The Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau this week launched its third century on Louisiana soil in much the same way it started: prayer, toil, teaching.
The pre-K-through-12 Catholic school went about the business of educating girls in October 1821 in a single building on 50 acres in the St. Landry Parish community once known as Buzzard Prairie. What started then with two nuns and five girls blossomed into enrollment of 100 students and a waiting list by 1834. Word gets around when good things happen.
Nowadays, the academy counts 395 students who pursue the Sacred Heart sisters’ five goals: faith in God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness that generates action, building of the Christian community and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. Tradition abounds within the storied brick buildings and under the massive oaks where students graduate.
Much has changed, too. Students toil on laptops, there’s a boys’ school nearby and, in recent years, the religious order and the school have grappled with an early, 44-year history of slavery on campus. School leaders, working with descendants of slaves, are seeking to learn from that history and grow minority student enrollment with a million-dollar scholarship fund.
Former teacher Darlene Smith, who compiled a campus history, said she treasures Sacred Heart as an ancient institution founded by women for women and led by women. From that history, the campus — and new generations of women — want to grow.