Holy Names High School

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About Us » History


The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary founded Holy Names High School in 1868. Established on the shores of Lake Merritt at the site of today’s Kaiser Center, the school, then called Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, has the distinction of being one of the first high schools in Oakland. In 1911, the University of California first accredited the school whose curriculum prepared students to attend the University.

Holy Names Central High School opened its doors at the current site on Harbord Drive in the fall of 1931 and combined the four high schools in Oakland then staffed by the Holy Names Sisters. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges and Western Catholic Education Association first accredited Holy Names in 1961.

Holy Names High School has always reflected the time and community it has served. During the thirties, the school shared the poverty of the economic depression. In the forties it experienced the uncertainties and fears of a country at war. As the population of Oakland changed over the last half of the 20th century, so to has the school’s population. Today Holy Names takes pride in a student population comprised of a rich racial, economic and religious diversity that comes together in a strong academic community where Catholic faith and Christian values are an integral part of the daily life of the school.


Born Eulalie Durocher in St. Antoine, Quebec, Canada in 1811, Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, was a woman of extraordinary faith and courage. When her mother died, she went to live with her brother who was a pastor in a neighboring village. She assisted him with the work in the parish and developed the gifts of the Spirit which prepared her for the work God later called her to do. There she also became the prefect of the first parish sodality for young women in Canada. A year later, in 1843, the local bishop, Igace Bourget, invited her to found a new religious congregation dedicated to the Christian education of the poor in the area. She and two of her friends responded eagerly and immediately began the religious congregation and their first schools. By the time of Marie Rose’s death, only six years after her founding the congregation, thirty Sisters were already teaching 384 students in four schools.

The young congregation, known as the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, continued to expand to new locations in Canada and the United States, establishing schools and colleges with high academic standards and an emphasis on the fine arts. In 1868, in response to a request from Archbishop Alemany of San Francisco, the first Sisters of the Holy Names came to Oakland to establish schools in California. Since then the Sisters have founded, staffed and sponsored several high schools and many elementary schools in the Bay Area and in Southern California. Today they continue their mission at Holy Names University, Holy Names High School, Next Step Learning Center and in several other parishes and agencies in Oakland.