St. Peter Claver High School, Grand Coteau, LA

HISTORY OF ST. PETER CLAVER SCHOOL

PART I

It began on May 3rd, 1875, under the direction of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, but a year before, a Prostestant Negro, Edward Campbell, had opened a school on the Jesuit grounds with 50 boys.

When Reverend Father Olivier, S.J., rector of the Jesuit College in Grand Coteau, expressed the desire to have a Catholic school, Reverend Mother Moran, Superior of our Convent, set to work and the

3rd of May 1875, 16 children came to the new school situated on the grounds of the Convent. This building is now used as a laundry and print shop.

In 1888 a school house was built a little further south on the property of the Convent, and it was paid for bv His Excellency, Mgr. Janssens, Archbishop of New Orleans by Very R-=?verend Mother lehon, Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart and by the Jesuits at St. Charles College.

In 1894 two other rooms were added to accommodate the number of pupils increasing year by year. Boys and girls generally gave full satisfaction.  The study of our Holy Religion took the first place so well that His Excellency, Mgr. Blank, gave a beautiful testimony

invluded in the Records of the Parish at the time of his canonical visit.

On September 2, 1876, the first congregation for Christian Mothers was founded by Rev. Father Widman, S.J.—Mother Camille Zeringue was named “Directress.”  That congregation was affiliated to the “Prima Primaria” on January 18, 1887, under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows and of St. Anne.

Another congregation was organized by the same Father and Mother Zeringue on September 13, 1895, for boys who had left school.  On the 3rd Sunday of each month the o1dest girls of the school had thei r. meeting; later on they brought some contributions. the fruit of

personal sacrifices, to help the colored priests in the Seminary founded

by the Society of the Divine Word.  Rev. F. Leander Martin was the first priest who had been a student at our school; he was ordained January 6, 1941–Vincent Mortan made his profession as a Brother in 1945 under the name of Brother Lawrence,

About thirty girls from our school entered the Congregation of the Holy Family–one of them, touise Manuel, entered in 1912. made her vows in 1915, and died six months later in an ecstasy of love saying; 11 You know, Jesus, that I never committed a mortal si n. 11 “Good-by

Dear Sisters, I am going to Heaven.”

The school building was moved from the grounds of the Convent of the Sacred Heart to the St. Peter Clave Church grounds in 1939. and

a few years later the Church changed its name to “Christ the King.” The school was still called •st. Peter Claver School,” but it remained the property of the Society of the Sacred Heart until 1947.

Father Thensted had a new school built and remodeled the old one

as a Convent for the Sisters of the Holy Family who came from New Orleans to take over the school from Mother Margaret Mary Finn, R.S.C.J., who had been Principal.

During our last session, 1946-1947, the enrollment was 286 pupils in the elementary grades and 15 in the high school, with two nuns of the Sacred Heart and six secular teachers.

During each summer vacation Religious of the Sacred Heart had aided the priests in two large retreats for men and women. In the retreats of 1946 the attendance was: Men – 173, Women – 202.

Niss Edna Stewart taught with us the longest and was always a devoted and loyal friend of the school.

The other teachers with certificates were:

Irma Falgout

Mrs. Josephine (Lemelle) Egby Mrs. Germaine (Ozenne) Coco Mrs. Vivian (Stewart) Mason

Mrs. Wil he1mi na (Lawrence) Carmi er

Leona Richard Rosalie Thierry

Mrs. Thelma (Charles) Oldham Mrs. Eleonora ( Martin) Miller Mr. Jonas Mason

Mrs. Victoria Alsandor

Written by Sister M.M. Finn

HISTORY OF ST. PETER CLAVER SCHOOL

PART II

In 1939 the St. Landry Parish School Board realized the need for a school in the Grand Coteau area in order to take care of the growing population of school age children. There was a compromise between, the principal, t1other Rivette, the pastor,.,.Father Thenstead and the School Board to rent the then “Little Convent” later St. Peter Claver Elementary Schoo1.

Mother Rivette became the first Principal of the state school in Grand Coteau.  Miss Edna Stewart was the first Certified lay teacher to work in the  school.  In September, 1940, she joined the staff of nuns,

Mother Rivette, Mother Boudell,     other Drew, cina lay teachers, Mrs. Cor lia 11Si s11     Taylor Richard, Miss Euphrasine Barriere,  Mrs. Celena Broussard Eaglin, Mrs. Victoria Alsandor.

After two years, Mother Margaret Mary Finn became the principal.

Father Thenstead, 11Stepper”. as he was referred to by  many, joined

forces with Mother Finn to improve the school. Through his earnest efforts a new Church was built as well as a· high school, a gym and a sisters convent, to house the Sisters of the Holy Family after the Sisters of the Sacred Heart left the school for foreign missions.

More new teachers were added to the staff, namely Mrs. Cleona Miller, Mrs. Wilhelmina Cormier, Mrs. Vivian Mason, Mrs. Josephine Egbyand later Mr. Jonas Mason, who worked as assistant to Mother Finn.  He was a prominent figure in helping Mother Finn and Father Thenstead organize the high school.

In 1946 Mother Finn was sent on mission to Africa and Mr. Mason returned to college to continue his education. The students felt like the children whose parents had abandoned them.  Knowing Father-Thenstead’s determination and prayers on the long black rosary he found teachers.

This initiated the work of the Jesuits in St. Peter Claver.  Along with the Jesuits came a Mr. Joliet from France. The students needed someone to nurture them and that person was none other than Mrs. Gennaine Coco. She worked very hard as home room mother of the first graduating class of St. Peter Claver in the year 1948. There were seven graduates who went on to further their education. Two became teachers, one orderly, one mechanic and one electrical mechanic, one in business of her own and one a secretary of a county in California.

The school continued to grow larger after the coming of the Holy Family Sisters in 19’9-1950. Sister Grace Marie became the first principal of the high school along with teachers, Sr, Edward Vincent

and others. including brothers and priest from the college.  Later Mother Borgia came and played a major roll in improving the academics of S.P.C. The school then attracted students from Arnaudville. Leonville, Bellvue, Prairie Bass with the larger number from Grand Coteau area.
The school remained in existance for many years.  After the Holy Family Sisters branched out ot other missions, the school continued under the administration of the Rev. Mr. Edward Ray and staff. The school

fell with the economy and no support from the diocese nor the Church

Parish.       1978.

Those who received a Catholic education from ST. Peter Claver High· School are grateful to all the dedicated persons, including parents who worked diligently to provide a catholic education. They have taken the tools of this Catholic education and proved to the world that a11 the work was not in vain.

In 1970-71, a few of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart came back to help in the high schoo1–Mother JellTila and Sister Bourgeois.

The elementary school, now a state school is proud to boast that many who received their basic training in the “Little Convent” are now teaching in the school with a former student as principal – Mr. John Bobb, Jr.

We are deeply grateful to the Jesuits Father, brothers. Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of the Holy Family and the many lay

teachers for their generous efforts in helping to improve the educational standards of the black community of Grand Coteau and the surrounding areas.

Mrs. Julia E. Key

Miss Edna Stewart

St. Peter Claver High School Graduates