The College had been founded in 1863 through the work of Bishop Joseph Alemany. During its formation and for its first five years it was led by priests (including the first Presidents of the College, Father John Harrington and Father Peter Grey). These recollections, penned by Brother Justin c.1911, deal with the arrival of the first Christian Brothers at the College and subsequent developments.
Here Brother Justin, the first Christian Brother President of the College, set down his recollections of the time of the “re-founding” of the College as a Lasallian institution:
On the 16th of July, on the feast of our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in the year 1868, eight Brothers embarked from New York at 12 o’clock, on the Steamer Ocean Queen, and sailed for Aspinwall. On the 26th, Sunday morning they landed in that port where they remained till Monday afternoon, then crossing the Isthmus, and reached Panama late the same evening. Here waited the Steamer Montana for them, which was to bring them to San Francisco. Early next morning already at 6 o’clock, the steamer left Panama, and after a very pleasant voyage of 26 1/2 days they reached the Golden Gate on the 10th of August late in the evening. Rev. Brother Justian, Visitor of the new district, and his seven companions of which number one a few months after their arrival died, were most kindly received by his Grace, tho not Rev. Archbishop Alemany. The next-day, the 11th of August, the Brothers were conducted by his Grace to their new hone on the Pacific shore to St. Mary’s College. Here they found only thirty-four pupils as boarders; but at the end of that term, by Christmas, that number had increased up to eighty, and the next term they augmented to one hundred and sixty, and the year after they increased to two hundred and twenty-five. As the number of students was great, and the laborers but few, the Brothers had to work hard. They also taught some day school at St. Peter’s, St. Joseph’s, and at St. Mary’s Cathedral. A Novitiate was opened immediately first at St. Mary’s College itself wherein three or four postulants were received. In 1870, His Grace, the most Rev. Archbishop Alemany made a journey to Rome, the pupils of St. Mary’s College, having made up a purse of two hundred dollars with a beautiful address to His Holiness Pope Pius IX which the Archbishop Alemany kindly condescended to be the bearer. His Holiness sent back the following address:
"To our Beloved Children, the Students of the Christian Brothers, St. Mary’s College, San Francisco, California:--Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction: We recognize, beloved children, in your good sentiments, the lively faith and entire devotion to this Holy See, which so eminently characterize your teachers and we rejoice that you, who are the first-fruits of your people, are so thoroughly imbued by them with like sentiments. For they who hold the faith recognize the Vicar of Christ in the successor of Peter, and his person love and venerate Christ himself. They never depart from sound doctrines, because they adhere constantly to the Rock on which Christ has built His Church. This doctrine not only specifies what is necessary for attaining eternal happiness, but, in view of this end, it prepares men to fulfill faithfully and zealously all those duties which they owe civil society, and thus, by exalting them to be good citizens, good magistrates and good fathers of families, it procures for them the greatest happiness that can be enjoyed in this valley of tears. We therefore give thanks to God that you have been thus instructed, and your rising city is favored with such religious institutions; for blessed is the nation that hath God for its inheritance.
"Wherefore, most beloved children, we accept you affectionate address and that accompanying gift as a pledge of that faith and piety which we hope you will ever preserve. Meantime we invoke God’s most abundant grace upon you, and, as a testimony of our grateful heart and fraternal kindness, we impart most lovingly to you, your relations and teachers our apostolic blessing.
" Given at St. Peters’ Rome on the 16th of February, 1870, the 24th year of our Pontificate. Pius P.P. IX"
[The remainder of the Memorandum, transcribed below, deals with other educational initiatives by the Christian Brothers in California, including schools in San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and Martinez.]
On the 6th of June 1870, our novitiate was translated from St. Mary’s College to Oakland, where for the first year, dear Bro. Justian, visitor, rented a place for one hundred dollars a month, and which place was bought the following year by the Brothers for $14000, which sum was paid cash down. Here the number of novices soon increased considerably. To the novitiate was also attached a good day school with some 80 pupils. In 1872 the Sacred Heart College was built at the cor. of Eddy & Larkin Sts. San Francisco. This institution cost about $100100 [sic]and at the great exertion of Bro. Justinian and his colleagues, the entire debt was paid off the same year. This institution opened with some six or seven hundred boys, which is the average number. This college is for day scholars only. In spring of 1874 our dear Brother Patrick Assistant paid his first visit to California. In 1876 the Brothers opened in Sacramento a new establishment, under the name Sacramento Institute, which is intended for day scholars and boarders both. The average nu.[sic] of pupils there is about 300.