100 Years of Catholic Education!

Sacred Heart Cathedral School and Cardinal Gibbons High School celebrate their centennials

By Rich Reece / Pictures by Denmark Photo & Video

Q: How is an institution like a person? A: An institution has a character and personality that can influence the individuals around it.

Q: How is an institution different from a person? A: At an advanced age, say 100, an institution can be stronger and more vigorous than at any previous time in its life.

If you answered both questions correctly, perhaps you already know something about the history of Sacred Heart Cathedral Parochial School and Cardinal Gibbons High School (CGHS) in Raleigh. As both institutions celebrate their centennials this year, they also celebrate the men and women whose faith and character they have formed, and the vitality with which they continue to expand and enrich their ministries.

They celebrate as well the special conviction that has always been at the center of Catholic education. Bishop Eugene J. McGuinness expressed it at his Silver Jubilee in 1943, when the world was at war. “We stand for parochial education,” he said, “because we feel religious training is a vital part of instruction. A wider vision of God is necessary. Our very world troubles today, in which we see brother fighting brother, and nation against nation, are caused by a dethronement of thought. Religion forgotten, greed and selfishness hold sway.”

Today, in a world where greed and selfishness are still rampant, Jason Curtis, the Principal of CGHS, puts it this way: “We want our graduates to know that God loves them and has called them to love others, and that this knowledge inspires them to use the gifts that God has given them in the service and leadership of their Church and community. We want them to understand that they have a great responsibility to those around them, and that by using their gifts they are giving glory to God.”

The stories of Sacred Heart and Cardinal Gibbons are examples of the broader story of Catholicism in North Carolina, and their themes are the same: perseverance, solidarity and hope in times of hardship. Alumna Ann Hall Marshall, who graduated with three other students in 1938, says the most important lesson she learned in high school was this: “You do the best with what you have.” That spirit was still strong when Frank Prevo, Class of ’57, attended high school. “A lesson I have never forgotten, he says, “is that one can accomplish much with little. I vividly remember the words of our principal, Sister M. Rose Imelda, O.P., when the students mentioned it would really be nice if our school had a gymnasium and a football field. She said that we may not have a gymnasium, football field, or facilities like other schools, but our textbooks are as good or better! We laughed, made do with what we had and never stopped daydreaming. Just look at us now!”

Certainly there have been times in the history of both schools when the only reason to continue was that it was important to the Church and important to the families in Raleigh who wanted their children to have a Catholic education. Mrs. Marshall remembers 1934, when the high school graduated just one student, who almost missed the ceremony after being quarantined for measles. John Ruocchio graduated from CGHS in 1983, and remembers that “It was a very close environment. We were family. There was not much money at the school and sweat or family ‘equity’ was often used to accomplish tasks.”

Frank Prevo agrees and elaborates, “Not only was the school cohesive but it was also inclusive. My class (1957) became the first integrated class to graduate. I believe we may have been the first school in North Carolina to do so. We were a place where everyone mattered.”

Today, that attitude includes those outside the schools as well as “family.” CGHS senior Abigail Bouchon says CGHS helped foster her passion for volunteering. “When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005,” she says, “I didn’t quite know what I could do to help; only that I wanted to help. It was the first time that I had felt like I could make a difference. A teacher at Gibbons recognized this desire in me and introduced me to a service event called the Box-a-Thon, where students live the life of a homeless teenager for 24 hours and raise money for disaster relief in New Orleans. The experience was incredible, and my initial desire to help others turned into a passion for volunteering, fueled by Gibbons’ active outreach program and the continual support of teachers. Now as a senior I’m leading the Box-a-Thon, and this year we had 42 student participants raise over $15,000 for local charities.”

Encouragement to service starts in the early grades. Last year Cathedral School representatives visited its sister school in San Ramòn, Nicaragua, to express friendship with the children of that parish. Cathedral School collected small toys and distributed them to a grateful group of school children and their siblings.

As Sacred Heart and Cardinal Gibbons turn 100, both schools look confidently toward a future of working to keep Catholic education accessible to the families who are committed to it, while building on a tradition of educational excellence.

CGHS Principal Jason Curtis hopes this anniversary will garner the attention of families throughout the Diocese. “I would like people to be open to becoming more involved with our school,” he says, “even if they don’t have children attending. To be a part of the events, and then committed to participating in the vibrant life of our school. It is our Diocesan commitment that will help ensure the future of our school.”

