About + Mission & History
Inspired by the Daughters of Charity and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, in partnership with families, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory’s mission is to provide the finest education in an inclusive Catholic community of faith. We prepare our students to become service-oriented leaders with a commitment to living the Gospel.
In the spirit and vision of St. John Baptist de La Salle and St. Vincent de Paul, SHC aims to educate students by the tenets of the Gospel to build a faith-based community and serve others with compassion. This core Catholic understanding helps to ground, guide and bind our community and serves as the nurturing backdrop for academic exploration. At SHC, we strive for intellectual and academic excellence while keeping the unique interests and passions of each of our individual students in mind. Every student has a wealth of talent to bring to the community and we aim to nurture and direct these talents toward a successful and productive life. SHC’s commitment to rigorous academics and social justice helps mold students into hardworking, thoughtful and altruistic adults.
Daughters of Charity
The Daughters of Charity were founded in Paris in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise De Marillac. The Community was established for the purpose of serving the poorest of the poor, and for this reason the Daughters vow not only poverty, chastity and obedience, but also service to the poor. These vows are renewed annually during the Feast of the Annunciation. In 1850 an American Community, affiliated with the Paris community, was founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton; thus, the American Daughters were born. Throughout the world there are 27,000 Sisters in 93 provinces, with approximately 2,000 Sisters located in the United States. Daughters of Charity Province of the West.
De La Salle Christian Brothers
Founded in France by Saint John Baptist De La Salle in 1680, this religious institute of brothers (officially named “The Brothers of the Christian Schools”) has created a 300-year tradition of educational excellence. Known as an extraordinary man of faith, De La Salle founded a truly innovative religious order devoted exclusively to the Christian education of youth. His spirit and vision launched an educational endeavor that continues today with more than 5,000 brothers and some 77,000 lay partners serving the educational needs of 900,000 students in more than 80 countries. The Catholic Church specially recognized the Lasallian educational mission in 1950 when it named Saint John Baptist De La Salle the patron saint of teachers. De La Salle District of San Francisco New Orleans (SFNO), the western province of De La Salle Christian Brothers.
SHC’s story is one of determination, resilience and a continued commitment to serving San Francisco’s youth. The school’s history is inextricably linked to the founding of the city of San Francisco, and thus, our physical placement in the urban center of San Francisco holds a theoretical significance as well. We have played a part in San Francisco’s history just as it has played a part in ours.
The tale begins in the mid to late 1800s, while San Francisco is undergoing tremendous change. Between 1844 and 1850, the nascent city experiences a population boom of unprecedented proportions—from 50 residents to 25,000—amid the frenzy of the San Francisco Gold Rush. Overwhelmed and concerned with the swelling population, Bishop Joseph Alemany requests that the Daughters of Charity be sent from Emmitsburg, Maryland to serve San Francisco’s youth. In 1852, seven sisters of the Daughters of Charity embark upon their treacherous journey to the West Coast. Sadly, two of the sisters die from cholera in transit. When the remaining five sisters arrive in San Francisco, they establish an orphanage and girls’ day school, later known as St. Vincent’s, to serve the growing population of underprivileged youth.
San Francisco’s population continues to rise steadily each year, and the need for youth services and educational outlets rises as well. In 1868, with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, San Francisco is the 10th largest city in the country. That same year, the Christian Brothers open St. Peter’s Parochial School—later Sacred Heart High School—in an effort to serve the growing elementary school population. In 1906, intellectual, academic and societal progress grinds to a halt when an 8.25 magnitude earthquake rattles the city and sparks the Great Fire. Three thousand lives are lost; 225,000 men, women and children are left homeless; and 28,000 buildings are destroyed, including Sacred Heart High School and St. Vincent’s school for girls. St. Vincent’s school is rebuilt and moves three more times before landing at the corner of Gough and Geary in 1938. This is a time of reconstruction and architectural achievements for Sacred Heart, St. Vincent’s and for the city of San Francisco. Only a year earlier, history is made when the Golden Gate Bridge project is completed and cars cross to and from Marin for the first time. In 1966, the St. Vincent’s facility on Gough Street is razed to build St. Mary’s Cathedral. St. Vincent’s school is rebuilt adjacent to St. Mary’s Cathedral and renamed Cathedral High School.
The very next year, in 1967, Cathedral High School and Sacred Heart High School start to work together with an understanding of the similarity of their missions and their shared vision to better serve their youth. By 1987, the official merger of the schools is complete and the unified school is renamed Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. Today, SHC continues its tradition of growing with the times and with the city. San Francisco is known globally to be on the cutting edge of technological advances. SHC reflects this energy through a commitment to technology in the classroom, cutting-edge curriculum and enthusiastic, innovative teachers developing the leaders of tomorrow.