It is a custom to celebrate milestone anniversaries and Sacred Heart High School will celebrate the milestone of its 75th anniversary Saturday when it hosts an all-school reunion to mark its founding.
“World War I had opened the community to the world and possibilities there were out there,” David Dick, President of the Sacred Heart Alumni Association, said. “Sacred Heart had a first through eighth grade school for 60 years prior to the founding of the high school.
“The trustees, under the guidance of the Rev. A.J. Brunswick, realized that there was a need for something to prepare the students for the world and their futures,” he added. “They truly were visionaries who took a leap of faith when they decided to move forward with the high school.”
After beginning to emerge from the depths of the Great Depression, a decision was made in 1941 to establish a Catholic High School in Sedalia.
Originally named the Sedalia Catholic High School, Sacred Heart as it became known, registered its first freshman class of 27 students Sept. 8, 1941.
“The founders built the school a grade at a time both physically and literally,” Dick commented. “There was plenty of space but it had to be reconfigured to create the needed classrooms and facilities.
“Most of the work was done by local workers whose children would later become some of the first graduates of the high school,” he added. “Some of them may not have been rich monetarily but they had the time and were willing to use sweat equity to do the things that needed to be done.”
Shirley (Wiemholt) Schieberl, one of the members of the first freshman class of SHS, kept a diary in which she recorded her thoughts on her four years at the school.
“First day of school began with a High Mass celebrated by Fr. A.J. Brunswick, C.P.P.S., pastor,” Schieberl wrote. “Our teacher, Sister Mary Rosetta, congratulated us as the pioneer members who would be the first to recount the history of this day at our commencement in 1945.
“Sister explained the real purpose of high school education and then explained the meaning of three Latin mottoes on the chalkboard, which we were to understand and live,” she continued. “We chose ‘Simper Fidelis’ as our class motto.”
Schieberl continued in her diary listing the classes taught the first year as Latin, English, civics, algebra, singing, and health.
She added that Sister Simplicia visited the class and gave a “fitting talk on how to climb the mountain of life by getting a firm start.”
The school year progressed, when three months after the start of school America entered World War II on Dec. 7, 1941.
“Bombing of Pearl Harbor — beginning of World War II,” Schieberl wrote Dec. 8.
It was in part because of WWII that the school chose its mascot, the Gremlin.
“At the time gremlins were well-known, especially among U.S. and British WWII pilots, as playful and meddlesome troublemakers,” explained Liz Suter-Van Leer, Development Director for the Sacred Heart Foundation. “Aviators would blame plane malfunctions on these mythical and mischievous aerial pixies.
“In the Nov. 16, 1942, issue of Life magazine, five pages were devoted to the gremlins, stating, ‘although gremlins exist only to make trouble for fliers, fliers still have warm feelings for them,’” she added. “For the Sacred Heart School students, the Gremlin was personal; the Gremlin was patriotic.”
The war effort at home also established a SHS tradition that continues 75 years later, a commitment to service and giving back to the community.
“One backbone of Sacred Heart is the foundation of our family and faith traditions,” Dick said. “The school was built on our Catholic foundations and our tradition of education also centers on that belief.”
Seventy years prior to Dick’s comments, Schieberl wrote the following after the first commencement at Sacred Heart in 1945.
“Bishop O’Hara stated in his talk that religion, taught in conjunction with economic, art and other subjects, gives the students a coordinated knowledge which enables them to go forth into the world, better able to take their place as good citizens,” Schieberl wrote. “A student enters high school as a child, he said and leaves it as an adult.
“If they do not have their religious training during their high school years, they have advanced in general knowledge, with only a child’s training in religion and it is not a well-balanced education.”
Providing a well-balanced education for all the students of the school is what Sacred Heart has dedicated itself to maintaining in the future.
“What started with a leap of faith has led to a remarkable 75-year history for Sacred Heart School. Steadfast faith and determination from our priests, parishioners and community has helped us survive and thrive, ” Principal Dr. Gary Manning said. “We are the beneficiaries of this perseverance and are most grateful.
“We honor our past by living out our mission: to nurture the spiritual, emotional and academic growth of each student and to help them become productive Christian citizens,” he added. “Recent changes we’ve made to better live out this mission include the adoption of high school uniforms, shifting from a senior trip to a mission-focused trip and the implementation of Play Like A Champion Today — a national coach and parent education program designed specifically to elevate the culture of Catholic school-sponsored sports.”
More than 2,100 alumni have laid the foundation for future generations of graduates as many of the current students are fourth-generation family members of the first 27 students.
“Our students consistently fall well above state averages in academics and graduation rates. We hold eight state-champion titles in sports — a feat very few schools have achieved. But the heart of what we do is our mission. There may not be a trophy, but to have our graduates become positive members of the community and for them to credit SHS for helping them become the person they are today … that is the greatest reward.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.