Corpus Christi Elementary School

Corpus Christi Elementary School Hopefuls

Corpus Christi Elementary School Hopefuls

This large group of “sturdy graduates” was the hopeful seekers of knowledge leaving Corpus Christi Elementary School in 1945. They were looking forward to the formation of a stable high school that would allow them (boys only) to receive the kind of further education afforded to Whites in the city of New Orleans. There already were options for co-educational high school education, including quite notably Xavier Preparatory School (Catholic) which by then had educated boys and girls for thirty years. The expectation was that over decades, through the efforts of the Creole community, along with the Catholic Church, this dream of a boy’s school would be realized. However, it came not decades later but only six years later in 1951. The realization of the dream is the famed Saint Augustine High School which to this day says “Youth Progress Program” on its front door.

The Corpus Christi Catholic Parish on St. Bernard Avenue was established in the 7th Ward in 1916, the largest of the Josephite missions. Mother Katharine Drexel donated a substantial sum of money in April 1916 which allowed the parish to purchase two frame houses on Onzaga Street which were converted into a temporary chapel and rectory. The congregation grew to nearly 400 within a year and, as the congregation grew, there came the need for a grade school. “With funds donated by parishioners and northern benefactors, with materials and services offered by local business men, the pastor, in 1919, erected a beautiful and expansive combination church and school.” Enrollment began with 300 pupils with education provided through the eighth grade. The parish grew dramatically over the years. In 1926 the newly appointed pastor laid plans to rebuild structures to accommodate a congregation of nearly 8,000 and a school enrollment of 1,100. By 1930 the pastor was able to provide more accommodation for his grade school pupils.

In 1931 the newly appointed pastor purchased more land on Onzaga Street for a playground and converted a portion of the former church and school into a kindergarten. In 1936 when the Archdiocese Board of Education in New Orleans reduced the grade school course of study from eight to seven years, he added the first year of high school work. Corpus Christie School and its supporting parish were constantly  in flux the result of demographic changes with people steadily moving into the area building homes and maintaining a stable, growing  population for the parish. Proof of the phenomenal growth is in the 1956 baptismal register that recorded nearly ten thousand names. The kindergarten, grade school and first year of high school had a combined enrollment of 1,213 students at that time. At the time of the publication of the above picture enrollment was noted at 1,500 students.

Corpus Christi School  and Church were once a major cultural center in the 7th Ward, a neighborhood that nourished generations of Creole Catholic merchants, artisans and musicians with deep roots in New Orleans. And, although the school was closed following the devastation of the Federal Flood upon the heels of Hurricane Katrina, Corpus Christi Church is open to this day with Mass celebrated every week on St. Barnard Avenue.

L.A.G.

Sources:  Louisiana Weekly, 10 February 1945, pg. 9; The Josephites and Catholic Education in the United States (unpublished dissertation), Father George Turner, 1957.

13 thoughts on “Corpus Christi Elementary School

  1. I was a member of this parish from 1939 until Epiphany was built. My brother, his son and his son’s stepson have attended St Augustine. The high school referred to here. What memories. We came back for a post Katrina funeral. We had a vibrant community.

  2. I was in that photo of my class in 1945. I went on to Xavier Prep where Mother David was the Principal, Following year went to J.S. Clark. Enlisted in the U.S Army in 1948 at 17 years of age. Fought in Korea 1950 &51 and Vietnam 1968& 69 Retired on Nov 1969 at the age of 38. Received my GED from Clark in 53 or 54. and associate of Science Degree from Delgado after retirement. Will be 82 Yrs of age in October and can honestly say I have lived an exciting, adventurous, prosperous,fulfilling, happy sometime sad life, thanks to the formal education I received from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Ms Hickey at Corpus Christi which prepared me for the informal wonderful life I had had thus far. God is Great.

  3. I have many fond memories of this community nucleus. My family celebrated my great grandmother’s homegoing at this church.

  4. My mother, Viola Dupre Duplessis was the organist at Corpus Christi for over 30 years. Even though we lived one block from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, we could not go there because of segregation. Our family were members all our lives; we participated in all the sacraments at that church.

  5. Miss Vi was the best…she was also my daddy’s secretary at People’s Life Ins Co for many years….Ben Johnson…Miss Vi typed many term papers for us..happy thoughts…

  6. I went to this school after Sacred Heart from 1972 to 1976. Best school of my life and best teachers. They pushed us and they cared. They built the foundation for where we are today. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. Went to church every week. We grew up in that neighborhood and walked to school everyday and church every Sunday. All 6 of us went to C.C. I went on to serve my country in the U.S. Air Force from 1979 to 1985. I have no regrets. All my family still in New Orleans. I drifted west to Texas where I’m in the heavy haul business. I tell everybody that Corpus Christi played a big part in my life and where I am today.Let’s keep it going and never let it stop . I still come home to visit all my family.

    • Hi Michael, just found this site. I am Claire Johnson!! Good to see you are well!! Never knew until years later that my favorite high school teacher was related to you. Madam Guilot!!! A wonderful lady!! I went west to Houston too! Hoping all is well with you.
      Corpus Christi School was a great foundation for us!!! Many sacrificed to give us a wonderful, priceless education! THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED US BECOME SUCCESSFUL!!!

  7. I was talking with my oldest sister who is 72 years young. I am 64, but she was telling me she had attended Corpus Christi back when it was 1st grade to 5th grade and she remembers it being on St.Bernard. I am so happy God is still giving her beautiful memories. Anyone out there who remembers Sharon Joy Lyles please call me at 786-955-7993 immediately.

  8. I’m interested in knowing the year(s) Mrs. Olivia Smith taught kindergarten at Corpus Christi Elementary. Do you know how I can find out?

  9. Hello everyone!! I would love to see/hear from/know about Ms. Linda Leblanc who taught at CCS. Any info would be great! She too was a wonderful and pleasant teacher!! I loved her!!
    Thanks!

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