OLL School History
Our Lady of Lourdes Church was established in Slidell in 1890, as a mission church of Notre Dame du Lac (Our Lady of the Lake, in Mandeville). Six months later, in January 1891, approximately 21 children were enrolled in Our Lady of Lourdes School. The school was under the direction of Mrs. E. Gill. She operated the school with the approval of Father Eusebius Lavaquery, the pastor of the Mandeville parish. This early school closed after only one month because “the teacher could scarcely make expenses.”
In late April 1891, a new school began under the name of St. Aloysius School. The biggest obstacles to success were finances and available teachers.
Church records do not comment on the existence of a school again until 1902. There were 35 students enrolled in the school at that time — 18 boys and 17 girls. The pastor of the first school was Father Placidus Dobyns, O.S.B. This school continued until 1907, when a fire forced the school to suspend instruction.
In 1909, Our Lady of Lourdes School reopened with 26 students. Year by year more and more families sent their children to be educated in the new parish school. From all indications, there was usually only one teacher employed at the School at any one time. By 1919, there were 84 students; but, unfortunately, it appears that the school ceased operation in 1920.
True Beginning, 1929:
In October 1927, Father Gallus Anderau, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, reported in correspondence to his colleagues that Father Benedict’s “main object was to try to get a parochial school” for Slidell. Father Benedict was one of the first rectors of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The greatest obstacles were two-fold: “a scarcity of available good teaching sisters and the raising of funds.” Father’s vision was “to have the school and convent brick building ready in a year’s time, possibly beginning with six grades (to add the other two later), three sisters teaching, and possibly a fourth one. …”
With the prospects of a Lake Pontchartrain bridge being completed by 1928, Father Anderau, impressed with the infrastructure of the community and the spirit of the people living here, foresaw that “Slidell before long will be a suburb of New Orleans.”
In slightly less than two years, Father Anderau’s dream was realized. A new, twostory building was erected on a section of land, in what is now Old Towne Slidell, bounded by First and Second Streets and Bouscaren Ave, with the school entrance facing First Street. It contained four classrooms on the second floor, and a cafeteria and auditorium on the first floor. This new school was dedicated on September 13, 1929, six weeks prior to the great stock market crash of 1929.
The First Street school building served the religious education needs of Slidell, and it was fully staffed by 1932. The Benedictine sisters of St. Leo, Florida, became the first permanent teachers of Our Lady of Lourdes School. A convent building was built next to the school to house this Benedictine community.
In 1951, the Florida Benedictine sisters were replaced by Benedictine sisters from Covington, and they served the school’s teaching needs for the next 15 years. In 1979, the Teresian sisters, also based in Covington, sent several sisters to teach in the school, until this number dwindled to just one, Sr. Dolores Espinosa, STJ, who retired from fulltime teaching in 2010. As is the case with many Catholic schools, the decrease in the number of people in the religious life caused a sharp decline in the number of religious who served as teachers.
In 1960, Our Lady of Lourdes School and Parish moved from the center of Slidell to the South side of town, and the school building was sold to the City of Slidell, and still serves as Slidell’s City Hall. Father Timothy Pugh, O.S.B., was responsible for erecting the new parish complex of the school buildings, cafeteria, rectory, convent, and church on a 22-acre site in the new Westchester subdivision. Anticipating a new Catholic Parish, St. Margaret Mary, on the north side of the city, the archdiocese altered the parish boundaries. In 1965, “Father Tim” became the founding pastor of that parish. The Westchester Place school initially included ninth grade, with plans to add a grade at a time, but this was abandoned due to a conflict with state regulations.
After the 1960s burst of buildings, April of 1984 saw the dedication of a gymnasium by Father Howard Hotard; and in December 1996, a separate middle school building was completed. More room was needed, as a pre-kindergarten program was added in 1989. Father Hotard served as pastor of the parish for 32 years until his retirement in 1998.
The school enjoyed many prosperous years in the 1960s and ’70s. Enrollment was at 719 in 1962, for grades kindergarten to 9th. However, the decline in the oil industry in the 1980s caused a decline in enrollment to approximately 400 students. A steady increase in enrollment began again in the late 1990s. In 2003, the enrollment was perhaps its highest ever, at 603 students for Pre-K to 8th grade.
On August 29, 2005, the Category Five Hurricane Katrina roared through Slidell and the New Orleans area, bringing flood waters up to 8 feet in south Slidell, including the campuses of Our Lady of Lourdes, Salmen High School, as well as the Westchester neighborhood. A wind event tore off the “A” shaped-roof of the church and deposited the roof into the parking lot. The Sunday immediately after the storm, and for several Sundays thereafter, Father Adrian Hall held Mass on a folding table outside the destroyed church, in the midst of a battered but not destroyed parish congregation, until Mass could be held inside the damaged school cafeteria.
Our Lady of Lourdes was blessed to have the help of other Catholic parishes around the country who came to our campus, cleaned the buildings, and donated items and funds. St. Margaret Mary School also rearranged their school day so that Our Lady of Lourdes children could attend classes with their classmates and their teachers on the SMM campus. Our Lady of Lourdes students held class from 1pm to 6pm there for the rest of the school year, from late September 2005 to May 2006 portable classrooms and a portable cafeteria were erected on the Lourdes campus for September 2006. The middle school, which was built higher than the other buildings on campus, was renovated and reopened in September 2006. A new Our Lady of Lourdes church was dedicated in time for 8th grade graduation, in May 2010. Two new connected elementary buildings opened with the start of school in August 2010. The new cafeteria and new gym were blessed by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond in the spring of 2013. Construction was complete, and the portables hauled away by the summer of 2013.
Today, the school community looks forward to opening the brick-house time capsule in front of the school for its 100th Anniversary in 2029. Our mission of educating Catholic students in the Slidell area continues with enthusiasm and optimism for the future.