Salesian spirit of caring and family strong at Shaw

The school motto of “Excelsior” – ever-striving and ever-achieving – is ever-present through the Salesian spirit of family, generosity, dedication and boundless love at Archbishop Shaw High School.

Salesian Father Lou Molinelli, director/president, said he has experienced the welcoming and caring attitude of Archbishop Shaw – its teachers, students, alumni and parents – the minute he walked on campus in July.

“Shaw provides a solid Catholic and moral foundation where students believe in God and live it,” Father Molinelli said. “We provide an exemplary Catholic education, which has prepared our young men not only for college but for being successful in life.”


He said the Salesians’ history on the West Bank began when the order provided a trade program at Hope Haven Manor in the early 1930s. Then, in 1962, Archbishop Shaw High School opened with six Salesian priests and brothers and a freshman class of 95 students. More than 500 students in eighth through 12th grade now attend.

“Over the past 50 years, Shaw has taken children where they are and helped  them grow to their fullness in life,” Father Molinelli said. “We help kids see their gifts and talents and use them to help others.”

Possibilities to engage teens

Father Molinelli said Archbishop Shaw is the embodiment of a home that welcomes, a church that proclaims Jesus Christ and a playground where young men can meet and make friends.

“It’s the spirit in which we do these things,” Father Molinelli said. “It’s the spirit of (Salesian founder) Don Bosco who said, ‘It’s enough for you to be young for me to love you.’”

What are today’s needs?

He sees Archbishop Shaw and the Salesian mission on the West Bank as being at a crossroads and is looking to broaden the outreach and to guide the school to its fullest potential.

 “Who can we become?” Father Molinelli asked. “Who can this church and Archbishop Shaw be for the West Bank? How can the Salesian spirit best serve the needs of the people on the West Bank? As we celebrate our 50 years, while we give thanks for our past, we get excited about what we can become.”

Through his frequent visits in the classroom, Father Molinelli is astonished with new technology available to students and the creativity of teachers, many who have master’s degrees. As in other archdiocesan schools, iPads at Shaw are commonplace, starting with eighth grade.

“What has impressed me most is the way teachers have incorporated technology in the classrooms,” he said.

A former mathematics teacher at a boarding school in Tampa, Fla., Father Molinelli was taught by the Salesians. He also was vice principal and youth minister and and later appointed director/president at Don Bosco Prep High School in New Jersey. He also was and principal at St. Petersburg Catholic High in Florida.

He’s been uplifted observing students’ engagement in service throughout the community over and above their required school service hours. He mentioned the Salesian-sponsored Gospel Roads where students travel across the United States to perform a week of service.

“The kids really want to give and really want to help,” he said. “It’s nice to watch that.”

Family atmosphere

Allegiance to Archbishop Shaw is strong. Many alumni enroll their sons at the school.

“From alums, the one you thing you think about when you hear Archbishop Shaw is, ‘It’s a family,’” Father Molinelli said.

Shawn Heiden, president of the Archbishop Shaw Alumni Association, agrees. He is a 1998 graduate and now teaches at J.B. Martin School in Paradis. His father is a 1970 graduate, and he had an uncle and several cousins attend Archbishop Shaw. His mother, Patsy, was a 1970 Immaculata graduate and Shaw cheerleader. Heiden also had the Salesian influence attending St. Rosalie School in Marrero.

“The Salesian priests and nuns dedicate their lives to the education of youth,” Heiden said, adding that it’s more than just academics. It’s also the spiritual side that influences how one lives his or her life.

“The embodiment of (Salesian founder) St. John Bosco’s reason, religion and kindness, that’s been a huge part of my life,” Heiden said. “My dad and mom taught me the value of that education. Archbishop Shaw certainly is a place where young men can grow. You belong to a family, a brotherhood of people who get you through the good times and bad. The education I had at Shaw is second to none. The spirit of that lifelong brotherhood is something special.”

Father Molinelli is optimistic about the upcoming year. The school will celebrate its 50th anniversary with several events beginning in the 2012-13 year. He also was pleased with the enthusiasm surrounding a recent open house.

“I found excitement of kids wanting to come here,” he said.

            Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .