Sacred Heart schools have nurtured a sense of intellectual discovery, as well as the freedom to learn, since the beginning of our educational system long ago in France. Our founders wanted to make plans for an educational program that would adapt to the times and allow students’ minds to expand as their knowledge of the world grew.
At the time of the founding of the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800 in Paris, the Religious of the Sacred Heart wanted to establish a system of educating girls and young women to be well-educated and influential members of their communities.
The earliest members of the Society created a “Plan of Studies” at the beginning of 1805. Unique for its time, the Plan set down in writing the course of studies that Sacred Heart schools would offer to its students, while explaining that the plan would be flexible, allowing for growth and change. The Plan explained fully not only the goals of women’s education but detailed how students would be given the desire AND the ability to function as “examples and apostles” of clear thinking in a new and changing world.
The world we live in now changes so rapidly that we often forget that the 19th century had also witnessed enormous societal and intellectual changes: the rise of the middle class, the beginning of the industrial revolution, changes in religious beliefs, changes in the importance of the role of women, the beginning of democracy in many countries. The Religious wanted their students to be exemplary in educational skills and in good works but always equipped to handle their responsibilities in a changing world.
In the New York area in the early 1840s Mother Aloysia Hardey, the first American-born RSCJ, combined both great personal magnetism and balanced judgment. She was a highly gifted person, both as an educator and as a spiritual figure. In our New York City school, the precursor to our school at Greenwich, she developed a strong educational system that was admired by students, parents, educators and community leaders. Our observatory at Greenwich is named after her.
Long may we continue to encourage our students to explore all that is new in the world around them, and may their education serve them well for the rest of their lives. That’s what Sacred Heart education is all about!