Saint Leo's school, Oakland, California (JL) Saint Leo's school sign, Oakland, California (JL)

Saint Leo the Great Catholic School was established in 1948 by St. Leo’s Catholic Church (next door). The school serves students from Pre-K through 8th grade in the Piedmont Avenue area.

“The Great”

When I went there in the late ’70’s, this was not part of the name, nor was it ever mentioned. (I mean, not once.) Yet traditional Catholic nomenclature forbids the gratuitous adding of titles, changing of spellings, etc. So there had to have been a compelling reason for the change. But why – and when did it occur? Earlier, I speculated that someone else named Leo must have been canonized, and called “the lesser” to distinguish him from the St. Leo the school is named after. This turns out to be close, but not quite right: the school’s namesake, Pope Leo I, has been known as “The Great” all along. But there was little need for saintly disambiguation until Oct. 1, 2000, when Pope John Paul II mass-canonized 120 martyrs killed in China – one of whom was a French Jesuit priest named Fr. Leo Mangin. Oops – that is, Saint Leo Mangin now. So it turns out these 8 extra letters had a lot more going on behind the scenes than just test scores, re-brandings or “tooting one’s own horn”!


4238 Howe Street



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photo courtesy of TuffyOak