Holy Name of Jesus School celebrates 125th year
Always challenging students to strive for excellence in academics and how they treat others have been guiding principles of the Jesuit pastors, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Mercy Sisters and lay staff that have served Holy Name of Jesus School in its 125-year history.
“The Jesuit tradition has been academic excellence and forming men and women with and for one another,” said Jesuit Father Ed Gros, Holy Name of Jesus pastor who has returned to the parish after a mission stint in El Paso, Texas, from 2007-13. “And, since they are Catholic, to go out and be leaders, good mothers and fathers and people who are active in the community.”
Because the school draws many students from throughout the metropolitan area, Father Gros stressed the importance of its legacy in New Orleans and its significance as a parish ministry. He said he’s worked with the school’s mission club to fund missions he’d served and lauds the Beta Club for helping the parish with Thanksgiving baskets and walking for the hungry, activities in line with the Jesuit ideals of social justice.
Holy Name of Jesus School kicks off its 125th anniversary with an Alumni Mass Aug. 28 at 10:30 a.m. at church, followed by a reception at the nearby school. Later anniversary events will include the Gator Fest fair in November, a ladies’ tennis tournament and spring gala/auction in April.
A treasure-trove of memories poured from 1987 graduate Suzie Dardis Daly about the school. Daly was one of 10 siblings to attend Holy Name School.
“My parents lived in a house three blocks from the church, and lots of neighborhood kids went there,” Daly said. “Some of my best friends today went with me to Holy Name.”
Daly, who taught at the school and has sent her six children there, remembers the school having the only fair around with rides and a wonderful pre-kindergarten Christmas program that continues today. She said her parents chaired the fair for many years, and her father has returned to the school’s advisory board.
While the School Sisters of Notre Dame were invited to start the school in 1891 and remained until 1909, it was the Mercy Sisters who taught until 2002 (establishing a separate high school for girls in 1960) that showed Daly the Catholic faith by example.
“They had a welcoming and loving spirit,” Daly said. “I remember them always smiling.”
“It’s like bringing them home,” she said about her kids attending. “It’s home for me, and even though my husband, Mike, is not from here, it’s definitely home for him.” She and Mike have chaired the school’s annual giving fund, and Mike resurrected the Men’s Club.
Catholic presence strong
Rosalie Tomeny, the school’s director of development with 25 years’ experience, reinforced the faith presence at the school saying the first thing the school did was pray when news spread that planes had struck the Twin Towers on 9/11. She also mentioned the school program where families cook meals for others experiencing illness or tragedy.
“It’s a wonderful school,” she said, with third-generation families attending. “Students learn and find eighth grade in high school easy,” Tomeny said. “They come back and say they were well-prepared.”
Holy Name keeps abreast of technology with state-of-the-art computers while clinging to its strong traditions.
“We maintain that sense of family everyone loves but make sure the students know the new,” she said. “It seems like Holy Name crosses all sections of the city. You always here, ‘My grandfather went there.’”
This school year, Holy Name of Jesus will offer a pre-kindergarten 3 program for the first time. The school added two modular buildings to accommodate the program.
“It’s been such a demand, but we’ve never been able to do it before,” Tomeny said.
Older alums of the parish like Margot McGinn, 90, recall the separation of boys and girls on campus. She graduated in 1941 from the all-girls’ Holy Name High School (on campus) at age 15. Now working part-time in the parish office recording sacramental records, McGinn said the Mercy nuns had “one teacher taught boys; another taught girls.”
The Mercy Sisters gave students a strong sense of faith, McGinn said, something her mother wanted when she placed her in the Catholic school in seventh grade to receive Confirmation. She said two of her 29 high school classmates joined the Mercy order.
“I was always impressed with Sister Mary Madeleine who ended up as an administrator at Mercy Hospital,” McGinn said. McGinn received a scholarship to attend Dominican College where she earned an associate degree in secretarial sciences (business) and later attended night school to earn a degree in accounting. She worked for the state of Louisiana, the Board of Trade and Shell Oil for 12 years.
Holy Name of Jesus Anniversary Events
► Alumni Mass and Celebration – Sunday, Aug. 28, 10:30 a.m. Mass at the church, followed by reception at the school.
► Gator Fest – Nov. 11-13; special “Alumni Night,” Friday, Nov. 11; band, libations, food.
► Ladies’ Tennis Tournament – Friday, March 17 (Audubon Park).
► Gator Run – April 22 (Audubon Park).
► Back to the Blacktop Spring Gala and Auction – April 29 (at the school, LaSalle Place).