Religious Activities in Catholic Schools (1940s-1950s)

Catholic schools were founded on the belief that the whole child must be educated not only academically, emotionally, socially and physically; but spiritually as well. For this reason, Christian values are instilled in all parts of the Catholic school’s curriculum as teachers strive to bring Christ and His teachings into the lives of their students.

While glancing through several yearbooks from St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans, I came across many photos of students taking part in various religious activities. Since the all girls’ school was named for the Blessed Mother, many religious activities  over the years have been in honor of Mary and the respect given to her as the Mother of God. The photos below will give us a glimpse into a few of these activities at the school in the 1940s and 1950s. We hope it brings back memories of the past for many of you and an appreciation of some of the religious traditions which took place in our schools.

Nuns- St. Mary's {1947}

Ora Dee Johnson and Claire Flenoy (1947)

Mission Sunday

Dressed as Nuns

Nun- Sheila Moore 1955

Nun- Wilma Carriere- 1955








Sheila Moore & Wilma Carriere (1955)

The  adorable little 1st graders shown above are members of St. Mary’s Academy Primary School who were chosen to represent the Sisters of the Holy Family in their school’s  procession to St. Louis Cathedral on Mission Sunday. Every 3rd Sunday in October of each year is a day set aside for Catholics to publicly renew their commitment to the missionary movement. On this day, prayers are given and donations are collected to support churches, hospitals, schools, orphanages and vocations in countries where they are most needed.  Photos, such as these, were found throughout several of the school’s yearbooks. If anyone has additional information on exactly why these precious ones were dressed as nuns, please let us know.

Our Lady of Africa (1953)

Nuns - Mission Sunday 1953- Our Lady of Africa

Barbara Sylvain (1953)

Our next Mission Sunday photo is that of Barbara Sylvain who is representing the Blessed Mother in the October pageant of 1953.  Miss Sylvain is dressed as Our Lady of Africa, a title given to a dark- hued statue, now housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, which is situated on a cliff overlooking the bay of Algiers.  This statue was given to the first Bishop of Algiers by the Sodality of Our Lady and it has become known as the protector of Christians and Muslims. Many Christians and Muslims come to pray and lay flowers in front of this statue in the great Basilica dedicated to our Lady of Africa where underneath  the main altar lies the inscription:  “Our Lady of Africa prays for us and for all Muslims.”

The poor, the blind, the crippled and especially sailors and soldiers come from all over the world to implore her aid for miraculous cures and many are said to return to thank her for prayers answered.

 Catholic Students’ Mission Crusade (C.S.M.C.) (1955)

St. Mary's Academy CSMC (1955)

Thirty-Four girls, two boys, and three Sisters made up the delegates for the National Convention of the C.S.M.C. at Notre Dame from St. Mary’s Academy in 1955. Of course the boys were guests from Xavier Prep and St. Augustine.

 The entire senior class of the school had membership in this group. If you were a C.S.M.C. member, you worked faithfully for the missions.  Besides having monthly meetings, committee meetings, Mission Day programs and sales in November and April, these students participated in the Mission Rally in October;  distributed Catholic literature, and collected toys for  poor children.

The Sodality (1955)

St. Mary's Sodality- 1955

Lydia Saucier, Evelyn Weber, Annette Robinson, Loretta Williams, Hazel Cromartie, Yvonne Oliver, Sheila Salvant, Emelda Sonnier, Leona Baker, and Dolores Joseph… (1955)

Another religious activity in many Catholic high schools with a female population is the Sodality. Students who are members engage in intense devotion to the Blessed Mother. They engage in various activities such as attending mass and receiving communion frequently.  Many sodality members care for the chapel and altar, visit the sick, and attend Holy Hour plus religious retreats. Today there are sodalities for priests, physicians, lawyers, school teachers, nurses, schools and universities.

