If you drive North on River Road toward Baton Rouge, about midway you will travel through a small town called Convent, LA. Located on a big bend in the Mississippi River, this town was named after a convent of the Religious of the Sacred Heart that once existed there. Mail carriers on boats traveling up and down the Mississippi would throw the mail off of the boat onto the levee and call out, “Convent!” The name stuck to this day.
The Religious of the Sacred Heart had a school in Convent, LA, called the Academy of the Sacred Heart, or, simply St. Michael’s. It was a large boarding school that was architecturally similar in style to our school in Grand Coteau, LA. http://sshcoteau.org/
Between September 19, 1855 (160 years ago) and the end of October (about 6 weeks), 16 Religious of the Sacred Heart died of yellow fever at this school. This was half of the religious community in St. Michael’s. The names of these courageous sisters are engraved on the brass portion of the iron cross which is standing on the circle in the front of our school. For me, this cross with these names is a daily testament to the tenacity of these sisters and to their love of education.
Each morning, I walk past this cross on my way into the Rosary, our school in New Orleans. As I do, I receive a blessing from these sisters knowing that each one of us at this school continue in a long textured narrative of Sacred Heart education in South Louisiana. From this root of St. Michael’s our school opened–12 years after the one in St. Michael’s closed. Life finding another way.
This work of education in South Louisiana was the dream of these RSCJ sisters. It was their hope. It became their reality. They gave their lives for it.
Now, 130 years later, this same mission continues here in New Orleans as a direct result of the closure of that school.
It is our open moment: What are our dreams for this long story of Sacred Heart education in South Louisiana? What are our hopes for it in the future? What are we willing to give to make it a reality?