One hundred and twenty years of Catholic Education in The Bahamas is truly a significant milestone in the lives of so many Bahamians. It is a precious and invaluable gift to our nation.
Essential to this one hundred and twentieth anniversary, is the contribution made to Catholic Education in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, for 44 years at St. Francis de Sales School.
Under the direction of Father Patrick Argue SS. CC., the Sacred Hearts Fathers founded the school in 1964. For many years, the parish priests of St. Francis de Sales Church actively participated in the daily life of the school. Their spiritual and physical presence were greatly admired and appreciated.
In 1969, the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey accepted Bishop Leonard Haggarty’s invitation to staff St. Francis de Sales School. For 32 years, the school was located at St. Francis de Sales Convent on Collins Avenue. During this time, it was exclusively a primary school.
The foundation of St. Francis de Sales School was built on the dedicated service of persons in the religious life and volunteers. For the first twenty-seven years of its remarkable inception, the Dominican Sisters led St. Francis de Sales School. Sister Marie Gleason served as the first principal and Sister Danelle served as the last religious life principal.
Under the leadership of the Dominican Sisters, the Dominican lay volunteers and lay teachers served the community of St. Francis de Sales in a remarkable way. They made personal sacrifices and were able to overcome some difficult physical amenities and work with limited resources to educate their students.
Through their dedicated service, love and professional excellence, St. Francis de Sales flourished. We are forever grateful for the dedicated and committed service of these education pioneers.
In 1996, St. Francis de Sales School moved from Collins Avenue, to its present location on Don Mackay Boulevard. This year saw the introduction of lay principals. Mr. Jim Hegney served, as the first lay principal from 1996 to 1998. Mrs. Laura Davies served from 1998 to 2002. Mrs. Josephine Giraud – Kumar became principal in 2002 and serves in this capacity at present.
In 1996, the high school division was introduced. Grade seven came on stream and subsequently a new high school grade level was added each year. In June 2003, St. Francis de Sales celebrated its first high school graduation exercises. This was truly an exciting time in the life of St. Francis de Sales School.
The students of St. Francis de Sales have a legacy of excelling in competitions. We have triumphed successfully throughout the years in local, national and international competitions. Our most notable achievements stand out like a beacon of light on a deserted island. We have won numerous Spelling Bees, debates, speeches and essay competitions. We are the reigning champions of the Annual Bahamas National Spelling Bee. We also hold the distinct honour of having the First Junior Minister of Tourism for the island of Abaco. St. Francis de Sales is the winning school of the Bahamas in the 2007 Conde’ Nast Speech and Essay Competition. We successfully regained this distinction by once again becoming the winning school of the 2008 Conde’ Nast Speech and Essay Competition.
As we look to another one hundred and twenty years of Catholic Education in the Bahamas, St. Francis de Sales will continue to be a great institution of learning on Abaco. We will continue to contribute to the educational and spiritual development of the children of this great community. To this end, we remember the words of our patron Saint who stated, “The opportunity of doing great things does not come often, but at every moment we can do little ones with great love.”