Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy among tops in nation

Rockford’s Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy has been included in the national Catholic High School Honor Roll, a list of 50 schools selected annually for academic excellence, Catholic identity and civic education.

According to Anthony Pienta, executive director of the Honor Roll project, the Honor Roll encourages constructive competition among secondary schools that “face the challenges of Catholic secondary education with excellence and integrity.” The Honor Roll’s Advisory Board includes Gerard Bradley, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Law School; Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College; Reverend Terence Henry, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville; Msgr. Paul Langsfeld, rector of the Pontifical College Josephenum; and Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, president of the Catholic University of America.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy is only nine years old, and is about to graduate its first senior class. It inhabits the top floor of the Ken-Rock Community Center on Eleventh Street, but has purchased 16 acres at the corner of Meridian Road and Porter Road in the hope of erecting a building of its own.

“Of course we are very glad to be included in the Honor Roll,” says Lou Bageanis, president of the Academy’s board. “Who would have said, nine years ago, that a group of concerned parents could start a school and make it fly, and that it would be cited for excellence so soon.”

The Academy is a private school, not affiliated with the Diocese of Rockford; out of respect for Church law, therefore, it does not call itself a Catholic school. However, many priests of the Rockford Diocese visit the Academy and give talks for the students and hear their confessions, and Rev. Brian Geary, pastor of St. Patrick Church, teaches theology to the upperclassmen.

Headmaster Marc Devoid, who teaches freshman theology, Latin and literature in addition to his administrative duties, is also elated by the Academy’s inclusion in the Honor Roll. “It’s a tribute to the hard work of the students and faculty,” he says, “and the support of the parents. From the smallest kindergartner sweating over phonics to the seniors puzzling out Augustine, Aquinas, calculus and college applications, everyone here works very hard and prays very hard. Our students and faculty are remarkably idealistic, and the work ethic is very good. Recognition on the Honor Roll is a vindication of our belief that if we set high standards of academics and personal excellence, the students will rise to the challenge.”

The Academy’s devotion to the traditional Latin Mass, as permitted by Rockford’s Bishop Thomas Doran, and its fostering of traditional Catholic culture and customs, have prompted some to refer to it as “that medieval school,” but Devoid doesn’t mind. “The 13th century was a time of idealism and commitment,” he says, “a time when men dedicated themselves to excellence in mind and spirit in service to Christ and his Church. The epithet is an honor.”

Devoid says the land on Meridian Road is an ideal location for the school. “It looks rural and peaceful; it’s about half cropland and half woodland; but it’s only a couple of minutes from the bypass exit.” Students and parents recently erected Stations of the Cross around the perimeter of the field fronting on the main road—a series of tall wooden crosses carrying images of the last hours of Christ, from his condemnation by Pilate to the moment when He was taken down from the Cross.

“The Stations,” says Bageanis, “are our staking of our ground, an expression of our determination to build, to excel and above all to raise up effective soldiers for the Church and the nation.”

From the Nov. 15-21, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!