History of St Mary’s

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Saint Mary’s Catholic School first opened her doors on September 24, 1900, and was originally called Sacred Heart Academy - a title chosen because the full name of the parish is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At the invitation of Father Andrew Keene Gwynn, pastor of Saint Mary's Church from 1900 to 1951, the Ursuline Sisters established Sacred Heart Academy as a parish grammar school and boarding academy for young ladies, located in the rented home of Elias Earle.


The school outgrew its quarters within the first year, so a more spacious building was acquired on Hampton Avenue adjacent to Saint Mary's Church. That building was expanded in 1923, but by the late 1920’s the student population had again outgrown our facilities.

In 1930 the present elementary building - now called Mercy Hall - was constructed, and our name was changed to Saint Mary’s Catholic School. Three years later the Ursuline Sisters were replaced by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, and in 1962 a second school building - now called Pazdan Hall - was opened to house a junior high school. In 2006 the Nashville Dominican Sisters began to serve our school, and in 2017 the first lay principal in our history was named.


Until the 1970’s Saint Mary’s School encompassed grades one through nine, but when junior highs were being replaced by middle schools, our ninth grade was eliminated and a 5-year-old kindergarten was added. In 1998 a 4-year-old kindergarten was added to the school, and in 2013 a 3-year-old kindergarten was opened.


In 1998 our new gym was dedicated in memory of Monsignor Charles J. Baum, who served as pastor from 1952 to 1973, and in 2000 our original gym - Gallivan Hall - was beautifully restored and became an elegant space suitable for meetings, lectures, banquets, and the peforming arts. In 2001 the Jamile J. Francis Athletic Field was dedicated, in 2006 Pazdan Hall was reopened after a $2.2 million renovation, and in 2018 two new classrooms were added to Sacred Heart Hall for Spanish and French instruction. Our science and computer labs are state of the art, and the entire campus is served by a fiber optic network.


Saint Mary's Church is a parish of the Diocese of Charleston, and our school is part of the network of Catholic schools across South Carolina which operate under the authority of the Bishop of Charleston. In 2017 Saint Mary’s renewed its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).


In 2009 Saint Mary’s Catholic School was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education. Saint Mary's received this prestigious honor a second time on September 24, 2020 on the 120th anniversary of the founding of the school.


We give thanks to God that during our first 120 years several thousand students learned here about the Lord Jesus, their fellow students, and themselves and acquired in our school a solid academic formation for future success. From time to time our alumni return to Saint Mary's to recall their student days, to renew old friendships, and to thank our dedicated faculty and staff for preparing them for the future. Today, more than a century after its founding, Saint Mary’s Catholic School continues to fulfill its mission of forming students in tradition, virtue, and excellence to live as faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.