Catholicism in Eastern Washington grew mainly from the work of missionary priests, many of whom were sent to minister to the native tribes of the northwest in the mid- and late-1800s.
Father Joseph Cataldo was among those early priests, who would later found Gonzaga College and help establish the Spokane diocese in a 15-by-22-foot carpentry shop purchased in 1881 for use as Spokane’s first Catholic church.
Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, Spokane’s first Catholic school, opened there in 1886. It sat on Main Avenue between Washington and Bernard Streets. The parochial school had three Holy Names sisters as its first teachers.
On the first day of school, 58 girls and 44 boys were registered for classes, and enrollment hit 302 students by the end of the first year.
A two-story school was built nearby with living quarters for the teachers, opening in 1888.
Through the 20th century, Catholic education grew as the city grew. Dozens of new neighborhood parishes would create their own grade schools.
But when the construction began on the new Lady of Lourdes church in 1903 on the 1100 block of West Riverside, the school soon followed. The new Lady of Lourdes Academy was completed in 1906.
With many Catholic grade schools vying for students, some consolidation was inevitable. In spring of 1972, six south Spokane grade schools were consolidated into two. Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Augustine’s and Sacred Heart schools combined into Cataldo primary and middle schools, located at Sacred Heart Parish and St. Augustine’s, respectively. In the early 1980s, all K-8 grades relocated to St. Augustine’s campus.
Parish schools at St. Ann’s, St. Peter’s and Our Lady of Fatima consolidated into the newly named All Saints School, whose student body was split between the campuses of Our Lady of Fatima and St. Peter’s parish.
There was a contest to rename the consolidated schools. Cataldo School was suggested by second-grader John Kernie from St. Augustine’s school, to honor Father Cataldo for his pivotal role in spreading Catholicism in Spokane. Danny McLachlan, a fourth-grader from St. Ann’s parish, suggested that All Saints was a good compromise since three parishes had to change their school names.
The 1906 Our Lady of Lourdes school was torn down in 1974 and 1975 and later replaced with a rectory building.
1972 - Our Lady of Lourdes was holding it's last graduation for the venerable 1906 school on the 1100 block of West Riverside. Present day: The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, with its twin bell towers and stately architecture, was dedicated in 1908 and officially adopted as the diocesan cathedral in 1913. But along with the cathedral came the Our Lady of Lourdes school, which opened in 1906 and operated in the 1100 block of West Riverside Avenue until 1972. The school was consolidated with two others in 1972 to become part of Cataldo School.
Former Spokesman-Review sports copy editor David Oriard contributed research to this story.