By Staff     2/17/2021

Dr. Erin Barisano, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Orange, has announced Father Walter Jenkins, C.S.C., Ed.D., as the new president of Mater Dei High School. 

Father Jenkins replaces Patrick Murphy, who resigned in January 2020 to assume a management role for the Arizona Coyotes NHL franchise in Phoenix. Murphy had served as president since 2002, but spent 30 years in various roles at Mater Dei, including principal and assistant principal.  

Father Steve Sallot has been serving as Mater Dei’s president in an interim capacity, and as pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach. 

A national search to secure a new president was initiated in October and was recently completed. Father Jenkins begins July 1.  

Father Jenkins comes to Mater Dei after serving as president of Holy Cross High School in Queens, N.Y. As a nationally recognized visionary Catholic educational leader, he has extensive secondary school experience and has managed a complex business. Father thrives in a multicultural educational environment, which is a cornerstone of Mater Dei’s diverse faculty and student body.  

“I’m pleased that Father Jenkins is joining the Mater Dei community,” said Bishop Kevin Vann. “His thirst to enhance the student experience of witnessing Christ in their lives speaks to the mission of Mater Dei.” 

Dr. Barisano also credited Father Jenkins’ experience to continue the excellence of the Santa Ana campus. 

“His leadership will enhance our Catholic identity as one of the largest Catholic high schools in the nation,” she said.  

Jenkins’ vocation as a Holy Cross priest is grounded in being a teacher of the Catholic faith. The rich tradition of the Holy Cross as educators and influencers is well understood.  

“The beauty of a Catholic diocesan high school is that it represents the local Body of Christ in its racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity,” Jenkins said. “I have that feeling about Mater Dei. I’m excited about joining such a wonderful community of faith and learning. Moreover, I’m equally enthusiastic to drive its growth, which will be built upon that well-established goodness and success Mater Dei is known for nationwide.” 

Father Jenkins holds a bachelor’s degree in government from King’s College. He received his Master of Divinity from the University of Notre Dame and his doctorate in Catholic school leadership from the University of San Francisco. 

Father Jenkins currently resides in South Bend, Ind., and will be relocating to Southern California to assume his new role. He will also serve as a priest-in-residence with the Diocese of Orange.