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placeholder June 25, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA

Former students and families of Dominican Kindergarten participated in a Mass to celebrate its
41 years of service, and pass the baton of leadership to St. Joseph School in Fremont.

Dominican Kindergarten moves to St. Joseph School

When school opens in two months, the sounds of kindergartners will be absent on the grounds of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.

After 41 —or "40 one-derful years," as the celebration announcement put it — the Dominican Kindergarten has said farewell to its last little student. But with goodbye comes hello: St. Joseph School in Fremont will greet its first class of kindergartners when the school resumes.

The transition of the Dominican Kindergarten to the school has been four years in the making.

Dominican Kindergarten was founded in 1970, when most Catholic schools in the Fremont area offered first through eighth grade. Gradually all but nearby St. Joseph School offered their own kindergarten classes. Dominican Kindergarten graduates moved on to first grade at St. Joseph.

"The Education Department joins the Sisters and friends of the community in welcoming the Dominican Preschool at Mission San Jose to the congregation's system of schools," reads the Aug. 29, 1970 announcement of the new ministry. "Dominican Preschool, a kindergarten program designed for five year olds, will open September 10 in the former postulancy building under the direction of Sister Diane Foley."

Former students and their families gathered with the Sisters at St. Joseph Church on May 12, as the congregation prioress said, "to celebrate the past, affirm our present and bless this new chapter in the history of St. Joseph's School."

She offered a glimpse into the kindergarten's beginnings. "I invite you back to 1970," said Sister Gloria Marie Jones, OP, congregational prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. "St. Joseph, St. Leonard and Holy Spirit parishes in Fremont and St. Edward's in Newark had flourishing Catholic elementary schools, but no Catholic kindergartens. Nor were there any day care or extended care programs … as hard as that may be to imagine!

"Into this moment emerged the dream of a Catholic kindergarten that could support educational excellence and serve neighborhood Catholic schools. Providentially — space in our Jordan Center here at Motherhouse became available and helped create a home for this dream!"

She acknowledged the leadership of Sisters Mary Diane Foley, Judith Reagan, Kathleen McAvoy and Jane Marie Estoesta. "Through the years nearly 1,500 children and their families have been shaped by the Dominican spirit," Sister Gloria Marie said, "enhanced by the loving presence of some of our retired sisters."

The building that has housed the school will become a home for some of the sisters as they embark on a plan that will require new construction on the Motherhouse grounds as they prepare for new ministries.

The ceremonial baton was passed to St. Joseph School, to continue the mission of educating the youngest learners.

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