By Dennis Phillips
Imagine yourself back in the mid-19th century, specifically 1849. A group of Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ) have arrived in Halifax. They’ve just established a small school in a residence in the heart of Halifax entirely devoted to the teachings of the school’s founder, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat who established the first Sacred Heart school in France in 1801. She believed that educating girls by fostering their spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth was the key to transforming society. Is that mission relevant to you, a parent in Halifax — a world away — 48 years later?
As it turns out, the parents of 13 young girls felt it was and they enrolled their daughters in that first year. It was the start of something very remarkable.
Today, 175 years later, parents ask themselves the same question — is an education centred on the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth of students still relevant? Frankly, we are as convinced now as we were then that a Sacred Heart education is not just relevant but necessary in today’s world.
Times have changed dramatically since 1849. The societal, political, technological, and economic landscape is an ever-evolving one that challenges our young people to make sense of it and be successful within it. That’s a daunting task. Especially now.
But what has not changed over the course of that time is our mission, which is based on five Goals — an active faith in God, a deep respect for intellectual values, social action, the building of community, and personal growth. It is a mission shared by a network of over 150 schools around the world. Those goals are at the heart of everything we do and they give our students the courage and confidence to embrace change, to be critical thinkers, to make sense of our world and consider how to make it better, and to hold kindness and love as the most fundamental of all human values. We believe this is what young people need today. It’s the same thing they needed 175 years ago.
It’s a relevant mission because it’s timeless. Just like the symphonies of Mozart or Beethoven are as beautiful today as when they were composed. Or the works of Shakespeare still speak to the fundamental truths about the human condition. Just like the golden rule that tells us to treat others as we in turn would like to be treated.
All of this isn’t to say we don’t evolve. We do. We incorporate innovative teaching practices, use advanced technology, update our facilities to the latest standards, adapt our curriculum constantly, and participate in orientation to mission experiences annually. And, we’re no longer a school just for girls. All of this too is in keeping with Sophie’s vision, “Times change—and to keep up with them WE must change and modify our methods. It shows weakness of mind to hold too much to the beaten track, through fear of innovations.” She said that back in 1832. Prophetic words indeed. And relevant.
We are privileged to be part of this network and honoured to educate our students guided by a mission that has stood the test of time. So if you’re a parent in 2023 asking yourself if a Sacred Heart education is the right and relevant choice for you and your child, we can say, unequivocally, that our legacy is your answer.