Our School History

The following excerpts have been taken from the History section of the Saint Mary-Sacred Heart School Self-Study Report completed in 1988. These excerpts will help the reader understand how Saint Mary-Sacred Heart School came to be a consolidation of two parish schools, Saint Mary’s School and Sacred Heart School.

Saint Mary’s School

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The largest parish in the area, Saint Mary’s, was established in 1890. The need for a school was evident almost from the beginning. With the vision of the parish founders before him, the Right Reverend Patrick E. McGee (Saint Mary’s sixth pastor) saw that the future of a parish lay in the formation of its youth. To this end a school was constructed and completed in 1924.

To staff the school, Father McGee turned to the Religious Sisters of Mercy (RSM) from Mount Saint Mary Convent in Fall River, then the motherhouse of the Sisters. Sister Mary Delores Daily was appointed the first Superior and Sister Mary Cletus Sullivan was the first Principal.

Approximately 250 students were enrolled in grades one through eight. Pastor and Sisters tended to the youth of their day. They sharpened the minds of their charges, made them aware of the Almighty and sought to teach them the beauty and richness of their Irish culture. They prepared the foundation for future citizens of their community. The school could proudly boast of graduating its first class of eighteen students that year of 1925.

Sacred Heart School

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On October 28, 1923, with five sisters present, the parish of Sacred Heart dedicated its school with His Eminence Bishop Daniel Feehan of Fall River officiating. It was a joyous, momentous occasion and the fulfillment of the dreams of its priests.

The construction of the school and its adjoining convent was completed by September 15, 1923. Classes opened on the 24th of September. Enrollment was at 211 in grades one through five with the heaviest concentration of students being in the primary grades.

Sisters of the Holy Union staffed the school. At that time, Mother Adrienne Cecile, was its first Principal and Superior.

The first graduating class numbered eleven students and held its commencement in June of 1926. From its inception, the school had a triple goal: to train children in the belief of the Catholic faith; to ensure the teaching and preservation of the French culture; and to prepare students to be responsible citizens within their community.

Saint Mary-Sacred Heart School

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Rather than seek to maintain the individual spirit of each parish, the Consolidated School Board sought to develop a unique spirit of its own. To this end, many dedicated men and women of Saint Mary’s, Sacred Heart and Saint Mark’s parishes, along with their clergy, devoted their time, their energies and personal gifts toward the vision they had, that of realizing a unified and strong Catholic school within the confines of North Attleboro.

All were united in their goals:

  • to educate youth in the Catholic tradition of their predecessors,
  • to make students aware of their responsibility as Christians,
  • to mold religious and moral values,
  • to prepare the foundation and challenge students to prepare themselves for future, commitment as responsible citizens,
  • to establish a viable, financially independent school.

There were major difficulties and growth pains every step of the way. Issues included staffing, housing of religious, school board membership, and diocesan approval. Despite the many obstacles, the Consolidated School became a reality in 1972 with classes to be held in the Saint Mary’s School building at 125 Broad Street. Enrollment numbers necessitated the move to the larger facility, and the Sacred Heart School building was leased to the town of North Attleboro. Classes ranged from kindergarten through eighth grade. There was inter-community staffing of Religious Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of the Holy Union with a devoted lay staff to complement the number of teachers. The first principal of the merged school was Sr. Jeanne Poirier, SUSC.

There were two tracks of each grade until 1973. There was also a short period during which the school boasted of a nursery program, but this was later dropped. There then followed a gradual decline in student enrollment. However, in June 1976, Dominican Academy in Plainville closed its doors, helping to increase enrollment at St. Mary-Sacred Heart. Gradually, by September of 1979, the whole school was on a one-track system. The spiritual needs of the students were served by the clergy of all three parishes.

Relocation of the St. Mary-Sacred Heart School to the Sacred Heart School building was announced on April 12, 1981 for economic reasons. Catholic education in the Saint Mary’s School building on Broad Street came to an end in June 1981. The building was sold on March 15, 1985 to Pace Realty for condominiums. Classes were transferred to the former Sacred Heart School building at 57 Richards Avenue, commencing September 1981.

At present, St. Mary-Sacred Heart School serves approximately ten parishes with 275 students in kindergarten through grade eight. The present principal is the seventh since the merger and the fifth lay person. A consolidated school board continues to be made up of members of the three major parishes of the North Attleboro area. The staff consists entirely of lay teachers.