Educating through Christ since 1876
In 1832, at the invitation of Bishop Neckere, Bishop of New Orleans, and Father Boutelou de Saint Aubin of Paincourtville, Rev. Mother Therese of the Cross Chevrel, first Superior General of the Sisters of Mount Carmel in Louisiana, accompanied by Sister Augustine Cler, left France for America.
Bishop Neckere, unbeknownst to the Sisters, had died two days before their departure from France. Upon their arrival in New Orleans on November 1, 1833, Bishop Antoine Blanc, who had replaced Bishop Neckere, greeted the Sisters and then sent them on to Plattenville, where they opened their first school in 1834 for girls on a tract of land donated to the Diocese of New Orleans by Father Bernardo de Deva for a seminary.
On March 27, 1838, the Sisters closed their school in Plattenville to open a school for free Negro girls in New Orleans and to make way for the St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Plattenville.
After establishing their two of three schools in New Orleans, they branched off into Lafayette, Thibodaux, Algiers, New Iberia, St. Charles (Lafourche Parish), and St. John (Lafourche Parish) before establishing the Mt. Carmel Convent in Paincourtville in 1876.
In 1876, Father Jean Baptiste La Saichere, pastor of St. Elizabeth Church, wrote to Reverend Mother Therese of the order of Mt. Carmel in New Orleans, asking that she send sisters to teach the young girls of Paincourtville. Rev. Mother agreed to do this.
Prior to the sisters’ arrival, St. Elizabeth Church purchased a track of land from the Aladin Dupres family for a convent and school. The house on the purchased property was converted into the convent and school.
The sisters arrived on May 10, 1876, to open St. Elizabeth School, a boarding and day school for young ladies. The sisters were received with open arms by the happy parishioners of Paincourtville.
The first Superior of the school was Mother Alix La Croix who was accompanied by her faculty of four sisters: Sister Antonio Colombo, Sister Denis Bourg, Sister du Crucifix Laine, and Sister Xavier Olier.
Thirty-nine girls registered for the very first session. Within a year it became apparent that the school, opened first in a converted home, was no longer large enough to accommodate the growing enrollment of an additional twenty-four girls. Therefore, in 1877 an imposing two-story building was erected from funds raised by a fair held by the parishioners. The first fair raised $2,000 and a second fair met with the same success.
Important later developments were the building of a concrete walk connecting the bottom floors of the two buildings and an elevated walk connecting the two upper floors.
In 1912, at the request of Father Branche, then pastor of St. Elizabeth Church, Rev. Mother opened a school for boys in Paincourtville. A small wooden building belonging to the church was moved to a corner of the church property one block away from the school on church property. Upon closing of the boys’ school about 1917, St. Elizabeth School became co-educational.
Between 1927-1930, the sisters’ quarters were moved to the upper floor, since this floor was no longer being used for a dormitory. The boarding school, which existed at the founding of the school, had been closed. Small wooden buildings were used for additional classrooms, and the Woodman of the World Hall was also available for classrooms and plays.
In 1937, through the dedication of Mother Borgia, the intercession of St. Martin de Porres, and the hard work of the parishioners, the sum of $1,100 was raised to build a two-classroom wing to the main building. Part of that very wing is in use today as a library.
In 1947, a gym-auditorium was built by the people of the parish aided by machinery and equipment of Dugas and LeBlance at Westfield Plantatiion.
The present lunchroom was added to the rear of the gym in 1956 and children ate in the new cafeteria for the first time on September 4, 1956.
In 1964, because the sisters could no longer afford to maintain and adequately staff the existing buildings, the school was sold to the Diocese of Baton Rouge, under the leadership of Bishop Robert E. Tracy. Thus St. Elizabeth Interparochial School had begun, serving the parishes of St. Elizabeth, St. Anne, St. Jules, St. Benedict the Moor and the Church of the Assumption. After the closing of St. Philomena School in 2005, St. Elizabeth Interparochial School began serving St. Philomena parish as well.
The Diocese then directed the building of the modern brick building which is in use today. Unfortunately, the two-story wooden building could not be saved. The formal dedication of the new school was on May 9, 1965. Mother Mechtilde was the principal at this time and Father Robert Mylie became the local superintendent of the new interparochial school system. Since that time, an addition has been made to the lunchroom and a new kitchen and storage room is being enjoyed by both staff and students.
A modular building was purchased in 1998 to serve as a computer lab. In 2006, a double modular building was added for the pre-k and kindergarten classes.
Although the sisters of Mt. Carmel staffed the school until 1974, they no longer administered it due to a shortage of sisters. The first lay principal was Mark Bergeron. The sisters of Mt. Carmel then left St. Elizabeth School in the hands of lay teachers and principals in 1986. There were simply no more sisters available to send to Paincourtville. However, since that time, every effort has been made to fill the void left by the sisters. The spiritual example which they set during their years at St. Elizabeth has been the model for staff and faculty alike and will continue to be in the years to come. In 2005, Father Jason Labbe’, pastor of St. Elizabeth Church, was instrumental in getting sisters back into the school. Three Carmelite sisters of the Congregation of Mother of Carmel in India began serving both the school and church parish. St. Elizabeth School owes its very existence to the generosity of many giving and dedicated people, and especially the protective love of Our Lord.