A small house where St. Joachim Catholic School’s former principal lived in Costa Mesa has become a campus library following the tragic death of the beloved sister in 2022.
THE SMALL HOUSE IN COSTA MESA WHERE THE LATE SR. KATHLEEN MARIE PUGHE RESIDED IS NOW AN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION CENTER ON THE ST. JOACHIM CATHOLIC
SCHOOL CAMPUS. PHOTOS BY KIERNAN COLIFLORES/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
The Sister Kathleen Marie Learning Center at 216 Walnut St., adjacent to the school, was dedicated by Bishop Kevin Vann on Oct. 20 before a group of St. Joachim supporters.
“Bless this home with its books and belongings that store the knowledge of the ages and memories of Sister Kathleen Marie for all of us,” said Bishop Vann. “Grant that all who come here may be enlightened by the spirit so that they may know the truth, and the truth will set them free.” Sr. Kathleen Marie Pughe, CSJ — who belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange — resided in the 900-square-foot house for 14 years. The educator served as St. Joachim’s principal from 2006 until her retirement in 2019. She continued living in the house until her death from a car accident in March 2022. She was 89.
BISHOP KEVIN VANN BLESSES THE SISTER KATHLEEN MARIE LEARNING CENTER ON OCT. 20.
The two-bedroom home was redesigned to accommodate shelves and books. The project also included updating the lighting, HVAC, internet, security and physical access from the main school buildings. The house’s original backyard was reimagined as an outdoor learning and meeting space, complete with a gazebo for shade.
“It’s a blessing to have it all come together and be able to honor Sr. Kathleen in this way,” said Principal Kelly Botto. “She had such an impact on this community. She would love nothing more than her home becoming a second home for the kids of this campus.”
THE SISTER KATHLEEN MARIE LEARNING CENTER, ADJACENT TO ST. JOACHIM CATHOLIC SCHOOL, WAS DEDICATED BY BISHOP KEVIN VANN ON OCT. 20.
The cozy learning center has exactly 14,227 books, according to its librarian, Victoria Burnett. The old library space was larger, housing 18,627 books. The books that did not go to the learning center — many of which were outdated or yellowed — were given to students, other Catholic schools throughout Southern California, the Newport Beach Public Library, and even to the local homeless.
“My heart is doing somersaults now that it’s completed,” Burnett said. “All the books are on the shelves, where they should be. Now we’re going to get back to the teaching of library skills.”
Sr. Paulette Deters came to the dedication, having known Sister Kathleen and serving as St. Joachim’s principal from 1980 to 1986.
“I think it’s a wonderful tribute to her,” Sr. Paulette said. “And it also makes me grateful because it’s like the Sisters of St. Joseph are still here. To us, this is a very special school … and we honor her and honor everybody who has gone through this school.”
After Sr. Kathleen’s death, the house remained empty while the school and church community mourned the loss of the much-loved sister. By spring 2023, however, Botto and then-pastor Fr. Mike Hanifin decided to convert the house into the school library.
Moving the library out of its current spot to Sr. Kathleen’s former residence then freed up space for a new early childhood education center with a preschool, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classroom.
Funding for the Sister Kathleen Marie Learning Center was provided by school savings accumulated from fundraising. Parent volunteers did much of the work to re-shelve the books.
Sr. Kathleen was an adored figure in Catholic education for more than 50 years, the majority of that time being spent in Orange County. In addition to St. Joachim, she was principal at St. Joseph School (Santa Ana), St. Mary’s School (Fullerton), Holy Family School (Orange) and Our Lady of Guadalupe School (La Habra).
In 2019, to recognize her distinguished service in education, Pope Francis awarded her the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest honor that can be awarded to the laity by the pope. She is buried at Holy Sepulcher cemetery in Orange.