Late Catholic school principal's home in Costa Mesa transformed into library

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Friday, November 10, 2023
Beloved principal of OC Catholic school honored after tragic death
The home of beloved Catholic school principal Sister Kathleen Marie is now a library named in her honor after she passed away last year.

COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) -- The home of a former Catholic school principal is now a library named in her honor.

Students there normally sing a welcome song out of West Africa with their librarian - it's a very fitting song for this space inviting students to grow and learn.

This is the new library at Saint Joachim Catholic School, or the Sister Kathleen Marie Learning Center, in honor of the woman who called this home from 2006 to 2022.

The school's former principal, the late Sister Kathleen Marie Pughe, tragically lost her life in a car crash last year.

Students Nate Allison, Dylan Coulter and Jeanette Schulz and staff said the cozy, two-bedroom next door to their school carried with it memories of her.

"Her small living and being very quaint and humble," Allison recalled.

Librarian Victoria Burnett said it was a great learning environment.

"It is a cozy, but a homey environment, primarily because of whose house it was, so I think that is going to be the legacy that the students will get to take away with them," Burnett said.

Parent, Shelley Rabbitt said in tears that she was glad Sister Kathleen would be remembered in this way after all she did for her community.

"It's pretty awesome to be able to walk in here and know that she's still here," Rabbitt said.

The school's new principal, Kelly Botto, said Sister Kathleen's fiscal responsibility toward her community played a role in this decision.

"Very diligent about how she was using the funds received, whether it was through tuition or donations, on having the biggest impact that makes the most sense to support our students," Botto said.

It was also clear to the school that this needed to be a place challenging students, holding them to high standards, just like Sister Kathleen did.

"She always said that like every kid was a child of God and that you had to work towards your faith - that way, you will become the best version of yourself," Coulter said.

It is a space where the students and community she loved so dearly, could find inspiration, to live by the words Sister Kathleen often shared.

"Make it a good day and a good day for each other with your kind words and actions," Schulz said. "It's just something to live by that she would say to us, and it's really impacted those who knew her and the younger generations that are now learning about her."

In addition to their weekly class scheduled here, students can access this space during their breaks or right after school.