Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Chin Tengsico and fifth grade daughter Meiruh head into Christ the King School on the first day of school, bearing bouquets for staff.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Chin Tengsico and fifth grade daughter Meiruh head into Christ the King School on the first day of school, bearing bouquets for staff.
MILWAUKIE — Classes began this morning at most Catholic schools in western Oregon, with excited kindergartners and a few grumpy teenagers sporting new backpacks.

There are 49 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Portland and around 15,000 students, by far the largest non-public system in Oregon.  

New staff and projects are shaping the first weeks. New principals are in place at Regis High in Stayton and Sacred Heart in Medford. A preschool has opened at Holy Cross School in North Portland. Jesuit High in Portland began a week earlier, with each of the more than 1,200 students receiving an iPad for the first time.

Taking a cue from Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel, Blanchet School in Salem will focus on joy during the year. St. Mary’s Academy in Portland counts one of the largest student populations in its 155-year history.

At Christ the King School in Milwaukie, the year begins with a celebration of the old and the new. It was 50 years ago today — on   Sept. 2, 1964, that the school opened, having been blessed by Archbishop Edward Howard.

A school log from 1964, kept meticulously by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, notes the triumphs, like first Communion on Oct. 25, — and the tragedies like a broken window and stolen tape recorder on Sept. 26. The school was smaller then, with 67 students in combined grades. Buildings have been added over the years. Back then, parish Mass was held in what is now the school gymnasium.

Now, there are 250 students at the school, which has a capacity of 265. Another difference: Four in ten students is from a minority group. Three in 10 receive financial aid.

Brooke Wesener went to camp and on vacations over the summer and now is ready for first grade. Having attended kindergarten at Christ the King, she is an old hand at school. With mom Miro, she welcomes other families as they head for the front door, including giving a tight hug to friend Leala Tran.

“I love the community here,” says Miro, also a member of Christ the King Parish. “The staff is incredible.”
Ben McCaffrey, also entering kindergarten, looks forward to fun, including recess. His mom, events coordinator Melanie McCaffrey, is herself a Christ the King graduate.

In the kindergarten classroom, Shannon Laier brings daughter Peyton, who speaks with teacher Megan Rensberger and takes her seat — after hugging little sister Brinley. No tears from Peyton, just eagerness. Parents take photos and videos of the big day.

“I feel pretty good. There was a little tearing up,” says Shannon, who has two younger daughters still at home — future Christ the King students.

Tending the front desk for the 8th year is Joyce Auxier. On day one, Auxier received several bouquets, including one from fifth-grader Meiruh Tengsico.

Christ the King holds a 50th anniversary celebration at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, in the school courtyard.
Joe Bridgeman, in his fifth year as principal, says the anniversary is a time to reassert the school’s role in the mission of the overall parish.

“We are here to evangelize and communicate,” Bridgeman says. “We also recognize 50 years of incredible parish support.”

Msgr. Richard Paperini, pastor of Christ the King, is a frequent visitor in classrooms. This fall, he will be taking student groups and teaching them the meaning of various parts of the Mass.