Our History

Bishop Garrigan Schools is a Catholic school in Algona, a small town in a rural area of northern Iowa. It serves Preschool through 12th grade on two separated campuses. In recent years, BGHS has also welcomed a number of students from outside its corporation parishes, as well as several non-Catholic students. The student body has included students from as far away as Emmetsburg, Britt, Livermore, Swea City, and Thompson, who were members of many Protestant churches and of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths - as well as Roman Catholics 

The Seton Campus, has around 300 students from Preschool through 6th grade, and the Garrigan Campus has around 230 students from 7th grade through 12th grade. There are frequent joint meetings with the grade school and high school staff, so curriculum is well integrated throughout the system.

Bishop Garrigan has traditionally been among the least expensive private schools in the Sioux City Diocese. Work study, tuition assistance, and time payment programs are available for families who find it difficult to pay that amount. The bulk of the cost of education at Garrigan is paid by the member parishes, through the contributions of their parishioners. The BGHS Development Office also raises funds that help to keep the cost of tuition as low as possible. No one is ever turned away from Garrigan or Seton for inability to pay.

Garrigan's faculty is well trained and professional, and teacher/student relations are well maintained. All of the school's teachers are certified in the areas they teach, and about half have master's degrees. Several staff members have also taught at the college level, and college credit is available for some of the high school courses taught on-site at Garrigan. Almost every teacher also works with extra-curricular activities.

 Bishop Garrigan Schools are fully accredited by the State of Iowa Department of Education, as well as by the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City. Garrigan and Seton students score above state and national averages on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Iowa Tests of Educational Development. High School students also score above the national average on the ACT, even though virtually all the school's students take that test.

More than 90% of BGHS students continue to further their education, and the majority eventually graduate from a four-year colleges. Most of the school's graduates choose colleges in Iowa or its neighboring states. Some, though, have chosen selective schools in all regions of the country, including the Naval and Air Force Academies. Each year BGHS students receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, including many awards that are available exclusively to Garrigan graduates.

BGHS competes in almost every activity available to Iowa students. A full range of Golden Bear sports programs are available to both boys and girls, and in general all students who go out for sports are given an opportunity to play. The school competes in Class A or 1-A, depending on the sport. In recent years the Bears have made it to the state tournament in football, baseball, cross-country, basketball, track, and golf. Many Golden Bears have won scholarships to play sports in college, including at Division I universities. 

The Golden Bears also excel at non-athletic activities. Bishop Garrigan has an extremely successful quiz bowl program, which has made ten trips to national tournaments. The school's dance team has won several national and state championships. Members of the health occupations team have also repeatedly qualified for nationals, and the Golden Bear math team has made it to the Midwest regional competition. Garrigan students consistently are nominated for the All-State Speech Festival. There are also extra-curricular programs in vocal and instrumental music, math competition, drama, art, broadcasting, publications, composition, foreign language, business, social studies, student government, and religious service. Garrigan graduates have competed at the college level in virtually every activity, and the school's alumni include professional musicians (including the lead singer for the nationally-known a cappella group Tonic Sol Fa), writers, artists, actors, broadcasters, scientists, and business leaders who use the skills the gained in their high school classes and activities.

We encourage you to explore our website to learn more about Bishop Garrigan Schools. If you have questions or want more information, please contact us. 

 The History of Bishop Garrigan High School

Bishop Garrigan High School opened its doors in 1959 to consolidate secondary Catholic education for students from St. Benedict, St. Cecelia, St. Michael, St. Joseph, and St. Joseph parishes in southern Kossuth County. The five-parish Garrigan corporation governed operations at the secondary school.

Throughout its thirty-six year history, four men have served as chief administrators of the school. Father Francis Conway was the first superintendent. The Golden Bear football stadium is named Conway Field in his honor. Father Cecil Friedmann followed Fr. Conway as superintendent. Basketball games, plays, and concerts are now held in Friedmann Auditorium, which was named in his honor. Fr. Friedmann was followed by Father Gerald Feierfeil, who changed the title of the chief administrator from superintendent to president. Mr. Eugene Meister followed Fr. Feierfeil as president and became the first lay administrator of a high school in the Sioux City Diocese.

The exterior structure of Bishop Garrigan High School has remained essentially the same since its opening in 1959, although improvements such as a paved parking lot have been made in recent years. The interior has been renovated on many occasions. Recent renovations include a an expanded music area, remodeled office facilities, a new weight room and fitness area, handicapped access to the entire building, carpeting in many classrooms, and a school wide computer network. They have begun an exciting campaign called "Continuing the Tradition ... Expanding the Vision" which will help our school remain strong well into the future. There are three main goals of the campaign:

  • Building Project - a state-of-the-art gymnasium, together with additional classroom space and offices ($2,000,000)

  • Staff Endowment - to retain the finest instructors and continue our academic excellence ($1,000,000)

  • Tuition Assistance & Facilities Funds - to increase enrollment and maintain and modernize our facilities ($1,000,000)

In the early 1990s the area Catholic elementary schools were merged into the single Seton Grade School in Algona. At that time a single governing board assumed responsibility for both Seton and Garrigan. Shortly thereafter, the high school officially changed its name to Bishop Garrigan High School, to better denote the Catholic identity of the school.

