St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Thousand Oaks enrolled its first students, all kindergarteners, in September 1963. President Kennedy was assassinated two months later. Though they were too young to understand what had happened, they all must’ve noticed their families’ and teachers’ grief and anxiety.
Members of that inaugural St. Patrick’s cohort are about three years younger than I. I’d like to ask them what it was like to attend one of our most beloved and successful Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elementary schools during the turbulent sixties. These days, Episcopal identity values, as practiced at all our schools, without regard to students’ faith background, help young minds and hearts contend with creation in all its brokenness and promise — doing their best for themselves and others no matter what.
Dr. Jayme Johnson, the new St. Patrick’s head of school, has a passion for encouraging healthy organizational culture so teachers can be their best as well. Born in Seattle, raised in Hawaii and Ventura, she got her doctorate at California Lutheran University. St. Patrick’s messed with Texas and called her out of St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, where she was a top administrator.
It was my blessing to preside and preach at her celebration of new ministry service Saturday morning on the beautiful St. Patrick’s campus, with students serving as lectors. The rector, the Rev. George Daisa, was as usual a peerless host. The Rev. Sarah Kitch, the longtime St. Patrick’s chaplain as well as vicar of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Simi Valley, injected a dose of the Holy Spirit into the proceedings.
In the congregation was Nancy Woodson, the outgoing head of school and continuing math teacher, beginning her 21st year at St. Patrick’s. Also aboard were the the Rev. Lester Mackenzie and Angela Mackenzie, friends of Jayme since she and Angela taught together at a school in Pacific Palisades.
When a volunteer had to stay home sick, the Rev. Ryan Douglas Newman, executive director of the diocesan Commission on Schools, pitched in to help set up coffee. And what a joy to see Guy Walker, former The Church of the Epiphany bishop’s warden, now serving as a St. Patrick’s trustee as the school prepares, we hope, to admit its first seventh graders next year.