The Roots of a Catholic Education Tradition

Bishop Sullivan Catholic High school’s immediate history begins with the opening of Norfolk Catholic High School in 1949, but its story really begins in 1848 with the establishment of Saint Mary’s Orphan Asylum and Academy.

Saint Mary’s Academy was established by Father Alexander Hitzelberger (who opened Norfolk’s first Catholic Church, St. Patrick’s) and a wealthy Irish immigrant, Anne Plume Behan Herron. The school was intended “for the poorest of the poor,” but as public education was non-existent at that time and there were few options for middle-class Norfolk residents, Herron and Hitzelberger opened the school to tuition-paying students as well. St. Mary’s Academy opened with 45 orphans and 116 paying students and offered a quality secondary Catholic education that continued well into the next century until its high school closed in the late 1940’s.
    • 'Granby

A Time for Consolidation and Meeting Social Challenges

During the 1940s, Bishop Peter Ireton realized that Norfolk would be better served by one centrally located high school rather than several small ones. Until that time, St. Mary’s, Holy Trinity High School in Ocean View (1931-1950) and St. Joseph’s, an all-African American high school established by Rev. Vincent Warren of the Josephite Order, had been serving Norfolk's Catholic community.

Initially chartered as "Central Catholic," Norfolk Catholic High School opened on Granby Street in 1949 and graduated its first class in June of 1950.

As Norfolk Catholic grew in the 1950s, the state of public education was undergoing momentous change following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs. the Board of Education that declared "separate but equal" unconstitutional. In the fall of 1958 most of Norfolk’s public high schools closed to avoid a Virginia federal court ruling to desegregate schools.

Since the students of St. Joseph’s had been admitted the same year as the historic 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, the school was featured in an Edward R. Murrow documentary titled "The Lost Class of 59." While integration was opposed by most of Norfolk's white community of that time, Norfolk Catholic High School students - both black and white - attested to the merits of desegregated education in Murrow’s documentary.
    • 'Current

Changing Demographics Defines Norfolk Catholic's Future

Norfolk Catholic High School continued to prosper at its home on Granby Street, its enrollment growing to more than 800 by 1970. However, as new parishes formed to serve the growing Catholic population in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, enrollment began to fall off in the 1980s and by 1990 a movement was underway to move to a more central location.

In response to members of the expanding Catholic Community, in 1992 Bishop Walter Sullivan approved a plan to move the school to better serve the area’s Catholic population. In the fall of 1993, the school opened as Catholic High School at its present 37-acre Princess Anne Road location. Ten years later, to honor the soon-to-retire Bishop of Richmond, the school’s name was changed again, to Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School.

Today, the school continues the legacy set in 1848 at St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum and Academy—to provide a Christ centered academic program that prepares young people for success in college, and success in life as citizens, servants and leaders in their communities.
Fostering Values  ∙  Nurturing Intellect  ∙  Shaping Character

Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School

4552 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone: (757) 467-2881
Fax: (757) 467-0284
Email: info@chsvb.org
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