In the state of Jalisco in Mexico, a village known as Talpa de Allende has been a center of Marian devotion since Our Lady appeared to the people there during the seventeenth century [read about the legend of Our Lady]. Between the years of 1926 and 1928, religious persecutions in Mexico closed the churches and drove the priests into exile. The Catholics followed them – forfeiting their homeland for the opportunity to practice their faith.
Hundreds of families crossed the border into California and settled in Los Angeles. Many parishes opened to provide for the spiritual needs of the Mexican people who chose to leave their country rather than give up their faith. One such parish was Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa, named after the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the peasants of the village of Talpa de Allende. The first Mass was celebrated on Ash Wednesday, 1927; the first Baptism was recorded on October 27, 1928.
When the Mexican priests were able to return to their homeland in 1938, the Spanish Vincentians accepted the charge of Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa Parish. From that time until his death in 1964, Father Jose Cervera, C.M. served as the people’s zealous and devoted pastor. In spite of many hardships, Father Cervera’s strong faith in Our Lady led him to “dream big.” He replaced the small mission church on Mission Street with the present, beautiful church on Fourth Street. He procured a rectory for the priests. Then he began pressing for a school for the children.
On September 16, 1950, construction began. The land was leveled, and the foundation was laid. The result was a beautiful, three-leveled school, which was completed in September 1951.
On September 16, 1951, the dream of many years was realized: Our Lady of Talpa School was opened! The first day of school was celebrated with Holy Mass at 9:00 a.m. in Our Lady of Talpa Church, which a large congregation of children and parents attended. The enrollment on that first day was 256 children for kindergarten through fourth grade. Three Daughters of Charity came from the Western Province – which was then located in St. Louis, Missouri – to receive the first pupils of Our Lady of Talpa School. These three pioneers were Sister Rosalie, Sister Margaret Mary, and Sister Rosanna. Both the school and the convent were dedicated by His Excellency, Bishop Timothy Manning on May 24, 1955.
Since its beginning, Our Lady of Talpa School has been staffed by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Talpa School has always served the Hispanic community of the area, which is composed of predominantly Mexican people who immigrated to the United States. The Spanish Vincentian Priests left Our Lady of Talpa Parish in June 2004, and the Mexican Vincentian Priests took over the parish at that time.
Over the years, Our Lady of Talpa School has undergone many changes. The most recent was in the summer of 2007, when Our Lady of Talpa School received a 1.3 million dollar grant from the John and Dorothy Shea Foundation for a whole-school renovation. Each classroom received new paint, two whiteboards, ceiling fans, new lights, vertical window blinds, and closet shelving. The upstairs and downstairs boys and girls restrooms were painted, and faucets and toilets were repaired. New paper towel dispensers were also installed. The hallways were painted, and the old lighting was replaced. The outside of the school was repainted and the doors were replaced. The whole building was rewired for air conditioning and heating, and the entire roof was replaced. New tile was added throughout the school, two storage areas received new shelves, and a camera surveillance system was installed in the front office.
A Title I bungalow was acquired in 1973 and has served the special reading needs of the students since that time. In 2004, the school replaced the Writing to Read Lab with Reading First, a program provided through the LAUSD. In 2007, with the help of the Daughters of Charity Foundation, 12 new Dell computers were added to the new Media Center. In 2008, again with assistance from the Daughters of Charity Foundation, 12 additional new Dell computers were added along with computers and printers for the office. The Media Center now holds 20 computers with Internet access. Talpa School is currently in the planning stages to upgrade the computers. Fundraising will be necessary to make this latest project a reality for the children of Talpa.
The media center is also home to a partial library. The school continues to build the library with books from donations and proceeds from the annual Scholastic Book Fair. Library books are now being cataloged by computer. Each student will soon have a library card that includes a bar code.
St. Francis Medical Center has been providing outreach services to Our Lady of Talpa School since the 1993-1994 school year. These services have included a counselor and a school nurse. Since the first year it was involved, the medical center has continued to provide Talpa School with two counselors once a week, a nurse once a week, the Healthy Families Program, and food stamps. St. Vincent Medical Center also provides support for our Talpa families.
In July 2003, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul entered into a co-sponsorship contract for Our Lady of Talpa School. The Archdiocese takes care of the school’s capital expenses, and the Daughters of Charity Foundation funds most of the operational expenses. The contract was valid for five years and was renewed in July 2008. This co-sponsorship agreement makes it possible for Talpa School to offer a Catholic education to those families who otherwise could not afford it. The students of Our Lady of Talpa School also receive support from The Catholic Education Foundation, benefactors, alumni, and friends.
Throughout the years, Our Lady of Talpa School has received faculty members from the PLACE Corps (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education) and VSC West (Vincentian Service Corps West). PLACE Corps is a teacher credentialing and master’s program sponsored by Loyola Marymount University. It provides teachers who are committed to staying in a school for two years while completing their master’s degree in education. VSC West is a faith-based volunteer service program inspired by St. Vincent de Paul and founded on the principles of service, community, and spirituality. Members who serve in the field of education dedicate themselves to a school community for one year.
Year after year, our faculty and staff devote themselves to educating the minds and hearts of our Talpa children. Currently, Our Lady of Talpa School has an enrollment of 261 students.
As Our Lady of Talpa School celebrates its 60th anniversary, we remember and have pride in the history of our school community. We look to the future with hope, confidence, and the knowledge that our Lord and His Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa, will guide the lives of all members of this community in faith and love.
Sr. Adella Armentrout, D.C.
411 S. Evergreen Ave.