St. Simon School, located in Los Altos, California, in the Diocese of San Jose, was established in 1961. On September 5th of that year, the founding pastor, Father James L. Spooncer, and four Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of Immaculata, Pennsylvania, opened St. Simon School to two hundred children in grades one, two, and three. New classes were added each year until there were two of every grade, one through eight. A library was developed to meet the needs of the expanding school population. In the 1980’s a Kindergarten was started, and a computer lab, science room, and extended care facility were built. In the 1990’s, a Parish Center was built, which includes a gym, kindergarten classrooms, meeting rooms, and a kitchen. Renovation of Saint Simon Church was completed in 1999.
History of the Founding Order
The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M. Sisters), were founded in 1845 by a French Redemptorist, Father Louis Florent Gillet, in Monroe, Michigan. The Motherhouse is located in Immaculata, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. This community of Sisters is dedicated to Catholic Education particularly in the Catholic Schools. The order staffs elementary schools in the United States and South America. The Sisters also teach in high schools and conduct Immaculata College, a liberal arts college for women located in Immaculata, Pennsylvania. The I.H.M. Sisters served at St. Simon from its founding in 1961 until June 2003. For further information, visit www.ihmimmaculata.org.
The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose
When the I.H.M. Sisters withdrew from St. Simon School, the pastor invited the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose to live in St. Simon Convent. Currently, we are blessed to have seven Dominican Sisters living in the convent, and two Dominican Sisters work in St. Simon School and Parish.
The Dominican story begins almost 800 years ago with Dominic de Guzman, born in 1170 in Caleruega, Spain. Filled with a deep spirit of prayer and a passion for preaching the message of Christ Jesus, Dominic gave birth to a new religious order: the Order of Preachers.
The Mission San Jose Dominican story begins more than 110 years ago. Three young Dominican Sisters were sent in 1876 from Brooklyn, New York, to San Francisco, California, to begin a school for German-speaking immigrants. Sister Maria Pia Backes, the superior, was 24 years old. By the time of her death, 48 years later, Mother Pia had firmly established the new Congregation of the Queen of the Holy Rosary: the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. Her devotion to the Gospel, her love for the liturgy, and her desire to bring Catholic education to youth, especially to the poor, shaped the spirit of this new family. Today 350 Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose live the rich tradition of the Dominican family with vitality, enthusiastically responding to the challenge of Christian education in California, Oregon, Arizona, Mexico, and Germany.
The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, the Congregation of the Queen of the Holy Rosary are called to live and proclaim Jesus Christ through evangelizing, preaching, educating, and promoting justice and peace. In the spirit of St. Dominic and of their foundress, Mother Maria Pia Backes, they witness to this call through their vowed life. Their prayer, study, ministry and life in community empower them to participate in the mission of Jesus, especially among the young, the poor and the vulnerable. For further information, please see www.msjdominicans.org.