Our Lady of Victory Catholic School ends 111 years of educating children on its sprawling campus south of downtown Fort Worth, but the nuns who maintained the school are not leaving.
The last day of school for the 70 girls from Kindergarten to Grade 8 was May 26, but the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur are holding a special celebration for the community from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Our Catholic School. Lady of Victory, 3320 Hemphill Street.
The day will begin with an invitation-only Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Olson.
“It is a school that we have nourished and loved for a long time,” said Sister Patricia Ridgley, regional superior of the Sisters of Sainte-Marie de Namur.
Ridgley said several factors led to the difficult decision to close the school, including declining enrollment and other education options such as charter schools and financially struggling parents.
“We have tracked these various factors in education, and we have not been able to overcome these stresses,” she said.
Ridgley added that the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur are an aging congregation and no longer have the resources to help the school.
But the sisters are not leaving the campus which opened in 1910, and Ridgley has said they are exploring other uses of the property in accordance with the school’s mission to educate the mind, body and l ‘mind.
The Hemphill Hallway is growing, she said, and Ridgley said the sisters are calling on alumni and others to help them “dream a big dream.”
“We pray and consult before making this decision. We stay in the neighborhood; we want to be good neighbors, ”she said.
Decision to close
Former students who attended Notre Dame de la Victoire said the decision to close was sad, but they understand the challenges nuns face.
Susie Reyes, who attended school in the 1960s until she attended Nolan Catholic High School, said the sisters created a special environment where she felt comfortable and safe .
“I was not really surprised because you can see that this has happened with other Catholic schools not only in this region but all over the country. It is very sad that the primary school has to close, ”she said.
Reyes said she had fond memories of her kindergarten class where she started learning numbers and reading.
“School has always been a place where I felt comfortable. I was never afraid to go to school, ”she said.
Reyes said she also kept in touch with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, visited them and attended mass with them.
“As I get older, I appreciate more and more Catholic education and their (sisters) high level of giving and service to the community,” she said.
Tradition and history
According to the school’s website, the sisters who came to Fort Worth were teaching at St. Ignatius Academy in 1908. The academy was located next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth. The school was full and the nuns were looking for property to build another school to educate children in Fort Worth and beyond.
The sisters negotiated the purchase of 26 acres at the end of the downtown streetcar line.
The Notre-Dame de la Victoire College and Academy opened its doors in September 1910.
In 1953, Our Lady of Victory became Fort Worth’s first fully integrated school. Sister Teresa Webber was responsible for making the decision. Several white students left, but the nuns persevered in raising the children.
Ridgley said the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur first came to Texas in 1873 to build schools.
When Notre Dame de la Victoire was built, it cost $ 160,000, which translates to $ 4.5 million 100 years later, she said.
“When the sisters saw the need for another school, they used collateral from other schools to get the bank loans,” she said.
“These women were so daring when they decided to go to the plains of Fort Worth,” she said.
The traditions and history of Our Lady of Victory are also important and meaningful to Mary Martin, who graduated from grade 8 at the school before graduating from Nolan High School.
Martin later returned to teach English and Science in Grades 7 and 8 before changing careers, but she remained involved in the school, serving on boards of trustees and doing other volunteer work.
“I had a close relationship with the sisters. I felt so loved by the sisters. They just have such a kind and caring nature about them, ”she said. “They want to see their students excel and grow aware of social justice and work for peace. “
Martin described how several sisters were artists, and she took art and piano lessons at the convent while growing up.
One of his special memories is the statue of the Good Shepherd on the playground donated by his great-great-uncle, John Laneri.
“No matter what happens with the facility, I hope the Good Shepherd statue can stay and watch over the property,” Martin said.