Rosary Day (1944)

St. Mary's Academy- Living Rosary (1944)

The Living Rosary (1944)

The girls above have formed a Living Rosary in  honor of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother. Rosary Day and St. Joseph Day were part of an annual retreat at the school wherein banners and flags would wind their way to various altars.  On this special occasion, the students would say the rosary, sing hymns, and  recite an act of consecration. They would renew their faith and pledge their love and devotion to Our Blessed Lady and to the foster Father of Jesus, St. Joseph.

Rosa Mystica (1944)

St. Mary's Academy- Rosa Mystica- 1944

In 1944, the primary students at St. Mary’s presented a play entitled Rosa Mystica (The Mystical Rose) to the student body and to Archbishop Hannah, the Archbishop of New Orleans. Rosa Mystica was the title given to the Blessed Mother after she appeared to a humble Italian woman in Italy, Pierina Gilli, a nurse in a local hospital.  In these apparitions, Our Lady wore a violet dress and a white veil around her head.  

St. Mary’s Choral Club (1947)

St. Mary's Chorous

 Joyce Aguillard, Thelma Long, Lois Verrett, Evangeline White, Nanette Wright, Barbara Holliday, Barbara Lipps, Theresa Faulks, Mercedes Fernandez…. (1947)

 Sources:  Maris Stella (Yearbooks’ of St. Mary’s Academy) 1944/ 1947/ 1955 [personal copies];

Lolita V. Cherrie

11 thoughts on “Religious Activities in Catholic Schools (1940s-1950s)

  1. Although a Prep student, I went with St. Mary’s to the CSMC Convention. The year I went–’55 or ’56, Chicago was hit with a polio epidemic. Our bus to South Bend took a long route through the Deep South, instead of shooting straight up through Chicago. Public accommodations were extremely limited. In Tuscaloosa, AL, we had to use the restrooms in the basement of the jail. Prisoners were unaccustomed to seeing nuns, so they yelled “Black Angels” as the group went into the building. Another memory is the wonderful snacks the nuns carried on the bus. One introduced me to clabber. All and all, it was a wonderful trip!

    • Elaine….What a wonderful story !! There is nothing more meaningful to us at CreoleGen than having our readers share their personal experiences to the stories we submit. Even our most unpleasant memories of the past are history lessons for the younger generations of the future.

  2. What beautiful menories as I relived my days there. We are still attempting to carry on the tradition in this very different world.
    (1956 Grad.)

  3. Thank you for visiting CreoleGen! Please continue to read and support the site.

    We are not sure which St. Francis de Sales you are talking about? We assume you mean St. Francis de Sales at Rock Castle, Virginia. If so, the yearbooks which survive would be in the Archives at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Bensalem, Pa.

  4. I was a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy (class of ’78). Although I moved away from New Orleans in 1991 to practice law in California ( I’m a criminal prosecutor for Santa Clara county) , I often think of happier, simpler times going to catholic school in New Orleans. It was a wonderful experience and shaped who I am today.
    God bless the tireless efforts of the nuns who taught me. They continue to be wonderful people in an ever changing crazier world.
    These pictures brought me back to happier times.

  5. I was one of the St. Mary’s Academy girls chosen to represent & dress up as a Sister of the Holy Family on Mission Sunday. We moved to Los Angeles in 1956, and my mother is trying to get a copy of my picture in the Maris Stellar yearbook. It was the period from 1953 thru 1955. If anyone has a copy, could you please contact me?

  6. CLAIRE Flenoy
    is my 1st cousin. Her
    mother (Bonita
    Arceneaux Flenoy) & my
    mother (Julia
    Buckhalter) were

  7. I am Wilma Carriere who was pictured in the post dressed as a nun in 1955 with Sheila Moore my classmate. It brought back some wonderful memories of my years at St. Mary’s Academy. I attended St. Mary’s Academy from 1st through 12th grade.

    • Wilma, I had always hoped that one day I would hear from one of the young girls in this post who appeared as a nun. Hopefully, some of the others will find their photos here also. I would love to have been pictured as you were !….Lolita

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