Sacred Heart Academy was founded by a former Notre Dame University Professor, Fr. John Crowley, in 1889. Fr. Crowley taught for the Holy Cross Order for nineteen years. He was known far and wide as a “school man.” At the time the school was founded, the parish was seventeen years old, having been founded in 1872. Fr. Crowley served only one parish as priest and that was here at Sacred Heart. During his time at Notre Dame, he was known as Brother Camillus CSC. He was buried at Sacred Heart’s Calvary Cemetery in 1899.
Fr. Crowley contacted the Dominican Sisters of New York to come and teach in the new school. Five Sisters arrived in August of 1889. The first principal was Sister Liguori McCarron. In later years, she returned to the Dominican Motherhouse in New York. The other Sisters who were members of that pioneer band became part of the Grand Rapids Dominicans.
The first school building was actually the first Sacred Heart Church. It was moved from its location on Oak Street and placed behind the rectory on the corner of Lansing and Michigan Streets. Later on, when a new Academy was built, the old church/school was torn down. On opening day, in 1889, 150 students came through the doors. Before the first year was over, the student body numbered 200 students and five teachers.
What we consider to be the “old” part of the Academy today was opened in 1908. Fr. T.J. O’Connor was Pastor at the time and he too, was considered to be a firm supporter of Catholic schools. At the dedication of the building in 1908, Fr. O’Connor said, “Next to my ordination day, this is the second happiest day of my life!”
The school has remained in operation since 1889! Even the Depression did not close the school. During that time, the Sisters sacrificed their salaries and parishioners did everything possible to keep it open. It is interesting that, in 1933, a mere $9,000 operated the school and parish for an entire year. Many sacrifices made that possible. Today, our budget totals over 2 million per year. Many sacrifices still make it possible today to conduct a DK-12 school here. In its 126 years of operation, the school has boasted of having over 3,700 alumni throughout the country.
Today, Sacred Heart Parish is the only parish in the eleven-county Saginaw Diocese which still operates a DK-12 school. In 1965, nineteen parishes had a high school department. Currently, there are two other Catholic high schools in the Diocese, All Saints in Bay City and Nouvel in Saginaw. They are assisted by many parishes and are considered to be Catholic “Centrals”. Our high school is considered “unique” today and somewhat of a miracle.
Up until the fall of 2015, we have always had sisters or nuns as part of our teaching staff. Although we no longer are blessed with their services, we have highly qualified and dedicated teachers who sacrifice much to help us remain a viable school. Salaries are not comparable to that of public school teachers in the area; however, an effort is being made to continuously strive to increase the salaries of our teachers out of justice and fairness.
Our graduates have done very well in every field of endeavor. They are found in every occupation. Fr. Crowley probably never realized in 1889 what an influence the school would eventually be on Mt. Pleasant, our parish, and many communities in Michigan and beyond where our graduates now live.
May God continue to bless us as we plan for the future, ready and willing to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.