The History of St. Michael School
The St. Michael School of today was founded in 2007 with the merger of two schools, St. Mary's School and St. Augustine School. St. Augustine began educating children in 1892. St. Mary's began teaching children in 1913. For almost 120 years, a high quality Catholic education program for children has had a tremendously positive impact on the youth, families and community of the greater Augusta area.
History of St. Mary's School
Construction of St. Mary's School began in 1913 during the pastorate of the Rev. Thomas J. Milligan. The State Street property was the site of the Mason carriage factory and was bought by the church for $3,850. But those were the days when coffee was selling for 40 cents a pound and eggs 27 cents a dozen. The old St. Mary's Church was located on an adjoining State Street site.
Part of the school construction project included excavation beneath the church to provide a basement room for parish activities. One parishioner recalls how the men contributed their skills and time to help speed the job.
The school opened in September of 1914. It cost in those days, of a full value dollar, $53,384. A 1915 parish register shows there were only 290 men and 370 women in the parish at the time. The six Sisters of Mercy who were St. Mary's first teachers were assigned here from the Mother House at Portland. They were Sister M. Philomena, superior; Sister M. Fluvial; Sister M. Ethelred; Sister Mary Mercy; Sister Marie Teresa; and Sister M. Clement.
In 1947, under the direction of Pastor Father McLaughlin, two more classrooms were added to the building. In a 1918 parish register, John E. Hanson, president of the Holy Name Society, wrote:
"St. Mary's School is the product of (Fr. Milligan's) energetic zeal, and seven Sisters of Mercy are giving a training in education and religion that is scarcely equaled and certainly not exceeded in any school of the state."
Dedication to education and teaching Christ-centered was the cornerstone from the start. That dedication was exemplified by the Urseline Sisters, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and the Sisters of Mercy, who played a vital role in teaching a rigorous program as well as Christ-centeredness. Their prayerful lives, commitment to teaching and love for children formed the benchmark for educational changes that have evolved over recent years. The Sisters played a major role in inspiring, a reverence, joy, vitality and deep commitment to education that remains with the St. Michael School of today.
Over the last several decades, the numbers of Sisters has decreased and there are no longer Sisters in the school. We have met the challenge to change a challenge in part brought by the higher cost of education. Today's administrative and teaching staff of St. Michael School is a qualified, dedicated and committed group of professionals with heart. Together, they form the faculty and staff who tirelessly give of themselves to provide an excellent education to our students. They are respectful, loyal and well informed, and themselves serve as excellent role models for good character and caring values.
History of St. Augustine's School
St. Augustine's School was founded in 1892, just six years after St. Augustine's Church was built. The Church was built soon after the first French speaking families moved into Augusta. A census taken in that year by Rev. Father LaCroix revealed that 125 French families had settled in the city.
They raised the first church in 1887 - the wooden structure that was later used as St. Augustine's parochial school. It was located directly behind the back of the church. The present stone church was built in 1916, when the Rev. Decary was pastor.
The Rev. Casavant continued the work of finishing and beautifying the interior.
The following about St. Augustine School is quoted from The Women's History Trail:
"In 1917, the old wooden church became the full-time school. The Urseline Sisters were the first teachers, but the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary took over in 1904 when the Urseline Sisters returned to Canada. In 1972, there were over 800 students in the school. Today, the school continues to educate many children from Augusta and the surrounding area.
The campaign to build the magnificent cathedral began in 1907, under the leadership of Father Alphonse Lariviere. Church bazaars, a traditional bastion of women, were a major source of funds for the new building, which was completed by 1918. St. Augustine's has recently undergone major restoration, and parish women have figure prominently in this undertaking. Julie Brawn served as chair of the Solicitation Committee and Anita Nored (with Phil Piper) co-chaired the Restoration Fund-Raising Committee."
Sources are cited as:
Augusta, Maine Sesquicentennial. Special reprint of Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine, Sesquicentennial Edition, Wednesday, July 30, 1947; Faith Communities of Augusta, Maine - Past and Present. A City Bicentennial Project under the auspices of the Augusta Clergy Association, 1997; Hendrickson, Dyke. Quiet Presence: Dramatic, First-Person Accounts: the True Stories Of Franco-Americans in New England. Portland, ME: G. Gannett Pub. Co., c1980; -St. Augustine Restoration Campaign." Pamphlet prepared by The Restoration Fund Committee of St. Augustine's Church (n.d.); Violette, Maurice. -Pre-Calumet Era: Origin and Growth of Augusta Franco-Americans." In Semi-Centennial Celebration: 1922-1972 - Fifty Years of Progress. Augusta, ME: Le Club Calumet, 1972.
A History of Dedication for Both St. Mary's and St. Augustine
The original buildings were funded in part through Church bazaars - not much unlike the Christmas fairs, magazine and wrapping paper sales of today.
Today's St. Michael School meets the challenges of service to community, formation of a healthy body, mind and spirit, and achievement of academic goals that are fitting of a quality school. As changes have happened, excellent education and a community spirit endure. More of our students achieve above average scores on standardized tests than students in public schools. Our students go on to high school, college and careers.
St. Michael School is a healthy, robust school which is planning for 100 more years of success in educating young people. We are well on our way to achieving that goal.
We are planning alumni outreach activities to engage the prayerful support and social connectedness of alumni to strengthen the current St. Michael School.