. Today O’Hara Catholic School is staffed completely by lay teachers with religious and diocesan priests coming regularly to visit the classrooms.