Pope John Paul II Catholic School (formerly Central Catholic School of Citrus County) was conceived in 1984 when a group of dedicated parishioners approached Reverend James Hoge, O.S.B., and Sister Mary Loyola Mathia, S.C., with the request to raise funds for a Catholic school. With the help of God, the financial and moral support of many faithful parishioners, and an initial substantial pledge from Emma Pruden, the school became a reality.
Under the leadership of Fr. James Hoge, and the guiding hands of its first principal, Sister Mary Loyola Mathia, the school’s reputation grew throughout the area. Central Catholic School of Citrus County started with K-3rd grade and added 4th grade to its original location, on Highway 44, in Crystal River, Florida.
From its humble beginnings in 1985, as a two-building complex, on highway 44 in Crystal River, the school has grown to its current campus in Lecanto, Florida, where the first classes were held on the first day, August 28, 1989. The first eighth grade graduating class had one graduate. The school now has a history of over 200 graduates, many of whom attend or have attended colleges and universities across the nation, including Yale and Notre Dame.
In July, 2000, Central Catholic School of Citrus County was renamed Pope John Paul II Catholic School, according to the direction of the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Robert N. Lynch. On October 2, 2000, Bishop Lynch blessed the “new” school (which had just completed an extensive renovation) and rededicated “Pope John Paul II Catholic School” in a special ceremony attended by over three hundred students, parents, and guests. Bishop Lynch said the school provides the “light” and “salt” to the county. He added, “Like Pope John Paul II, the school will be a ‘light’- giving young boys and girls their first formal understanding of how much God loves them and leading them to a commensurate love of the Lord,” he said. “Like Pope John Paul II, the school will also be “salt”, the preservative, that keeps the flame of faith alive in the young people to be educated here.” The Bishop’s remarks also included a letter he sent to Pope John Paul II with news that the school had been renamed in his honor.
Pope John Paul II Catholic School (PJPII) is an interparochial school, supported by six area Catholic parishes, and provides an opportunity for early childhood 3 year olds through eighth grade students to study and learn in a loving, affirmative atmosphere, where administration, faculty, and staff are dedicated to the growth and development of each student by creating community, providing optimum and comprehensive education, and praising God.
Our Twelve Pillars, Integrity, Excellence, Courage, Respect, Obedience, Scholarship,Sacrifice, Prayer, Faith, Discipleship, Purity, and Service, serve as the values we integrate into our teaching and interactions with each student. They also serve as the cornerstone for the Pope John Paul II Catholic School Pillar Society, an organization that facilitates the school’s endowment fund.
Sister Mary Loyola Mathia served as Principal from 1985 -1990 and continues to be a loyal supporter and advocate of the school. Other principals include Sister Roberta Bailey, O.S.B. 1990-1992; Craig Mousseau, 1992-1994; Patti Dvorscak, 1994-1997; Penelope Howell, 1997-2001; Lou Whitaker, 2001-2003, Tom Petersen, 2003-February 2004, and currently Lou Whitaker, Ed.D., who first served as Principal in July 2001. Reverend Michael Smith, Pastor of St. Scholastica, is currently serving as the Pastor of the school. Pope John Paul II Catholic School is the only Catholic School in Citrus County.