Through the vision of the Bishops and particularly Bishop James O’Connor, an Irish Catholic Colonization Association was established which allowed many Irish coal miners in eastern United States to migrate to Nebraska and establish their own homes. Halifax was a part of that colony. Father James Smythe was appointed pastor of the original colony. In 1894 the name of Halifax was changed to Spalding. In 1886 Spalding became a parish in its own right. Father Julius DeVos was named the first pastor. In 1889 Hugh Davlin wrote to Bishop O’Connor and expressed the need for a good Catholic education for the children of the parish.
Within a year, three Sisters of Mercy came to teach in the school. The Mercy Sisters taught in Spalding for eight years. However, in 1899 they were called back to Omaha.
In 1901 Father DeVos was successful in getting the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine of Siena in Kentucky to staff the school through the help of Rev. H.S. Spalding, S.J. of Creighton University.
In 1902, the ninth grade was added and by 1905, a full four-year program which was accredited by the State University, was offered. Spalding Academy was one of the first schools to ask for accreditation.
By 1911, increased enrollment made it necessary to enlarge the school. Because the parish was deeply in debt due to building three churches, Father Galvin, the new pastor, deeded the school and convent to the Dominican Sisters. The Sisters immediately began to plan for the new building. The cornerstone was laid June 5, 1912. The school was ready for classes March 14, 1913.
In 1918 the Franciscan Brothers closed their school for boys. In 1922 permission was received to make Our Lady of Lourdes Academy co-educational. The curriculum was expanded to include manual training, mechanical drawing, and an athletic program.
In 1927 a three story building was completed providing sleeping quarters for the sisters, a large assembly hall, a large chapel, club rooms, and a music department.
The 1930’s was a time of dire poverty. The sisters made every possible sacrifice to keep the school open. At the death of Father Galvin, who served as pastor for thirty-seven years, Rev. James P. McMahon came to Spalding as pastor. His first move was to purchase the Academy from the Dominican Sisters in 1942. Since then, it has served as a parochial school and has been known as Spalding Academy.
In January 1948, Spalding Academy had the honor of being the first Catholic high school in the diocese of Grand Island to become a member of the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges.
In the 1950’s the first lay teachers were hired. In 1974 a program of shared classes with the public school was begun. Classes involved were home economics, music, driver’s education, and vocational agriculture. Also in 1972, St. Michael’s Parish Center was built to accommodate parish needs, as well as Spalding Academy’s need for a gym for its sports and physical education programs.
In 1997, both Spalding Academy and Spalding Public Schools declared their willingness to share sports teams together. They elected the Knight to be the mascot in this cooperative effort. Silver, white and black were chosen for colors. Due to the termination of the S/SA Knights Coop in 2014, Spalding Academy returned to the Shamrock mascot for extra-curricular activities for the 2014-2015 school year.
On October 14, 2001, the Dominican Sisters celebrated their centennial anniversary of dedication to Catholic education at Spalding Academy.
*The summer of 2008 the last Dominican Sister teaching at Spalding Academy, Sr. Charlene Vogel retired from teaching. That left no Sisters teaching at Spalding Academy. In 2009, the Creighton Magis Program brought three Magis teachers from Creighton University to Spalding Academy to live in the Convent and teach at the school.
-Graciously submitted by Sr. Charlene Vogel (*added by Amy McKay)
For more info visit us at http://spaldingacademy.org/