Sacred Heart School in Loretto was founded in 1872. It’s the traditions that have been established over nearly150 years that so closely tie the community to the school.
“Our mission statement affirms that we will pass on the truth of the faith and knowledge of God’s word on to the next generation,” said Shelly Stepp, the principal at Sacred Heart, as well as an graduate. To that effect, Sacred Heart, Stepp said, “has continued its cherished traditions, such as our Christmas play, for which the seventh and eighth grade made (small) stained-glass windows, which are still on display in our lobby.”
In another popular activity every year, Stepp said, “The fifth graders make small, 30-page Thanksgiving and Easter booklets for the elderly in our community, and then the students go door-to-door delivering them.”
“I would also say that what keeps the school going is our families’ love of these same traditions,” said Stepp, who returned to Sacred Heart as a teacher in 2010 and added the duties of principal in August 2018.
Standing beside the school’s traditions is its reputation for academic excellence.
“Academically speaking, we keep marching on,” Stepp said. “There are Google Chrome applications in every classroom, and all the grades work at some type of scientific experiment or other.”
The principal noted that Sacred Heart “has placed high several times in the County Knowledge Bowl, where two teams of eight students compete four at a time playing against one another.”
“We strive to make sure that our students are ready for high school,” Stepp said, “which in this case is Loretto High School.”
Stepp has benefitted from the traditions and academic excellence at Sacred Heart School as a student, teacher and principal.
“I have taught seventh and eighth grade science, also religion and math, and now teach eighth-grade algebra and fifth-grade math,” Stepp said.
Anthionette Beuerlein, a 1961 graduate of Sacred Heart School who taught at the school for 17 years, taught Stepp when she was in the third and fifth grades and later worked at the school with Stepp. “The school and kids are very blessed to have her,” Beuerlein said. “She relates to the students so well, and always has their interest and attention from the moment she starts speaking to them.”
Since taking over as principal, Stepp has overseen several improvements to the facilities at Sacred Heart.
“A major series of renovations included adding new windows upstairs and downstairs, a paint job for our exterior, and disposing completely of old blinds, all of which totally changed the look of the school,” Stepp said.
The gym also received some overdue attention, and metal siding was replaced where older material had been leaking.
All of these repairs, however, did not change what goes on – academically and spiritually – inside Sacred Heart School, which turns 150 years old in 2022.
At Sacred Heart School, the students attend Mass three days a week, and take turns, their principal said, “planning Mass: first and second grade, then grades three and four, followed by fifth and sixth, then lastly seventh and eighth.”
Most of the students at Sacred Heart are from Sacred Heart Parish in Loretto and St. Joseph Parish in nearby St. Joseph, two of the parishes established for German Catholic settlers in Lawrence County in the 1870s.
“Financially speaking, and this applies to many Catholic schools, we have one of the lowest tuition rates in the diocese,” Stepp said.
But with about 100 students, Sacred Heart is one of the smallest schools in the diocese. “Student enrollment is an area that we constantly struggle in,” Stepp said.
Although Sacred Heart lies about 90 miles south of Nashville, school officials find opportunities for their students to participate with students from other schools in the diocese, Stepp said.
“The Holy Fire event is an annual retreat (held in Nashville) for grades five through eight, which the students enjoy and that brings them closer to their faith,” noted Stepp.