Bishop Garrigan Schools continues to provide educational and spiritual opportunities for students from all five member parishes. With the closing of St. John High School in Bancroft in 1989, a number of families from that parish chose to send their children to Bishop Garrigan. In addition the school has served students from other Catholic parishes in the area (such as Livermore, Emmetsburg, Britt, and Humboldt), as well as non-Catholic students who wish to learn in a Christian environment.

The first faculty of Garrigan High School consisted of two priests, twelve sisters, and four lay teachers. The sisters were members of two religious communities from Dubuque, Iowa: the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PVBM) and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family (OSF). Enrollment for the first school year (1959 - 1960) was 318 students, grades 9 - 12.

The Sisters of the Presentation have continued to serve Bishop Garrigan throughout its history. Their numbers declined from nine or ten from 1959 to 1972 to one in 2004. The Sisters of St. Francis staffed Garrigan for a total of twenty-three years, providing three sisters per year. Decreasing numbers of sisters forced their reluctant withdrawal from the school in 1982. Other religious communities at Garrigan included the Sisters of Humility (CHM) from Ottumwa (now Davenport) from 1966 - 1970 and the Sisters of St. Francis (OSF) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1970 - 1972.

Peak enrollment ranging from 503 to 511 at Garrigan came between 1966 and 1969. The teaching staff at that time included fifteen sisters, six priests, seven lay men, and three lay women. Since that time enrollment has declined in both public and Catholic schools throughout the rural Midwest. Today Bishop Garrigan educates slightly under 200 students. The teaching staff includes one priest and one religious deacon, together with seventeen full- or part-time lay teachers. One sister serves in an administrative capacity.

Over the years many graduates of Bishop Garrigan have chosen vocations as priests and sisters. These include Fr. Paul Eisele, current pastor of St. Cecelia's Parish in Algona, and Sr. Janet Goetz, the Bishop Garrigan registrar. The most recent graduate to dedicate his life to Christ was Fr. Nick Becker, who was ordained a priest in 2002.

Philosophy of Bishop Garrigan High School

We believe that every individual has been created and gifted by God with an innate dignity. The right to freedom and the right to learn are inherent in this dignity.

We believe that, as a person with an immortal destiny, each individual must be accepted as unique and important. Therefore, as much as possible, the needs of each student must be recognized and met, the potential of each student developed, and the contributions of each student accepted.

We believe that all human beings are created by God as a part of a larger community and have a responsibility to develop their gifts, for themselves and for services to their community, in order to build a just and peace-filled world.

Therefore, through both classroom and extracurricular activities, the goals of Bishop Garrigan High School are:

  • to develop students with a true sense of community, who see themselves as devoted and caring members of their family, their school, their church, their nation, and their world;
  • to develop spiritually vigorous Christians who recognize and act upon Catholic obligations and convictions;
  • to develop youth who can think logically, express themselves clearly, and maintain open and inquiring minds;
  • to develop in youth the qualities of cooperation, sportsmanship, leadership, and service;
  • to develop persons of sound mental and physical health;
  • to develop youth who recognize their talents and limitations and can determine their suitable occupation or vocation.

We see the students of Bishop Garrigan High School as young adults in the process of becoming Christians, effective citizens, and whole human beings.

Biography of Bishop Garrigan

Phillip Joseph Garrigan was born September 8, 1840 at Cavan, Ireland. He was educated in America at St. Charles' College in Ellicott City, Md. and St. Joseph's Provincial Seminary in Troy, N. Y. After graduating from seminary he was ordained a priest on June 11, 1870. His first assignment was as parish priest at St. John's Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he served from 1870 - 1873. He was then vice president of St. Joseph's Seminary.

Father Garrigan's longest assignment as a parish priest was at St. Bernard's Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He served there from 1875 to 1888. After that he became vice-rector of the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., where he served through the start of the 20th Century.

On January 15, 1902, Pope Leo XIII created the Diocese of Sioux City by separating twenty-four frontier counties in northwest Iowa from the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Phillip Garrigan was appointed Bishop of Sioux City on March 21, 1902, and he was ordained a bishop on May 25, 1902. He served the Diocese of Sioux City until he died on October 14, 1919.

Our School Song

We're gonna fight, fight, fight for Garrigan!

We're gonna win, win, win this game!

We're gonna show those _____ they can't win

when they meet up with Garrigan!


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