Catholic High School (New Iberia, Louisiana)

Catholic High School of New Iberia, Louisiana, was opened in 1957 by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and is located on De La Salle Drive, a road named after Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, the man who founded the Brothers in 1680. De la Salle, an innovator in the field of education, was canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church on 24th May, 1900, and in 1950 Pope Pius XII declared him to be the Patron Saint of teachers.

The school is a private, coeducational institution which embraces the Roman Catholic tradition, though it welcomes students from all faith communities. As of 2007, the enrolment was 900+ students from 4th-12th grades. The mascot is the panther. The school has membership in the National Catholic Educational Association and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is co-owned by the New Iberia parishes of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Saint Peters, Sacred Heart and Nativity of Our Lady.

Brief History

Until 1957, the school, established in 1918, had been called St.Peter's College, and was situated close to the church of the same name in the centre of New Iberia. The school catered for boys from 4th-12th grade. At the same time as the move to a new campus, the Brothers transferred ownership of the school to the Catholic parishes of the town. New Iberia also had a school for girls, owned and operated by the Sisters of Mount Carmel, who had been present in the town since the middle of the 19th century.

By the late 1980s the number of students at both schools had fallen somewhat, and the Board and owners (the pastors of 4 New Iberia parishes) of Catholic High made the decision to become co-educational, and this took effect with the beginning of the 1987-1988 school year. Due to various circumstances, the Sisters of Mount Carmel decided to close their school at the end of the 1987-1988 school year. After Catholic High became co-educational, the enrollment surged from around 350 to over 900 in one year; this was due, not only to the (roughly 250) girls from Mount Carmel, but also to an influx of over 300 students from state schools. It was ironic that the Catholic High authorities had to lease the former Mount Carmel High school building until an expansion programme had been completed on the De La Salle campus. Conscious of the high esteem in which the Sisters of Mount Carmel were held by the people of New Iberia, the expanded Catholic High later embraced some traditions of that institution, such as the capping of seniors about to graduate, and in 2008 the school changed its crest to incorporate the crown of the Carmelite Order. Once the campus additions had been completed in 1992, the school's chaplain sought to have the well-known statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel transferred to De La Salle Drive, but the Sisters declined. Unfortunately, during that same year Hurricane Andrew caused one of the large oak trees on Mount Carmel's campus to collapse, destroying the statue.

In the 1990s, due to a fall in vocations, the Brothers of the Christian Schools found it necessary to end their time at Catholic High after serving the New Iberia community for many years. Brother Richard Kovatch, the last brother-principal, at the time of leaving, had been the only brother in residence for 3 years.

Innovative School

Within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, Catholic High School came to be seen as something of an innovator in the areas of retreats and community service during the 1980s and 1990s. By 1981 most of its upper level students had begun taking part in an annual retreat, prepared and organised by the students themselves over several months. The 3-day senior retreat, though voluntary, was invariably attended by the whole class. As time progressed, retreats were added for all levels of the upper school (9-12), something which is now taken for granted in Roman Catholic high schools.

Catholic High was unique in the Diocese of Lafayette in that it had a full-time chaplain, Fr. David Coupar, for several years. He and the then principal, Br. Dale Guyote, were instrumental in having the bishop (at the time Harry Flynn) change the policy of the Catholic Schools' Office that any girl found to be pregnant had to leave school. The principal and chaplain were concerned that a girl might seek an abortion rather than reveal her pregnancy and risk having to leave a Catholic school. They also proposed to Bishop Flynn that the Gospel of Christ required compassion, understanding and support at such a time in a girl's life. The bishop, fairly new to the Diocese, was apparently unaware of the policy, and readily agreed to a change. Now any decision to leave rests solely with the girl, her family and her physician. The school was also the first in the Diocese to implement education units (developed by the education office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) on H.I.V. and A.I.D.S. during the early days of the disease when little was known about the illness and prejudice was widespread.

Another way in which Catholic High was seen to lead the field was that it was one of the first Catholic schools to institute a service program. The motto of the school is "Acta non Verba" which means "Actions not Words", and this was the driving force behind the decision in the 1980s to reach out to the most needy members of the wider community. Initially, the program encompassed only those students in high school (freshmen 5 hours, sophomores 10 hours, juniors 15 hours and seniors 25 hours) but it was later extended to include 7th & 8th graders. In the late 1980s, Br.John Fairfax added an important spiritual element to the whole process by establishing the popular Lasallian Youth at the school. Service programs are now a feature of many Catholic high schools.

Catholic High also established a reputation for excellence in the areas of science and mathematics, with its well-attended annual fairs, organised and directed by long-serving faculty member, Dr. Donald Voorhies.

Lasallian School

The website of the Christian Brothers New Orleans-Sante Fe Province lists Catholic High as a Lasallian school. The LaSallian tradition, which reaches as far back as the 17th century, means that Catholic High is called to strive to help students grow in faith through prayer, active participation in their place of worship, together with involvement in the wider community through service to others, particularly to those people most in need.

In the minds of the Brothers "For Lasallian establishments to be the living expression of the Good News, they must be places for dialogue in truth, freedom, and hope."

Therefore, the mission which Catholic High embraces is to educate the whole person, challenging each student to reach his/her fullest potential as a well-round individual who is intellectually competent, open to growth, religious/spiritual, loving, and committed to doing justice through generous service to the People of God. Education at CHS aims to integrate a student's faith with knowledge, and to encourage everyone to apply both in improving the world in which they live.

Recent Years

Since the dramatic enrollment increase of late 1980s, Catholic High has maintained its numbers, and continued the expansion of its campus. There are new classrooms, a new cafeteria and library, a renovated gymnasium, a new campus chapel and every student (4-12) now takes part in a retreat each year (as do faculty members). As required by the Diocese of Lafayette, the school operates a non-discrimination policy in regards to race, gender or religion in the areas of admission, academics, athletics and extra-curricular activities. Catholic High has two main feeder schools: Saint Edward's (Pre K-3) in New Iberia and Saint Joseph's (K-8) in Jeanerette.

The current principal (2008) is Dr.Timothy Uhl. The school is located at 1301 DeLaSalle Drive, New Iberia, Louisiana.

Mission Statement

The mission statement of Catholic High School reads:
To provide quality education in the traditions established by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mount Carmel, and to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to students in a Christ-centred environment of caring discipline, while fostering high academic standards and encouraging involvement in extracurricular activities, so they may become devoted, caring citizens who contribute to society.

Notable Alumni of the Three Schools



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