On December 14, 1878, the Notre Dame Sisters from Milwaukee arrived in the small four-year-old German town of Cullman, Alabama. Two days later, they opened the school for Catholics and non-Catholics. By January 1879, the 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, 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Over the Years, the original wooden frame church and the first two-story wooden school building have been replaced by the present beautiful, stone structures. Construction on the present school building began in 1948, and the building was dedicated in 1950.
Sacred Heart School received State Accreditation on January 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. Sacred Heart is also currently the only accredited private elementary school in Cullman.
In the summer of 1977, the first German Festival in the City of Cullman was begun at Sacred Heart School commemorating the school’s 100th anniversary. Two years later, the City of Cullman Oktoberfest Committee was formed. This Oktoberfest celebration has grown and become an annual event for the school, the parish, and the City of Cullman.
Over the 136-year 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.