The History of St. Michael School
The history of St. Michael School dates back to the early days of the town of Crowley. In 1899, Father Peter H. J. Van Alfen was appointed the first pastor of St. Michael’s at Crowley, which had been a mission of Iota. The Catholic population of Crowley was sparse, yet Father was eager to organize the parish. He contacted Mother Mary Augustine of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in New Orleans and asked her to establish a school and to send sisters to teach the children of his parish.
Mother Augustine arrived in Crowley with five pioneer sisters to begin teaching the children. St. Michael Church served as both school and church. The classrooms were on the first floor of the building located on the corner of Avenue F and Hutchinson and the second floor was used exclusively for religious services. In September of 1900 St. Michael School began classes.
In 1902 additional land was purchased on Block 79 and construction began on the convent. Mother Clementine became the first Reverend Mother of the new convent in that same year. The beginning was difficult for the sisters, but with the help of the people in the parish, the school was able to survive and grow. A boarding school was opened to increase enrollment and to accommodate children whose families lived in the country. The curriculum was very similar to those offered in the finest schools in Europe. The school grew steadily and in 1925 St. Michael High School became a state approved high school. At that time the school was recognized for having one of the finest libraries in the state of Louisiana.
The Right Reverend Monsignor George Mollo was appointed Pastor of St. Michael’s Parish. He endeared himself by his kind ways to all the people, young and old. He built a well-planned, beautiful, two-story brick building for the children of his parish. The new school was built on the corner of Avenue F and Hutchinson Avenue in 1935. This building stands on the site of the original school and church. The pre-kindergarten through third grade students attended class in the building each day through May, 2005.
Monsignor Mollo resigned in 1951 due to failing health. The Most Reverend Maurice Schexnayder, Auxiliary Bishop of Lafayette, became the new pastor. He found a track of land large enough to build a new St. Michael High School. The high school students and the eighth grade students moved into the new facility in October of 1954. Notre Dame High School of Acadia Parish began in 1967. St. Michael was one of the parishes who helped to form this consolidated high school. As a result of this consolidation, St. Michael School on Avenue F and Hutchinson Avenue became a kindergarten through seventh grade facility.
During the 1979-80 school year St. Michael School moved grades fourth through eighth into a new school facility built on Northern Avenue. The Hutchinson Avenue site remained a kindergarten through third grade school. In 1984 ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the new multi-purpose facility on the East Campus. The facility was to be the home for a gym, computer lab, band room, stage, and other classroom facilities. The third grade classes were moved to the East Campus in 1985 when the school year began. A pre-kindergarten class was added to the West Campus in 1986. The third grade students were moved back to the West Campus for the 1994-95 school year.
In 1985 St. Michael Elementary School was recognized by the United States Department of Education as one of 272 outstanding elementary schools in the United States. Thirty-five of the schools were Catholic schools and two were from the Diocese of Lafayette. The school received the recognition in special ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Sixty-two students and fourteen teachers and parent chaperons traveled to Washington for the ceremonies and were present when Secretary of Education, William Bennett, presented the Excellence in Education flag to the school. On September 12, 1986, a special Mass and celebration were held in Crowley and the school received the award from the United States Department of Education.
In June of 1991 St. Michael School received the first Excellence in Education Award presented by the Diocesan Food Services Department. The school was again recognized by the Diocese with this award in 1999. This award recognized St. Michael School, administrators, faculty, students, parents, and staff for their efforts in working together to provide the children maximum learning through a total school program and enhancement of the curriculum through nutrition awareness and inter-disciplinary units.
In November 1998, Pio Cardinal Laghi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, visited the Diocese of Lafayette. St. Michael School was chosen as a site for the Cardinal to celebrate a liturgy with the Catholic school students in the city of Crowley. This liturgy, celebrated on November 9, 1998, was a historical event in the history of the school.
On October 5, 1999, St. Michael School officially opened its centennial year of celebration. This historical year opened with a liturgy in St. Michael Church marking the occasion. It was attended by faculty, parents, students, alumni, friends, and former teachers in the community. Bishop Edward O’Donnell, Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese, and Bishop Michael Jarrell, Bishop of the Houma – Thibodeaux Diocese, presided at the liturgy. In November of 2000, as the centennial year was coming to a close, the alumni of St. Michael School gathered together for a liturgy of Thanksgiving and a reunion. The event was held on the East Campus and was well attended by alumni of the school.
In 2001 Fr. Louis Richard, Pastor of St. Michael Church Parish, wisely assembled a parish meeting to access the needs of St. Michael Church Parish. The result of that assembly was a Feasibility Study and a Capital Campaign to address the needs of the parish which included consolidation of the East and West Campuses. On June 3, 2004, St. Michael Parish, under the leadership of Pastor Fr. Gary Schexnayder, officially broke ground to begin construction of the new addition which allowed the East and West Campuses to consolidate on the Northern Avenue Campus. It was a historical moment in the 104 year history of the school witnessed by a dedicated group of St. Michael supporters including members of the school board, parish council, the pastor, administrators, faculty, staff, and students.
St. Michael School began classes for the 2005-06 school session on a consolidated campus for the first time in many years. The new facility provided new state-of-the-art Computer and Science Labs, a new Library, Art Room, and classrooms for pre-kindergarten through third grade as well as renovation to the administrative office wing. The new addition was dedicated and blessed on October 11, 2005. Bishop Michael Jarrell, Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese, presided at the Liturgy of Thanksgiving celebrated by the school community. The mass was con-celebrated by Chancellor and Pastor, Father Gary Schexnayder, and former pastor, Father Louis Richard. Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Lafayette, Anna Larriviere, and Principal, Myra Broussard, also addressed the group of students, parents, alumni, parishioners, and friends gathered together for the celebration.
In the fall of 2005, St. Michael School opened its doors and welcomed over 50 additional students into the school as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
In March of 2006, St. Michael School was awarded Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Accreditation by a peer review team that visited the school. The assessment culminated a three year process of self evaluation and reflection by the administration, faculty, staff and parents. The school officially received the designation in ceremonies in December of 2006. Principal, Myra L. Broussard, and SACS Steering Committee Chairmen, Sandi Dore’ and Karen Spaetgens, traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to the SACS-CASI conference to receive the official designation and flag for the school.
In May of 2006 a monument was dedicated on the campus to house the time capsules of the school. The monument was blessed in special ceremonies and was a gift from the 1987 and the 2002-2005 eighth grade classes. The time capsule was opened for the first time in 2012, twenty-five years after the initial one was buried. Celebrations were held to mark the event.
In March of 2008 a large playground was funded, designed and built by the parents of St. Michael School. It was blessed by Chancellor, Fr. Gary Schexnayder. The playground project fulfilled a goal of the PTO-Angel Parent Network.
St. Michael School community celebrated its 110 years of service to the Crowley community during the 2009-2010 school session. The alumni gathered together for a reunion on campus in April of 2010.
On May 13, 2013, the 96th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s appearance at Fatima, the grotto in her honor was blessed on campus. The grotto is a gift of our grandparents in 2011 and the Knights of Columbus Council 1318. The rosary prayer garden, a gift of one of our families, was blessed by Fr. Mikel Polson, Pastor of St. Michael Church, in the presence of students, faculty and guest.
Due to the hard work of many involved in our success throughout the years, St. Michael School continues to offer an exceptional education while keeping up-to date with all best practices in education and technology. We remain grounded in our Catholic beliefs while promoting and instilling the four pillars of our rich tradition: faith, scholarship, leadership and service and will continue to serve our school community for years to come.