Archbishop Stepinac High School opened in 1948. It was named after Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac who was one of the most famous Croatian patriots of the 20th century. The school was established, thanks to the generosity of Catholics in Westchester County and the fundraising efforts of Catholic parishes in the area under the leadership of the Archbishop of New York, Francis Cardinal Spellman, and the educational officials of the Archdiocese.
The initial purpose of the school was to establish a full educational program with a diversity of subject choices leading to a well-rounded student. In addition to the college prep program, Stepinac initially offered boys wishing to graduate high school with a commercial course to equip them with skills to enter a trade. It was intended that these goals be achieved for an all-male student body, taught by an all-male faculty, almost entirely religious in makeup. The Administration of the school was in the hands of Diocesan priests, assisted by religious Brothers and an occasional layman in those early years. In 2009, Stepinac entered a new era as an independent high school within the Archdiocese of New York, governed by its own Board of Trustees.
The current Administration and Faculty of Stepinac consist of a broad mix of religious (both priests and nuns) and lay men and women. Presently, the high school draws its students predominantly from Westchester County and has evolved into a college preparatory school.
Stepinac is a Roman Catholic secondary school committed to developing in its students a sense of Christian values which will refine their character, their personality, and their devotion to God, to the Church, and to the community in which they live.
Stepinac’s academic program is committed to helping the individual student fulfill his own intellectual potential. Parents, students, faculty, and administrators are expected to share, foster, and develop these goals. The joys and sorrows of every member as they work, play, study, and celebrate should reflect this community.
About Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac
Born on May 8, 1898 to a peasant family in Brezani near Krasic, Croatia, Aloysius Stepinac was the eighth out of twelve children. His mother hoped that one day he would decide to become a priest. In 1916, Stepinac was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army and fought on the Italian front until he was taken prisoner. In 1919 he returned to civilian life and entered the University of Zagreb to study agriculture. Stepinac decided to become a priest in 1924 and was sent to Rome to prepare. He was ordained six years later on October 26, 1930.
He returned to Zagreb in July 1931 with the degrees of Doctor of Theology and Philosophy. Soon afterwards, Stepinac was chosen to become secretary to Archbishop Antun Bauer. On June 24, 1934, he was nominated as coadjutor to the Archbishop of Zagreb. After this nomination, Stepinac stated: "I love my Croatian people and for their benefit I am ready to give everything, as well as I am ready to give everything for the Catholic Church." After Bauer's death on December 7, 1937 Stepinac became the Archbishop of Zagreb.
During World War II, Stepinac never turned his back on refugees, or the persecuted. His door was always open not only for Croatians, but also Jews, Serbs and Slovenes who needed his help. Stepinac always stood for political freedom and fundamental rights and advocated the rights of the Croatian people. Stepinac wanted Croatia to be a country of God.
In May of 1943, he openly criticized the Nazis, and as a result, the Germans and Italians demanded that he be removed from office. Pope Pius XII refused and warned Stepinac that his life was in danger. In July of 1943, the BBC and the Voice of America began to broadcast Stepinac's sermons to occupied Europe, and the BBC commented on Stepinac's criticism of the Ustasha regime.
At the end of the war, Stepinac was found guilty of Nazi collaboration at a trial, and was convicted and sentenced to 17 years of hard labor on October 11, 1946. At his trial when his life was on the line, Stepinac asked his communist prosecutors: "...every nation has the right to independence, then why should it be denied to the Croatians?" He spent five years in the prison of Lepoglava, and in 1951, Tito's government released him and confined him to the village of Krasic.
Even though the government forbade him to resume his duties, Pope Pius XII named Stepinac Cardinal on January 12, 1953. Due to pain caused by the many illnesses he contracted while imprisoned, Cardinal Stepinac died in Krasic on February 10, 1960. On February 13th, he was buried behind the main altar in the cathedral in Zagreb. Pope Pius XII stated, "This Croatian Cardinal is the most important priest of the Catholic Church".
In 1985, his trial prosecutor Jakov Blazevic admitted that Cardinal Stepinac's trial was entirely framed, and that Stepinac was tried only because he refused to sever thousand-year old ties between Croatians and the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Spellman commented on Stepinac by stating that: "the only thing Cardinal Stepinac is guilty of was his love for God and his homeland". On October 3, 1998 in Maria Beatrice, Pope John Paul II beatified Cardinal Stepinac, and referred to him as one of the outstanding figures of the Catholic Church. Even though Serbs seriously opposed the beatification of Cardinal Stepinac, Ljubomir Rankovic, Deacon of the Serbian Orthodox Church, supported the beatification: "...I, as a person and a priest, wish to express my admiration for this move." There were also prominent members of the Jewish community who testified to the generosity of aid Stepinac provided during the war.
Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac spent his entire life serving God and the Croatian people, demonstrating the importance of faith, charity and virtue. The high school proudly perpetuates his name and legacy into the 21st century.