Community with Carol: Ross Harrison of Sacred Heart School

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Ross Harrison, left, with Carol Berry, right (Brittany Howell for The Cullman Tribune)

For this week’s Community with Carol, It was my pleasure to sit down with Ross Harrison to talk about a nonprofit that is near and dear to my heart: Sacred Heart School. Ross is the new PTO president. He is excited about upcoming events and new projects he and other officers Brian Arndt and Beth Kibler are working hard to achieve. Harrison also was extremely impressive with his knowledge of the history of the school and how it has been an instrumental part of our community.

Sacred Heart School has been a part of the Cullman community since Dec. 14, 1878. The Notre Dame Sisters from Milwaukee arrived in the small years-old German town of Cullman, Alabama. Two days later, they opened the school for Catholics and non-Catholics. By January 1879, attendance numbered 100, and one year later, the number enrolled was 150. The Notre Dame Sisters staffed Sacred Heart School, then known as Mary Help School, for 20 years, from 1878 – 1898. The Sisters were then asked to return home because the school was considered small and very far from home.

Immediately, Abbot Benedict and the monks at St. Bernard Monastery began to look for a community to take over the school. In September 1898, a group of five Benedictine Sisters from San Antonio, Florida, arrived in Cullman. These five sisters staffed the school from September 1898 to June 1899.

As soon as it was known that Mary Help Community was established as an independent Mother House, requests for admission were received. The community of sisters began to grow.

Thus, the Mary Help Community held charge of the parochial school in Cullman until the summer of 1902, when eight Benedictine Sisters from St. Walburga Convent, Covington, Kentucky, joined the Mother Mary Help group in Cullman. At this time, June 1902, the name of Mary Help School was changed to Sacred Heart School.

Over the years, the original wooden frame church and the first two-story wooden school building were replaced by the present beautiful, stone structures.

Sacred Heart School received state accreditation on Jan. 22, 1973. It was the first church school in Alabama to be accredited.

Two years later, accreditation was received from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Over the 140-year-plus history of the school, there have been many changes. However, the primary purpose of the school continues to be one of providing an instructional program within a Catholic Christian atmosphere of love and guidance.

Sacred Heart’s parish, school and families continue to work together to form a cornerstone of excellence in education for Cullman, Alabama.

Ten years ago, Ernest Hauk, Bonita Hutchinson and the Late Mary Adams started a new tradition to benefit students at Sacred Heart School: The Legacy Gala. Ross and many other others are working hard to prepare for the 10th annual Gala, set for March 2, 2019.

The committee has decided to change the venue to Loft 212. The evening will begin with a silent auction at 5:30, dinner at 6 and then wonderful music and dancing at 8. Loft 212 is located at 212 Fourth St. SW in Cullman. The cost per person is $65. or $125 per couple. If you would like to be an eight- person table sponsor, the fee is $600. I know the PTO Gala committee chairs, Erin Shirley and Elicia Fallin, have been working endlessly to make this a memorable experience for all. 

The Legacy Gala is an event that my husband and I have attended every year and is always a wonderful time. Many children are given the opportunity for an excellent education at Sacred Heart School. This fundraiser not only helps to offset cost, but also provides 22 percent of the students with financial assistance for tuition and expenses. The mission statement for the school reads, “Sacred Heart School fosters the religious, academic, and social development of every child, recognizing that knowledge enlightened by faith and realized through service is at the heart of Catholic education.” This school has been producing Cullman residents with these Christian values for 141 years. The Legacy Gala is truly a community event, providing children with great roots. 

The new school principal, Mrs. Shawna Norman, chose the theme “Roots and Wings” for the 2019 Legacy Gala saying, “ There are two lasting bequests we can give our children, one is roots and the other is wings”. I believe that is exactly what Sacred Heart School does in our community.

See my interview with Ross on Tuesday at www.Facebook.com/CullmanTribune.

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