Where Did You Go to School?
As a non-native, the first time someone asked me where I went to school, I answered “University of California, Davis.” Now, ten years later, I usually make some kind of joke about not being from New Orleans.
Last month, my husband (who went to Jesuit, FYI) and I had the opportunity to travel to Le Mans, France on the invitation of the Marianite Sisters, to visit the birthplace of the Holy Cross order. We followed the entire formation, from Father Basil Moreau to Mother Mary to Father Sorin, the Holy Cross priest who founded Notre Dame in Indiana. We were reminded that we all have different strengths, as those first sisters, brothers, and priests did, but if we pool our talents and work together, we can truly accomplish great things. One of my fellow travelers also wrote about the experience and I’d encourage you to check it out here.
It was in 1848 that three sisters, along with seven brothers, were sent to New Orleans (in wool habits!) to begin their service in the city’s orphanage. Fast forward 70+ years, and, because there was very limited access to higher education for women in New Orleans, they founded Our Lady of Holy Cross College (now University of Holy Cross). The Sisters did this so that they could train teachers to serve in the Catholic grammar schools across South Louisiana. I love the can-do, problem-solving spirit that this embodies — there is no accessible college? Fine, we will build one! Later, the college would expand beyond education, to include other caring professions, like counseling and nursing.
Upon learning more about the origins of these pioneering women in New Orleans, it got me thinking — when it comes to formation and values, rather than asking where we went to high school, perhaps the real question New Orleanians should be asking is “where did you go to grammar school?” If you attended any of these Catholic grammar schools in South Louisiana, there is a good chance that you were taught by a Marianite sister:
New Orleans Region
Christ the King
Holy Name of Mary
Resurrection of Our Lord
St. Andrew the Apostle
St. Mary of the Angels
St. Peter and Paul
Houma, St. Francis de Sales
Eunice, St. Edmund
Franklin, St. John
Lake Charles, Immaculate Conception School
Lake Charles, St. Margaret
City of Plaquemine, St. John
Opelousas, Academy of the Immaculate Conception
Port Allen, Holy Family
Ville Platte, Sacred Heart
Think about the impact that your grammar school experience had on you — it’s where you learned to read, where you made your first friends, and where you began to experience puberty. These are formative years and the Marianites were right there, bearing witness to it all, for so many New Orleanians.
Our visit to Le Mans was transformational. As we followed the path of these courageous women, it served as a powerful reminder that we must actively embody the Marianite values, particularly in South Louisiana, where their impact is still felt. Through recognizing this heritage, our children, too, will be deeply shaped by their teachings. The Marianite legacy can and should serve as a guiding light for us all, reminding us of the importance of nurturing and inclusive spaces that honor the inherent dignity of every person.