- Sacred Heart/St. Katherine Drexel School -
About Sacred Heart/St. Katherine Drexel School
100 Years Old And Still Preparing Wonderful Students For The Community. Sacred Heart/St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School is celebrating 100 years of service to the Lake Charles community. The official history of Sacred Heart School dates back to 1908. With the arrival of the railroad and an increased need for workers, the Black population of Imperial Calcasieu grew from 5,966 in 1900 to 16,562 in 1910. Many of the migrants from "down east" (usually, St. Landry Parish) were descendants of slaves by French and Spanish masters and therefore Catholic. Religious instruction on Sunday afternoons by diocese priests, assisted by the Marianite Sisters from St. Charles Academy, was the only form of education Black children received in Lake Charles, prior to 1908. These Black parents wanted more for their children and sought out means to accomplish just that.
The Sisters of The Holy Family, unable to serve the Lake Charles Black Catholic Community, recommended one of their graduates from Lafayette, a Ms. Eleanor Figaro, along with a Ms. Mary Ryan, as teachers. The legendary Ms. Figaro came to Lake Charles and in 1908 established what was to become Sacred Heart School. Classes were held in the back room of a home, where her monthly rent for the room was $20. Teachers were paid only $20 a month; Ms Figaro took no salary and had to earn a living by teaching piano. This was the very first school established in all of Imperial Calcasieu for Black citizens and remains to be a strong center for the Black community into the present day
In 1920, Mother Katharine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, began her contributions to the school and parish and in 1923, the High School was established. The Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges accredited Sacred Heart School in 1940. From 1933-1941, Xavier University offered college extension classes in the school's facilities. Many of the first Black professionals of Calcasieu Parish received their college training there. In 1989, the name of the School was officially changed to Sacred Heart/Blessed Katharine Drexel. With St. Katharine's canonization in 2000, the name was changed once again to Sacred Heart/St. Katharine Drexel. The financial support of St. Katharine Drexel was greatly beneficial to Sacred Heart School and Parish but the love for education and the tools for success which they instilled in the people were the greatest contributions of these devoted women.
Bishops Harold Perry, SVD and Leonard Olivier, SVD, and Frs. Louis and Jerome LeDoux, SVD are native sons of Sacred Heart School and Parish. Srs. Alice Martin, Mary Gabriela Guidry, Mary Thecla Bomer, Mary Fidelia Washington, Mary Euicharia Mott, Mary Rogers Thibodeaux, Mary Hubert, and Barbara Batiste also represent vocations to the religious life which were nurture in their early stages at Sacred Heart. Deacon Edward Lavine still serves both the Parish and the Diocese of Lake Charles. Many more local, national as well as international success stories exist because of the little red school house that had it's beginning in 1908.
Today, Sacred Heart School has completed renovations of the damages of Hurricane Rita. The entire school community has endured many changes and difficulties due to the loss of the use of their elementary building.
This is a very brief history of Sacred Heart School, covering the last 100 years. The complete story is yet to be told. Through out this year the school and parish will celebrate their wonderful history of accomplished deeds and events. The public is invited to come and share in the excitement. Contact the school office for more information on the year's events, after all, this is the stuff that Black History is filled with.