St. Mary-Sacred Heart School celebrates 100 years - CS Alliance

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St. Mary-Sacred Heart School celebrates 100 years

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NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH — “If you build me a school, I will build you a church.” These are the words that ignited the urgency for building a Catholic elementary school in the town of North Attleborough to evangelize and educate the Franco-American families of the area. These words were spoken by Father Louis Dequoy as part of his pulpit announcements shortly after his arrival as the second pastor of Sacred Heart Parish. By Jan. 21, 1923, Bishop Daniel Feehan had approved plans for the new school building. Construction commenced on April 12 of that same year, with all the major work on the eight classrooms and convent wing completed by August 1923.

Father Dequoy knew that he would need a faculty to staff the school, at which time he approached Mother Marie Helena and the Religious of the Holy Union of the Sacred Hearts in Fall River. On Sept. 15, 1923, led by Mother Adrienne Cecile, a native of France, five Sisters arrived in North Attleborough. Because desks and chairs had not yet arrived, and finish work in the school was not completed, the Sisters gathered the first students in the church (the present parish hall) for a three-day retreat.

On Sunday, Sept. 23, 1923, Father Dequoy asked for volunteers to help assemble the desks and chairs that had arrived the previous week. That afternoon, armed with screwdrivers and hammers, men and boys from the parish gathered in the school and ably completed this task. The following morning, after renewing their religious vows in the newly assembled convent chapel, Mother Adrienne Cecile and the first Sister faculty welcomed 211 students in grades one through five.

Catholic education expanded in North Attleborough the following year when Father Patrick McGee, longtime pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish, built St. Mary School and invited the Sisters of Mercy from Mount St. Mary Convent in Fall River, to serve as the faculty. On Saturday, Aug. 29, 1924, the first seven Sisters arrived led by Sister M. Delores Daily, superior and Sister M. Cletus Sullivan principal and grade seven teacher. A beautiful school building had just been constructed, but the convent building was still a work in progress. The Sisters lived on the third floor of the school until the convent was completed in February of 1925.

When the first St. Mary School registration was taken on Sunday, Aug. 30, about 250 students were enrolled, necessitating additional faculty. Scrambling in the week before the opening of school, two additional Sisters were missioned to North Attleborough. Over the years, St. Mary School grew to be one of the largest elementary schools in the Diocese of Fall River, at one time enrolling more than 800 students.

With the decline of religious vocations and rising costs of education, the future of the two schools was bleak. In 1972, in an effort to ensure the successful future of Catholic education in the town, the Diocese of Fall River proposed a merging of the two schools. Overcoming many challenges, St. Mary-Sacred Heart School opened in the former St. Mary School building in September of 1972, led by Holy Union Sister Jeanne Poirier, with a faculty of Sisters of Mercy, Holy Union Sisters, and lay men and women. After a few years, the school was transferred to the present Richards Avenue campus on the Sacred Heart Church property. This past June saw the 50th graduation ceremony of the St. Mary-Sacred Heart School community.

“St. Mary-Sacred Heart School is an integral part of the parish,” indicated Father David Costa, pastor of Transfiguration of the Lord Parish and director of SMSH. “Imagine the many young lives that have been shaped and formed over these many decades. The impact and influence of our graduates continues to make a difference not only in North Attleborough, but I dare say, across the globe. We would not be here today without the vision, the courage, the determination and the many sacrifices of families, parishioners, and benefactors. While we no longer have Holy Union Sisters or Sisters of Mercy on our faculty, their dedication to the formation of our children lives on in the wonderful work of our lay faculty, administration, and staff. We are blessed with their commitment to Catholic education!”

Daniel S. Roy, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Fall River, added, “There are several schools in the Diocese of Fall River that have reached their centennial. We are excited to celebrate St. Mary-Sacred Heart’s achievement! Catholic education has been a cornerstone of this country’s educational landscape since the late 18th century. Despite the investment and updates to technology and curriculum, the core of Catholic education has remained the same — to evangelize young people to develop a relationship with God. There has never been a better time for Catholic education to serve families and children. We encourage all families in the North Attleboro area to strongly consider investing in your child with a Catholic education.”

Lisa Serak is St. Mary-Sacred Heart’s newest principal. After teaching at the school for 15 years, during the summer of 2022 she was tapped on the shoulder to take the reins and lead the school. “The role of school principal had never been on my agenda” she said. “After prayerful reflection, I just knew I needed to say yes. I am humbled and honored to follow in the footsteps of a long line of inspirational leaders including Denise Peixoto, who has been the principal from 1996 to 2016. This is such a proud moment in the rich history of the SMSH community and I look forward to serving new families while growing the relationship we have with both current and legacy families.”

The kick-off celebration was a September 27 Mass celebrated by Bishop da Cunha, followed by planned events throughout the school year.

Refer to the schools website  for more details.

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