9:00am Morning Praise at the Leavenworth Landing.
9:30am A Special Gathering at Immaculate Conception Church, site of the first school. Coffee, hot chocolate, freshly baked cinnamon rolls along with entertainment by Xavier students.
10:30am The Gospel Message in Song & Prayer on the front portico of Immaculata High School.
This is a compilation of information from the histories kept by the local Catholic churches, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and Xavier and Immaculata Catholic Schools, as well as articles in the Leavenworth Times.
150 Years of Catholic education in Leavenworth
Immaculate Conception “Old Cathedral” Grade School Founded 1858
Saint Joseph Grade School Founded 1859
Sacred Heart Grade School Founded 1870
Saint Ignatius Grade School (Ft. Leavenworth) Founded 1870
Holy Epiphany School Founded 1878
Saint Casimir Grade School Founded 1897
Catholic High School Founded 1913
Immaculata High School 1924-Present
Xavier Elementary 1979-Present
In 1858, Mother Xavier Ross, another early pioneer and namesake of the multi-campus Catholic grade school system, led 12 nuns to Leavenworth from Nazareth, Kentucky. She chose this city as the home of The Sisters of Charity Leavenworth. In a matter of days after they arrived, the Sisters of Charity took over the Cathedral school from a Jesuit brother who was teaching a school for boys. There was growth of the parishes in North Leavenworth. The Carmelites at St. Joseph’s pressured Mother Xavier to send them Sisters and a school was started. The Parish was pre-dominantly German and Sisters of Charity provided two bi-lingual teachers.
Many black families were arriving in free territory and among them many children. The Sisters of Charity began a small school on Saturday for the children and held classes on Sunday for the parents. By 1866 the Sisters had rented another house which became the school for the black children. Segregation was a way of life. Ten years later when Holy Epiphany Parish was established, that little school was transferred to the church basement. There the Sisters taught, for years walking to and from the convent on Kickapoo St. to the school on Sixth and Pottawatomie. In 1888 Reverend Martin Huhn, pastor of the Holy Epiphany Church for Negroes, wrote to the mother superior of the Oblate Order of the Sisters of Providence in 1888 requesting “sisters be sent to the plains of Kansas” because of the “plight of the orphans is urgent.” One Oblate Sister arrived in 1888 to assume charge of the parish school and others followed later.
In 1870 Sacred Heart School and St. Ignatius School were staffed. The Sisters of Charity had added teaching at the Sacred Heart School in 1870 in a small two room building. They walked every day from on Kickapoo and 5th and then back regardless of weather. Other schools were also staffed. In 1870 the Sisters began teaching at St. Ignatius School at the Fort. Sometimes they went by what they called ‘cars’ but more often the ambulance called for them. The Sisters from the Felician community in Chicago came to Leavenworth and in 1897 and opened St. Casimir School for the parish children of Polish heritage.
Catholic High School was founded in the early 1900s and the Sisters of Charity staffed the school from its humble beginnings. A ninth grade was opened in Cathedral School in 1909 with twenty-three enrolled. All subjects were taught in one room; Latin, English, History, Algebra and Physiography, with Father coming to teach Religion. Two years later it was thought the high school would close, but the Sisters carried on with only four students and the next year the enrollment overflowed the top floor, crowding the grade school unbelievably. The first class graduated in 1913. In 1923 the cornerstone of Immaculata was laid.
Over time St. Ignatius and Holy Epiphany Schools closed. In 1979, the grade schools at each of the four Leavenworth Catholic Churches (Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, Sacred Heart and St. Casimir) were consolidated into the Xavier Elementary School. The Early Childhood Center was established in 1986 to provide pre-school education for three to five year-olds. Immaculata and Xavier consolidated in 1998 to form the Leavenworth Regional Catholic School System (LCRSS).
“It (the history of the Sisters of Charity in building the schools) all sounds so matter of fact in the telling, but it wasn’t, you know. There were unbelievable needs, appalling hardships, but at the same time, there was a compelling trust in divine providence and there was an overwhelming generosity from the area Catholics.”
-- Talk given by Sister Mary Seraphine Sheehan, SCL on November 11, 1986
Xavier & Immaculata today
In 1979 our parish schools were consolidated into Xavier Elementary School. Many of us, as parents of current students, remember well our time at St. Joseph School, Immaculate Conception School, Sacred Heart School or St. Casimir School. Our children will have a different memory, but one never the less steeped in Catholic tradition. Each parish spiritually and generously supports their Xavier school. Our priests celebrate Mass for our children and spend time with them. Parishes direct and care for our buildings and grounds. At the same time, our children have very dedicated teachers and administrators supervising their learning. They come away with a sense of pride in their school. They come away with a sense of community. They graduate from Xavier and Immaculata with a strong academic background, an awareness of the importance of serving others, and a solid faith foundation.
--Mike Connelly, Principal, Immaculata High School