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.
Ora Dee Johnson and Claire Flenoy (1947)
Dressed as Nuns
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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] www.catholicculture.org; http://archstl.org/mission/page/world-mission-sunday
Lolita V. Cherrie