When the Diocese of St. Augustine opened the new Catholic high school in Daytona Beach in 1959, it named the school after Father Lopez. Who was our namesake, and what was his connection to this area? The following is a brief summary of the historical events as they relate to Father Lopez and our Catholic roots.
Nearly 400 years before our school was established, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés led a Spanish expedition to Florida. The fleet chaplain on the expedition was Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales.
On September 8, 1565, General Menéndez came ashore at the site of the Timucuan Indian village. Father López had come ashore the night before. When Menéndez arrived, Father López carried a large cross to greet him at the site that is now known as St. Augustine.
Father López is recognized as being the Catholic priest who conducted the first Mass at the first permanent mission and settlement in what would become the United States of America. This event and site in St. Augustine are now marked by a 208 foot stainless steel cross. The large cross in the center of our school campus plaza is also symbolic of the cross Father López carried to greet General Menéndez.