History of the School
St. Charles School was founded and first opened in 1884 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur with a staff of twelve Sisters and is currently staffed by dedicated and committed lay teachers. We are sponsored by St. Charles Borromeo Parish and accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Want to view the statistics? Click on the “Fact Sheet” tab above.
The Main Street building, a large facility with several classrooms which presently houses kindergarten through grade four, was constructed in 1907 under the direction of the Rev. John J. Keegan. This building had twelve classrooms and was staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Due to a “need for greater school accommodations”, land on Myrtle Street from the estate of the late Edward A. Dow was selected as the site of the Catholic Center Building. The center was erected to provide a place for the girls’ high school as well as school and church activities. Unfortunately, this building was damaged by a fire in the 1950’s. The school continued to prosper in the 1960’s, as it maintained its reputation for academic excellence and its esteemed position in the community of Woburn.
Naturally, the closing of the high school in 1972 effected the greatest enrollment decrease. Many variables prompted the decision to phase out the high school: personnel, enrollment, programs, and facilities. After closing the high school, St. Charles School included kindergarten through grade nine. In September of 1979, an ad hoc planning committee initiated a five-year plan to ensure the continuance of quality education in this parish. Thanks to the foresight of Monsignor O’Neill, an endowment fund was established for St. Charles School. He worked with the faculty to keep abreast of educational trends, which continued the tradition of academic excellence. In 1988, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur ended their long-standing tradition of staffing the school. In 1988, the first lay principal and an entire lay staff, who were committed to upholding the principles of Catholic education inspired by the teachings of Ste. Julie Billiart, were hired. The tradition of excellence continues.
The lay faculty members of St. Charles School, in the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame, aim to uphold and instill the principles of Catholic education as outlined by St. Julie Billiart, the foundress of Notre Dame, who first staffed St. Charles School. The administrators, faculty, and staff profess, therefore, to affirm and develop according to his/her potential, the whole child spiritually, academically, and socially.
Charles was the son of Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV. He was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy on October 2. He received the clerical tonsure when he was twelve and was sent to the Benedictine abbey of SS. Gratian and Felinus at Arona for his education.
In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the following year, named him his Secretary of State and raised him to the Archbishop of Milan and administrator of the see of Milan. He served as Pius’ legate on numerous diplomatic missions and in 1562, was instrumental in having Pius reconvene the Council of Trent, which had been suspended in 1552. Charles played a leading role in guiding and in fashioning the decrees of the third and last group of sessions. He refused the headship of the Borromeo family on the death of Count Frederick Borromeo, was ordained a priest in 1563, and was consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Before being allowed to take possession of his see, he oversaw the catechism, missal, and breviary called for by the Council of Trent. When he finally did arrive at Trent (which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years) in 1556, he instituted radical reforms despite great opposition, with such effectiveness that it became a model see. He put into effect, measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocesan operation, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children and encouraged the Jesuits in his see. He increased the systems to the poor and the needy, was most generous in his help to the English college at Douai, and during his bishopric held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils.
He founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of St. Ambrose (now Oblates of St. Charles) in 1578, and was active in preaching, resisting the inroads of protestantism, and bringing back lapsed Catholics to the Church. He encountered opposition from many sources in his efforts to reform people and institutions.
He died at Milan on the night of November 3-4, and was canonized in 1610. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, a patron of learning and the arts, and though he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility, personal sanctity, and unselfishness to reform the Church, of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and the nobles of the times. His feast day is November 4th.