Franciscan Sister Pamela Catherine Peasel updates us on the St. Peter Mission High School, Bapchule, Arizona.

As the saying goes, “All good things take time.” Ten years to be exact. Back in 2013, Bishop Olmsted of the Phoenix Diocese proposed, in casual conversation, if St. Peter would ever consider beginning a high school. One that would broaden the world of the students, opening new doors and placing them on a pathway to success. At that time, it only seemed a dream, however, with the help of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit and the graces of God, the high school is now a reality.

In 2015, Bishop Olmsted asked the Friars to conduct a study to gauge the feasibility of a Catholic High School on the reservation. The Friars worked with Cana Institute and the back work was off to a start. The study covered a number of areas including input from the families on the reservation, input from current students, possible building sites and a well-drawn out four-year curriculum. This study became the framework from which the high school took shape.

As Sister Pamela Catherine was working towards an administration degree through Arizona State University the tangible pieces of the high school began to come together beginning with an Action Plan detailing the structure of the school, a proposed budget for the first year and another in looking ahead at a building project. Much time was spent in gathering together the finer details in order to present this plan to the Diocese, the Tribe and our Community. In August of 2022, the newly installed Bishop Dolan, visited the Mission and gave his blessing for the opening of the high school in the fall of 2023. During this past summer, the Action Plan evolved into a reality with the ordering of books and uniforms, the hiring of teachers, the gathering of classroom furniture, the preparation for temporary classroom usage and the gathering of various materials needed for each of the courses.

The school structure is three tiered. The first tier consists of traditional high school academics following a block schedule format with 70-minute class periods. The second tier consists of Career Technical Education (CTE). Three CTE classes are being offered this first year and include Auto Mechanics, Cabinet Making, and Culinary. There is a possible fourth class in the making, Graphic Design. The third tier begins during the sophomore year and consists of an internship program similar to the Christo Rey model. Partnerships have been established with the Boys and Girls Club of Mesa, AZ and also with the Tribe to provide paid internships for the students. Stipends will be used to pay for the students’ education.

This first year, we opened with the freshmen class of 15 students. We began the year reflecting upon the Parable of the Mustard Seed with our small beginning placing our trust in God’s hands to continue to guide us as we grow. There have been numerous times when we didn’t think something possible and God has opened a door each time. He truly is in charge of this endeavor. We have also reflected upon the fact that St. Peter Mission began 100 years ago with only 12 students and we marvel at the growth God has provided.

Watch for Part 2.