Archbishop Patrick Riordan created the parish of St. Catherine of Siena on August 28, 1908, and named Father James A. Grant as its first pastor. The parish boundaries were from Poplar Avenue in San Mateo to the San Francisco county line, and from San Francisco Bay on the east to the top of Black Mountain on the west. The parish served missions at San Bruno and Millbrae.
Father Grant, the first pastor, was born in Scotland and raised in Nova Scotia, he entered the seminary in Lille, France and was ordained in 1895. Prior to his assignment at St. Catherine, he served in the archdiocese at the churches of St. Paul, St. Peter and St. Bridgid in San Francisco and St. Mary in Oakland.
The construction of the church began in February, 1909 (on the northeast corner of Park Road and Howard Avenue). The Church was completed in seven months for a mere $12,400. The dedication for the Church was on October 3, 1909, Archbishop Patrick Riordan was the celebrant.
Father Grant's next priority was to establish and expand a religious education program for the children. He arranged for the Holy Family Sisters to come by streetcar from San Francisco to instruct the children. Classes started in August of 1910 with at total of 90 children.
In 1913, San Bruno and Millbrae missions were formed into a separate parish with their own priest appointed in charge of it.
In November of 1924, Father Grant purchased the corner property at Bayswater Avenue and Primrose Road. In 1925, the rectory and the Church were moved, the rectory to the corner, and the Church adjacent to it. This relocation cost was $35,000. During the move, the masses were said in the auditorium of Burlingame High School and the rectory consisted of a few rooms in the Burlingame Hotel.
Father Grant recognized the need for a parish hall, and had a basement built beneath the Church on the new site.
After serving eighteen years, Father Grant passed away at age fifty-eight years. He was truly mourned and deeply missed.
Father Michael R. Power, was born in Ireland and was appointed the second pastor in November of 1926. Father Power inaugurated an annual parish picnic every spring which attracted huge numbers of parishioners and their children. "No parishioner who has attended such a picnic has ever forgotten the spirit of family togetherness". Father Power left an indelible impact on St. Catherine of Siena parish, he returned to his native Ireland in 1937.
Monsignor Thomas F. Millett was appointed the third pastor of St. Catherine of Siena on July 4, 1937. He also was born in Ireland. Monsignor Millett's priority was the construction of a parish grammar school. He acquired property from the Palamountain family on Bayswater Avenue and Park Road, just east of the Church.
He launched a successful fundraising drive, and within six months upon obtaining the plans and permits, the school was completed. It was opened on September 12, 1938 and accepted students from kindergarten through the seventh grade. The tuition was $2.00 a month!! The school contained nine classrooms, a library, a cafeteria, and an auditorium. The Sisters of Mercy (Burlingame) staffed the school.
Monsignor Thomas J. Cummins became St. Catherine's fourth pastor in January 1941. These were troubled years, at least 265 parishioners served in the Armed Forces during WWI and faith brought parishioners closer.
In April, 1949, Monsignor Cummins launched a drive for $300,000 to build a new Church and rectory, in the traditional English Gothic style to harmonize with the school. Construction of the rectory commenced on August, 1949. When the new rectory was completed, the old one at the corner of Primrose Road was sold.
On September 7, 1952 a formal dedication of the new Church occurred, the ceremony was led by Archbishop John J. Mitty.
In May 1974, the parish was saddened by the news that the Sisters of Mercy would no long be able to staff the school after June of 1975, due to the declining number of vocations.
Father Maurice Shea, named as chairman of a committee to plan the future of the school, contacted the Missionary Sisters of the Sacro Costato in Rome. The Sisters were enthusiastic about the opportunity for their congregation to become "true missionary sisters" in California. In July 31, 1975, Sister Antonietta (Superior), and Sisters Enza, Antonella and Wanda arrived in Burlingame. St. Catherine of Siena School is blessed to have four sisters of the Sacro Costato still teaching at our school, Sr. Alessandra, Sr. Corinna, Sr. Amy and Sr. Antonella.
In December of 1975, Monsignor Cummins passed away and Monsignor John J Murphy was appointed pastor.
In 1977 the school was enlarged by renovating the convent community room into a school library. In 1994, two small rooms were converted into a computer classroom, housing twenty computers. In the fall of 1998, construction was finished on the science room which would enhance the science program for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. In the fall of 2003, the computer room was expanded to develop a more multi-media lab.
Since 1975 the school enrollment has increased from 177 to a maximum of 324. To meet the needs of some families, the Scholarship Fund was developed through philanthropic donations in 1980. The School Board initiated the Development Fund for the purpose of securing fiscal stability in 1989.
St. Catherine of Siena School, celebrating its 70th anniversary under the leadership of its pastor Father John Ryan, is an active an integral part of the parish and local community. Together we are dedicated as one to fulfill our mission to build, strengthen, and support a shared faith-community.
Monsignor Cummins stated in 1949
"The new St. Catherine's will not only be a magnificent addition to our ever-growing community, but also a lasting expression of our faith in God. It will be a symbol of our devotion to and our love for Him. It will be the very heart of our parish. ...."
-Monsignor Cummins, 1949