Founded the same year as Banff National Park, the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) became the first Roman Catholic separate school district in Alberta on December 18, 1885.
Originally known as the Lacombe Roman Catholic School District No. 1 prior to 1911, the name was changed to avoid confusion with the community of Lacombe.
The idea of providing Catholic education in Alberta, then referred to as the North West Territories, began 15 years prior to the establishment of CCSD. Bishop Grandin, the first Bishop in the North West Territories, devoted himself to bring Christianity to the west and to aiding prairie settlers. His passion to preach the gospel was instrumental in establishing the Calgary Catholic School District.
Upon the request of Bishop Grandin, a group of Catholic Sisters from the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) – a Catholic Society whose mission includes founding institutes of education – arrived in Calgary from Saskatchewan to establish a Catholic school located within the precincts of their new convent: Sacred Heart.
Located in the former residence and chapel of missionary Father Lacombe, St. Mary’s became the first school in CCSD and was opened by the Sisters of the FCJ. Mother Mary Greene of the FCJ led St. Mary’s School as the first teacher, principal and superintendent of CCSD. She was instrumental in developing the teacher certificate program, held the first official teaching certificate in Alberta and helped enshrine Catholic educational rights in the constitution that was developed during that period.
In 1909 the district built its first new school, a brick and stone eight-room building, to accommodate the growing number of students. By June 1913, the district consisted of three schools, 17 teachers and 548 students.
The 1920s were considered exciting times in Calgary as the discovery of natural gas and oil, coupled with the promotion of farming land, brought an influx of people to the city and its surrounding areas. During the next five years, CCSD witnessed considerable growth as student enrolment more than doubled during this period with eight schools in operation. By 1940, CCSD provided schooling for 1,713 students with 54 teachers in eight schools – this was just over three times its size in 1913.
The end of World War II brought an economic explosion to Alberta and families from all over moved to Calgary. As a result, the early 1960s saw a sudden increase in students as the district’s enrolment grew eight times higher in 1965 when compared to student enrolment in the 1940s.
The CCSD has grown tremendously over the past century from a modest beginning with two FCJ teachers and 22 students to now more than 56,000 students in 115 schools and employing over 5,000 staff members, including 3,400 teachers.
The Catholic values that built the foundation of the Calgary Catholic School District more than a century ago still guide it today as students live and learn in our Catholic faith.