Mrs. Donna Moss, Principal of Cathedral School, points to the school motto: “At Cathedral, we love God, learning and each other.”

“It is a great responsibility to raise children in our Catholic faith,” she says. “We take this very seriously and make every effort each day to weave our Catholic identity into instruction and our interactions with each other. We expect it to be obvious that our students have spent time with us, and we hope that the ‘Cathedral Experience’ will remain with them for a lifetime.”

Highlights of 100 Years

1879 Fr. James White purchases the Pulaski-Cowper Mansion on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. The house becomes rectory, parish office and, with the construction of a chapel on the east side of the house, church for Sacred Heart Parish.

1909 Sacred Heart Academy, staffed by four Dominican Sisters of Newburgh, NY, opens its doors to approximately 50 students, grades 1-9. The school is housed in the mansion. Students attend classes on the first floor. The upper floors serve as convent and dormitory.

1912 The original three ninth graders, later identified as Mrs. Graham Andrews, Mr. William Keyes and Mrs. Herman Wolff -- graduate from high school in a ceremony at the old Raleigh opera house.

1918-19 Due to the worldwide flu epidemic, Sacred Heart closes its doors for the school year.

1924 First Mass celebrated in the new Sacred Heart Church, named three months later as the Cathedral for the newly erected Diocese of Raleigh. Sacred Heart Academy is renamed The Cathedral School.

1927 A new granite convent is built on Edenton Street, allowing space for Cathedral School to expand.

1935 The Pulaski-Cowper Mansion is torn down and construction begins on the new granite school. During the transition, classes are relocated to rooms at the First Baptist Church at S. Wilmington and Salisbury Streets.

1936 The new school is completed. The high school is on the third floor.

1939 The school receives state accreditation.

1947 A front wing is added to the school to accommodate a library and cafeteria.

1948 The school colors, maroon and gold for the last ten years, are changed to green and gold, the colors of Cardinal Gibbons High School today.

1953 Bishop Vincent S. Waters decrees that all racial segregation in Catholic parishes, programs and institutions should cease.

1954 Cathedral School becomes the first integrated school in North Carolina by admitting St. Monica grade school students to its high school.

1957 The Cathedral School population threatens to outgrow the building. Boosters begin raising money for a new school for grades 10-12. (Grade 9 was considered junior high in those days.)

1961 Bishop Waters moves the Diocesan offices to the Nazareth Orphanage property on Western Boulevard to make more room for Cathedral’s growth as a K-9 school.

1962 Bishop Waters dedicates the new high school on the Nazareth property as Cardinal Gibbons Memorial High School. The Dominican Sisters agree to continue staffing the high school. Religion classes are taught by Diocesan priests attached to the school.

1967 St. Monica students are fully incorporated into Cathedral School. The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who have staffed St. Monica, join the Dominican Sisters to maintain full religious staffing at Cathedral.

1970 The Dominicans depart the high school. Four Sisters of Notre Dame in Chardon, OH, form the nucleus of a new faculty-staff at Cardinal Gibbons.

1980 Bishop F. Joseph Gossman appoints a long-range planning board to study the future of Cardinal Gibbons High School.

1991 Cathedral School adds an all-day pre-Kindergarten program.

1994 The Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, NY, assume leadership at CGHS, and agree to manage the school through its next phase of growth.

1995 Bishop Gossman approves the building of a new school to accommodate more than 800 students in grades 9-12 on land just off of Trinity Road.

1999 The new CGHS is completed and the first school year begins with 760 students.

2006 Leadership of CGHS is turned over to Principal Jason Curtis and two Assistant Principals.

2007 Two more Assistant Principals are appointed, including the appointment by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Fr. Scott McCue as Assistant Principal for Spiritual Life.

2007 Cathedral School receives the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award for the second time.

Ann Hall Marshall, ‘38

When Ann Hall graduated in 1938, she was the only one of her four-member class who purchased a class ring. That ring became her gift to Cardinal Gibbons High School on the occasional of its centennial. “I loved my high school years,” she recalls. “We knew everyone and we loved the nuns. No one ever complained about what we didn’t have.”

Today, Mrs. Marshall lives in Emmitsburg, MD, and is an aspiring novelist working on her second book and looking for a publisher for her first novel, a “Catholic romance” entitled Crooked Lines..