St. Mary Catholic Central High School is a heritage school formed from the 1986 merger of St. Mary Academy and Monroe Catholic Central. SMCC continues the Church’s educational tradition in Monroe that began when the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary founded St. Mary Academy in 1846. The Brothers of Holy Cross came to Monroe in 1944 to staff Monroe Catholic Central, an all-boys Catholic secondary school established by the Archdiocese of Detroit and several local parishes.
St. Mary Catholic Central
SMCC - Cultural, social, and demographic changes brought on during the 1960s within the Catholic Church and the United States began to have an effect on the Catholic education system. Enrollments in Catholic schools began to decline as couples had fewer children and urban sprawl across the country reduced former immigrant population centers. In addition, there was a significant decline in the numbers of professed religious who served as the staff in Catholic schools. Lay educators were quickly becoming the majority. Beyond the cultural impact, the cost of employing lay educators substantially increased the tuition at private educational institutions as the Brothers and Sisters had taken little to no pay for their work. With the cost of living increasing and more primary bread-winners staffing schools, the money required to operate a private and parochial schools quickly increased.
Despite these challenges, the IHM Sisters, the Brothers of Holy Cross, and the School Boards of St. Mary Academy and Monroe Catholic Central were determined in their desire to ensure Catholic secondary education in Monroe County. In the spring of 1978, the two schools agreed to establish a co-institution by sharing classes and resources. In June 1985, Sr. Joyce Durosko, IHM was hired as the Chief Executive Officer by the schools to implement a complete integration plan. Cardinal Edmund Szoka ratified the final merger and the by-laws were drafted by a joint board in 1986. The school was named St. Mary Catholic Central High School, now commonly referred to as SMCC.
In 2011, the SMCC community celebrated the 165th anniversary of the founding of St. Mary Academy and the 25th anniversary of the merger of SMA and MCC. In the quarter century since its implementation, the merger had accomplished its primary goal, namely to ensure that a Catholic secondary education continue to remain available to the people of Monroe County and surrounding communities. SMCC exists as a strong, vibrant, and vital part of the Catholic Church in southeast Michigan.
Beginning in 2009 and using funds derived from the Soaring on the Wings of Tradition campaign conducted in 1999, SMCC renovated its science labs and main student concourse, added Founders' Hall, which includes the Brothers of Holy Cross conference room and the IHM Activities Center complete with a full service kitchen, and added a new Music and Drama Center. The school also created its first Media and Technology Center and constructed the beautiful Chapel of the Infant Jesus of Prague.
One of the school's greatest strengths, its College Counseling and Advising program was developed beginning in 2009. The staff focus on assisting each student and their parents in developing a four year process leading to college application, placement, and financing. Today, 100% of SMCC students are accepted to colleges and university. The average graduating class of 85 students earns an average of $10 million in college scholarship offers.
SMCC were trailblazers beginning in 2012 when, after two years of research and planning, it implemented an innovative 1:1 technology program with iPads. SMCC became the first school in Michigan that moved all students to complete use of digital and eTextbooks for all curriculum content.
In the same year, SMCC sought to have a significant impact on the welfare of its students and assist in the choices and pressures that they face as teens in today's society by becoming only the third school in the state of Michigan to adopt a mandatory random drug testing program for all students, faculty, staff, and coaches. The program is aimed at deterrence and, if necessary, support and rehabilitation for its students.
In 2013 and 2014, SMCC launched a series of partnerships to enhance its online and dual enrollment opportunities. These new partnerships include programs with Sevenstar (formerly Edified), Michigan Virtual Academy, Monroe County Community College, University of Detroit Mercy, and Concordia College Ann Arbor.
SMCC entered into a unique partnership with the River Raisin Center for the Arts in 2014 when it signed an agreement with the River Raisin Centre for the Arts, Monroe’s premier arts education center, to provide instrumental and choral instruction at the school as well as direction and supervision of the school’s theatrical productions.
In 2015, the School Board approved the school's first capital campaign in over 16 years. Entitled MOVE ~ A Campaign for SMCC, the effort exceeded its goal by over $100,000 in raising $2.2 million to fund scholarships, a roof replacement and parking lot upgrade, as well as academic and technology program enhancements including adding the school’s first full time Director of Academic Support to serve the needs of students with special learning needs and accommodations.
Today, SMCC provides a Catholic secondary education to 350 students representing over 15 different elementary and middle schools as well as over 25 different parishes or churches, including the 12 parishes of the Monroe Catholic Vicariate. It operates under a $3.6 million annual operating budget with over $4.5 million in endowed assets.
St. Mary Academy
The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary officially opened St. Mary Academy on January 15, 1846, just over two months after the Congregation itself was founded. Before building a church or a residence, this new order of religious women laid the foundation for what is now a 170 year history of Catholic education in Monroe County.
