Private high school celebrates 150 years of Catholic education in Canada

One of North America’s oldest Catholic high schools has launched its 150th anniversary celebrations.

Villa Maria High School, located just west of downtown Montreal, was founded by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame in 1854.

The school has grown tremendously since its founding. The first graduating class in 1860 had three students and there were about 50 students in the whole school. Villa Maria was run entirely by the CND sisters as a boarding school and all students studied in both English and French.

In 1975, Villa Maria became “an independent school” with a board of directors, and the sisters’ presence in the school slowly decreased over time. Currently, the only CND on staff is Sr. Arlita Matte, the directress general.

Today, Villa Maria is a private Catholic girls’ day school. It has separate English and French sectors, and its total enrolment is 1,100. The school plans to begin constructing an expansion in the fall, which will include an auditorium, a media center, a centralized library and science laboratories.

Lt.-Gov. Lise Thibault was the guest of honor at the ceremonies, held April 30, to launch the anniversary year. The entire student body, as well as the staff, was present. The school band played pieces from Bach and the graduating class sang “Ave Maria” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

A number of other events are planned for the next academic year to mark the important milestone, including a mass with the archbishop of Montreal, Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte.

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