SSH Celebrates 190 Years

On October 5, 2011, Schools of the Sacred Heart at Grand Coteau celebrated the  Academy of the Sacred Heart’s 190th year as a venerable institution of learning committed to the excellence in education of young women. The Academy of the Sacred Heart is the second oldest institution of learning west of Mississippi, the second oldest institution of learning in Louisiana, the oldest Sacred Heart school in continuous existence in North America, and the oldest Catholic institution in the Diocese of Lafayette.

It was on October 5, 1821, that two Religious of the Sacred Heart began classes with five students in a humble farmhouse on the school’s property.  The two Religious, Mother Eugenie Audé and Sister Mary Layton, had travelled from St. Louis, Mo., to dedicate themselves to the education of young women in the spirit of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart.

To celebrate the Academy’s 190 years, all students from the Academy and from Berchmans Academy gathered in the gym with faculty, staff, Religious, and several Jesuit novices for a birthday ceremony. In the weeks leading up to the school’s celebration, all students were given a small card which read “To make the future noble, I will….” Each student wrote or drew their special intention as to how they would make the future noble as stated in the school song, to make the future noble, with aims and with ideals true to the Sacred Heart.

Headmistress Lynne Lieux, RSCJ, an alumna of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, told the school that she remembers celebrating 155 years at Sacred Heart when she was a student at the Academy. “I’m hoping that you will remember celebrating 190 years here. Each of you has put an intention in the basket for how you want to make the future noble. What I want to say to you is that I hope I will be here in 2021 and some of you will be able to tell me just what you wrote.”

To mark this special occasion in Sacred Heart’s history, an oak tree was planted in the school’s oak alley among the existing oaks that have graced Sacred Heart’s campus for over 190 years. The new oak tree was sprinkled with holy water by two Religious of the Sacred Heart while Sr. Lieux read a prayer of dedication, that the oak tree would bring new life to Schools of the Sacred Heart; that its branches would provide space for those who climb them and shelter to those who rest below them; that the oak tree would be a sign of remembrance and a symbol of hope to future generations of Sacred Heart students.

Class representatives from each division of the Academy and of Berchmans Academy brought up the intentions written by the school community. The intentions were later burned and their ashes planted with the oak tree so that each student’s intentions for a noble future would nourish the oak tree’s growth for many years to come.

The Academy’s 190th birthday and the planting of the oak tree highlighted an important theme in the school’s history and in its present, the theme of community. As a criterion of the school’s mission, Schools of the Sacred Heart strives to educate its students and faculty to build community as a Christian value. Sr. Lieux compared the school’s practice of community to the school’s oak trees whose roots entwine with one another to sustain the trees above ground. “Perhaps the reason that we still have an oak alley is because underneath the ground the oaks are holding hands and supporting each other in whatever way they can, that those trees in their own silent way are sustaining each other as we must sustain each other here. That is what is going to continue to make us stand for another 200 years.”

Schools of the Sacred Heart has much to be grateful for in its past, but has much to celebrate in its present and future. Year after year, students receive academic honors at district and state rallies, foreign language festivals, quiz bowls, the Duke Talent Identification Program, and on the ACT. For the past two years, the seventh grade girls’ math class has been in partnership with the University of Louisiana – Lafayette and the National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies (NIMSAT) on projects which require real-world application of the students’ math knowledge. In a joint project, the fifth and sixth grade girls and boys collaborate with the Louisiana State University Coastal Roots program where the students manage a wetland plant nursery on campus. These two projects have allowed the students to engage in studies concerning real-life issues and have empowered them to be a part of the solution. At Berchmans Academy, the robotics program and the outdoor classroom receive high marks among students and their teachers for advancing the academic environment.

With its beginning in 2006, Berchmans Academy of the Sacred Heart continues to grow. In August, Berchmans Academy welcomed its first Upper School students to the ninth grade class. The nine ninth grade gentlemen of the class of 2015 are paving the way for Catholic, independent, single-gender education in the Sacred Heart tradition for young men in Acadiana.

Schools of the Sacred Heart has taken an innovative approach to teaching through the use technology at all grade levels. Promethean Boards, digital microscopes, video flex cameras, Elmo document readers, Elmo wireless tablets, and Adobe design software can be found in most classrooms on campus. Interactive tables are used for younger students and all Upper School students carry with them at all times their Tablet PCs as part of the one-to-one Tablet PC program, which was introduced to the Academy’s Upper School in 2007. Educating with technology continues to be focus at Schools of the Sacred Heart.

To better showcase its Sacred Heart identity, Schools of the Sacred Heart recently enhanced its logo and mascot for both schools, Sacred Heart Saints and Berchmans Saints. The school’s new website was launched at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year along with improved communications to all of its constituent groups including the Academy’s alumnae.

The school has seen much change over the course of 190 years, but the timelessness of Sacred Heart education has always remained: the development of the totality and uniqueness of each child through a personal and active faith in God, a deep respect for intellectual values, a social awareness which impels to action, the building of community as a Christian value, and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. With much history behind it, a strong community supporting it and a progressive approach to each student’s personal, spiritual and intellectual development, Schools of the Sacred Heart is poised to launch itself into another 190 years of academic excellence.