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Our Roots Run Deep

The roots of the world-wide network of Academies of the Sacred Heart trace back to post-Revolutionary Paris, where in 1799 twenty-year-old Madeleine Sophie Barat and several companions founded Les Réligieuses du Sacré Coeur. Equipped with a classical education from her Jesuit brother, Mother Barat dedicated her community to the education of girls, convinced that a solid faith foundation would enable women to create positive social change in their homes and in the tumultuous world in which they lived.

In 1804, former Visitation religious Rose Philippine Duchesne and Mother Barat agreed to merge their small communities. Mothers Barat and Duchesne became lifelong friends, their frequent correspondence becoming a basis of growth for both themselves and their congregation, as well as documentation of their extraordinary lives. In 1818, following requests from Bishop William DuBourg of New Orleans, Mother Barat sent Mother Duchesne and four companions to America. Arriving in New Orleans in May that year, they sojourned briefly with the Ursuline congregation before moving to the St. Louis area. After 50 years of pursuing missionary work in the Mississippi Valley, the nuns returned to New Orleans to establish their first Academy there. Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable) opened in the French Quarter in 1867 to educate the declining French Creole population, accommodating both day and boarding students, with a free school for the needy.

As the city’s population migrated uptown, the religious followed, purchasing in 1887 a Greek Revival suburban villa on St. Charles Avenue. The new foundation, named for “The Rosary,” opened that year to accommodate both boarders and day pupils. The mansion served the Academy for 13 years, but proved inadequate for a growing student population. In 1900, architects Diboll and Owen designed a two-story core replacement, to which in 1906 and 1913 the present enclosing wings and third main floor were added. Post World War II additions included a gymnasium, a primary school, and a preschool in the “park,” that traditional name for the open, grassy square behind them. A math and science wing was opened in 1998. In 2005, a second campus (Mater) opened on St. Charles for the lower grades. A new gym and fine Arts Center opened in 2011.

Today, the Academy is an historical landmark, recognized as a premiere Catholic, independent school for girls age one through high school. In cooperation with the national Network of Sacred Heart Schools, its mission is to educate students to a personal and active faith in God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness which impels to action, building community, and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. The school employs over 180 faculty/staff and administration members, as enrollment continues to increase, currently standing at 760 students.