The SSIHM traces its roots to the Reverend Louis Florent Gillet and three young women whom he convinced to move to Monroe to help establish a religious institute, “a young ladies academy,” devoted to the education of youth. In November 1845, Theresa Maxis and Ann Shaaf, both from the teaching community of the Sisters of Providence, Baltimore, were joined by Theresa Renauld of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to form a new congregation - the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The courage, vision, and perseverance of these three remarkable women gave birth to an educational institution that would become known, in time, as one of the premier schools for young women in the <st2:country-region w:st="on">United States</st2:country-region>.
St. Mary Academy was initially located at what is now the southwest corner of the intersection of Monroe and Elm. After a period of slow growth in the 1850s and 1860s, enrollment began to expand. Boarding students from as far away as New York, Nevada, and Montana began to arrive in the 1870s. The number of students grew to over 300 by 1899. The growth in enrollment prompted the construction of St. Mary Academy I, the first building used exclusively for education, in 1881 on the banks of the Raisin River.
By 1904, the Academy’s reputation as a strong academic, religious, and cultural school had grown such that a larger facility was needed. The groundbreaking for St. Mary Academy II was held on May 7 that year on the site of the present day St. Mary Catholic Central campus. Tragedy struck in June, 1929 when a fire broke out and destroyed the “architectural gem.” Remarkably, in a sign of Divine Providence, no lives were lost and a portion of the facility was salvaged. This facility would become the home of Monroe Catholic Central, the all boys Catholic high school, nearly twenty years later.
In 1932, the fourth St. Mary Academy building was completed on the site of the current SSIHM Motherhouse. That fall, 340 young women in grades 1 through 12 began their studies in what has been called one of the largest private construction projects during the “Great Depression.” St. Mary Academy grew and flourished from the 1940s on through the “baby boom” of the post war generation.
Demographic and social changes prompted a significant transformation of the Academy’s programs by the 1970s and 1980s. As Catholic high schools expanded across the country and local parishes began adding grade schools, the need for the Academy grade school and boarding school programs waned. Enrollments at both St. Mary Academy and Monroe Catholic Central began to decline in the late 1970s. In spite of declining enrollment and rising costs, there was a strong commitment to the perpetuation of a Catholic secondary institution on the part of the Sisters and the Monroe Catholic Central Board. This dedication led to the concept of a co-institution through a merger between the Academy and MCC. These deliberations culminated in the formation of St. Mary Catholic Central High School in 1986.
Monroe Catholic Central
Monroe Catholic Central - In 1941, the pastors of Monroe parishes, St. John, St. Joseph, St. Mary, and St. Michael parishes, along with the pastors of St. Joseph in Erie and St. Patrick in Carleton, responded to their parishioners requests and worked together to establish an all-boys Catholic high school in Monroe. Cardinal Mooney, the Archbishop of Detroit, granted permission for the school to be founded provided a religious order could be found to operate the school.
School organizers contacted Fr. Thomas Steiner, CSC, the Provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross in South Bend, Indiana and a native of Monroe. Fr. Steiner happily agreed to send members of the Congregation's order of Brothers to staff the school. Three members of the Brothers of Holy Cross arrived in 1944 and comprised the entire staff of the original school: Br. Christian Stinnett, Br. Remigius Bullinger, and Br. Gerontius McCarthy. The brothers lived next door to the school on the second floor of what was then the Maurice Funeral Home.
The Diocese purchased six acres located at 108 West Elm Avenue from the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The site was the home of the second St. Mary Academy building, tragically destroyed by fire in 1929. After renovating what remained of the old SMA II structure into a gymnasium and classroom space, Monroe Catholic Central opened on September 18, 1944 with an enrollment of 56 freshmen.
As enrollment increased, additional Brothers of Holy Cross were hired and created a foundation of educational excellence for young men. By September 1950, an addition was completed including a single floor addition with classrooms, science labs, office space, and a new heating plant. The new building was ready for 236 young men. In 1953, work was completed on a second floor, kitchen, cafeteria, and library. As many as 30 Brothers staffed the school at one point. In 1969, enrollment had increased to its peak of 530 students. This growth necessitated several building campaigns: one in 1965 with a two-story, 12 classroom addition; the second in the summer of 1968 with construction of a new gymnasium and locker rooms.
In less than 30 years, the Brothers of Holy Cross created a school with an extraordinary reputation as a disciplined and challenging environment, as well as, a school with a rich tradition of academic and athletic achievement. This reputation was grounded in the legendary faculty who walked its halls. Names like Gerontius, Davenport, Castignola, Smith, Alessandro, Rottenbutcher, Dalton, Lauwers, and Sandersen bring back vivid memories of these larger-than-life figures for MCC alums.
By 1978, the first lay principal was named and at the same time, discussion had begun across the Vicariate exploring the future of Catholic secondary education in Monroe without religious available to staff the schools. The Monroe Catholic Central Board and the Sisters determined the need to share resources, and ultimately moved to create a co-institution between Monroe Catholic Central and St. Mary Academy in 1986.