La Salette Academy
La Salette Academy was the first academy established in the Diocese. In response to the request of Bishop Carrell in 1855 for Sisters for the city of Covington, to open an academy and to take charge of the Cathedral school, the Council of the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth met in special session, February 29, 1856, to make final deliberations on the colony of Sisters to be sent to Covington. Sister Clare Gardiner was appointed Superior of six Sisters assigned to pen an academy and to assume charge of the Cathedral Parish School for girls. The band of Sisters of Charity, consisting of Sister Clare, Superior, Sister Marcellus, Sister Delphine, Sister Cornelia, Sister Helena, and Sister Mary Catherine arrived in Covington in March, 1856. The Sisters’ convent and the new academy were housed in a small two-story brick house on “The Commons,” at the present site of Seventh and Greenup Streets. The building had six rooms with three additional rooms in the basement. For a number of years, the Sisters attended the Cathedral on Eighth Street for divine services.
At the direction of Bishop Carrell the Covington Academy was named Our Lady of La Salette, in honor of the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette, France, which at the time was winning many devotees to Our Lady. La Salette Academy opened in the fall of 1856. Sixteen families were registered as patrons of the new school. The next year the enrollment had more than doubled itself. At the same time (1857), Sisters from La Salette Academy began to travel daily to Newport to teach at their new Immaculata Academy in that city and at the parish school of Immaculate Conception Church.
Succeeding Sister Clare as Superior were Sister Alice, Sister Cleophas and Sister Estelle. In 1879 Sister Lauretta Meagher became Superior of La Salette, which office she held for thirty-three years, until 1912, when her sight began to fail and she was obliged to lay aside her charge. Her administration constitutes an important chapter in the history of the development of La Salette Academy. As a Sister of Charity, in 1862 her first assignment had been in Louisville to nurse the soldiers in the military hospitals during the Civil War. She was later assigned to St. Catherine Academy in Lexington. When Sister Lauretta came to Covington in 1879, the little brick house where the original foundation had been started twenty-three years previously was still serving as the academy and Sisters’ residence. When the new Cathedral on Madison Avenue was opened, Sister Lauretta realized that the distance would be too difficult for the household and she decided to have a Chapel within the convent building. She made a request to Bishop Maes for a Chaplain, and through her efforts the Sisters enjoyed their own Chapel.
From the beginning the curriculum included fine arts and useful arts, with music, sewing and embroidering courses being offered. La Salette Academy soon met the requirements for a complete high school course and a charter was obtained from the State Department of Education. The first diploma was awarded in 1884, Miss Nan Ronan being the recipient of that honor.
Having secured title to the property, and with permission obtained in 1886 from the Nazareth Motherhouse to build a new school building, the Sisters of La Salette witnessed the erection of a new school which, when completed the following year, provided room and opportunity for developing an academy of the highest type. The more spacious quarters immediately brought increased enrollment, which necessitated additions to the teaching staff. With a larger staff came the need of a larger house for the Sisters. Accordingly, in 1903, a third story was added to the school and a permanent convent established for the Sisters. On March 25, 1903, the present three-story brick residence was completed. The new convent became the residence for about thirty Sisters, including the faculty of La Salette, and the teaching bands of St. Mary Cathedral and St. Patrick Parish Schools in Covington, and St. James Parish School in Ludlow. Sister Lauretta kept the Academy abreast of the times and modern in every way. In 1906 an active and loyal Alumnae Society, which later became affiliated with the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae, was organized to foster the spirit of La Salette and exercise a beneficent influence in the school and civic life of Covington. After a long administration, Sister Lauretta relinquished the duties at La Salette.
Sister Aime, who succeeded Sister Lauretta, continued the tradition of her predecessor. Additional property was acquired for the expansion of the Academy. On September 19, 1913, the patronal feast of the Academy, Bishop Maes unveiled and dedicated the Carrara marble statue of Our Lady of La Salette, sculptured in Italy and purchased through the contributions of students and friends. After being in charge of the institution for about a year, Sister Aime was succeeded by Sister Columba Fox, the former pupil of Sister Lauretta at St. Catherine Academy in Lexington. Sister Columba was preeminently an educator. She supervised the plans for the Academy’s affiliation with the Catholic University of America, which were executed on January 6, 1920. She likewise fostered the organization of the La Salette Unit of the Catholic Students’ Mission Crusade, as a Charter member.
On July 23, 1923, during the superintendency of Sister Mary Evarista, the Academy was accredited by the Kentucky State Department of Education. The same year the Parent-Teacher organization began to function and to offer valuable assistance to the Sisters. Succeeding Superiors continued the spiritual, educational and cultural program of the Academy. The high school curriculum was rounded out in the fall of 1930 with the opening of a department of home economics during the administration of Sister Angela. In December, 1930, the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools granted membership to the Academy with a Class “A” rating, which rating La Salette Academy has received annually since its affiliation. In June, 1931, the Diamond Jubilee of the Academy and the Silver Jubilee of the Alumnae Association were observed with a three-day celebration. By 1931 the expansion of school facilities was a necessity and in that year plans were drawn up for the erection of a building on the adjoining property on Greenup Street. The new building was to house the high school, home economics and commercial departments, and a cafeteria. The financial depression delayed the immediate building of the high school. On December 27, 1939, the three-story brick building of Georgian style was blessed by Reverend Walter A. Freiberg, Pastor of St. Mary Cathedral Parish.
La Salette is nearing a century of service in the city of Covington. It has brought to the episcopal city the educational ideals of Most Reverend John Baptist David and Mother Catherine Spalding.
excerpted from History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan