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Our History

Adapted from “St. Charles Borromeo: 200 Years of Faith” by Jo Ann Brown  

In 1818 when Mother Philippine Duchesne was in St. Charles, Missouri to start a school it was a small town with a log cabin that was used for religious gatherings. Her school only lasted a few years before Mother Duchesne and her fellow nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart realized they did not have the resources to stay. Just one year after opening the school the nuns left for Florissant and by 1820 the small log cabin church was barely functioning due to lack of missionaries.

In 1823 Jesuit missionaries were sent to revive the church and, under their administration, a stone church was built and in 1828 the Jesuits opened one of the first Parish Schools west of the Mississippi. When the school was opened it was built out of logs salvaged from the original log cabin church. The structure housed 30 boys who learned catechism, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Later that same year the sisters of the Sacred Heart returned to St. Charles and opened the parish school for girls.

Between 1851 and 1893 both the boys and girls Parish school outgrew their accommodations several times, requiring the Jesuits to build large buildings to house the many students enrolling each year. Up until 1893 the Sisters of the Sacred Heart taught parish students but in 1893 the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross took over the education of the parish boys and girls and by 1895 the Parish boys and girls were being taught in the same building. In 1909 the Parish Convent was topped with a third story to hold four more classrooms to again make space for the growing number of students.

In 1915 the brick St. Charles Borromeo Church  was razed to the ground (except the tower) by the Tupelo Tornado. While the construction of the current church building was ongoing the Parish school held many church functions.  

The year 1932 saw an abrupt and sad farewell to the Loretto sisters who had taught the children of Borromeo for so many years. The Loretto Sisters were replaced by The School Sisters of Notre Dame who brought a permanent music program to the school. In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the parishioners of St. Charles Borromeo helped repair the school, which was in need of renovation. Many of the Jesuits were sick at the time and the Parishioners lent a hand for free. Thanks to the Parishioners help the school stayed in working condition until 1934 when the school was able to afford renovations including extra classrooms to accommodate the 280 students.

The 1940s and 50s were very similar for the Borromeo school children. The girls wore uniforms, boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the classroom and played in separate areas, there were very few lay instructors, primarily nuns, and many Borromeo students going on to attend high school and college. In 1951 the school purchased a projector on which the students watched cycling and swimming safety videos. Between 1950-1957 enrollment grew from 325 to 556 students and the school started hiring lay teachers for a more permanent solution. Enrollment was so high Borromeo outgrew their building again. Overflow classes were held in different areas such as the convent and the loft above the parish garage.

In 1957 the Jesuits, who had been the administrators of the St. Charles Borromeo Parish and School since 1823, left to help other needier Parishes and Schools. Their departure surprised the congregation who would now have diocesan priests oversee Borromeo. The new pastor, Father Owens, quickly set in motion the construction of a new building for the ever growing school. The new building was completed in November of 1958 and the bell of the old school rang for the last time on November 17th, 1958.

The new building seemed to only encourage enrollment further and during 1964-65 and 65-66 school years 817 students enrolled with an average student to teacher ratio of 50:1. The numbers later dropped after that but continued to press the resources of the parish.

In the 1970s and 80s saw many changes and growth in Borromeo School. The Dyer family funded the building of a gymnasium which was finished and dedicated by Bishop Wurm in 1979. Many new programs were started including Kindergarten, Speech Club, Yearbook, and Student Council.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame became less involved in Borromeo and in 1998 the last Notre Dame principal left the school. The last Sister of Notre Dame to teach at St. Charles Borromeo was Sister Maggi Judge who passed away the week before school started in 2019, just a few weeks before her 65th  birthday.

Since 1828 St. Charles Borromeo School has been impacting the lives of children and preparing them spiritually, emotionally, and cognitively to go out into the world and spread the gospel. 

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