St. Benedict School opened its doors in Elberta, Alabama on September 6, 1921. St. Benedict has continuously inspired young lives to pray, serve, lead and succeed for 100 years.
The school was founded by Father Thomas Stemmler, O.S.B., pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish and Benedictine monk from St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman. Father Stemmler invited three Benedictine Sisters from the Sacred Heart Convent to serve as its first educators. The sisters opened “St. Benedict Academy” in a two-story building which served as both school and convent. Sixty children attended that first year in 1st – 8th grade, learning reading, math, religion and German. School was dismissed in early May to allow the children to work the farms.
Sister Assumpta Tomerlin, Sister Johanna Daly and Mother Ottilla Haas were the first educators at St. Benedict School from 1921 to 1924. Those first years were hard, almost primitive. There was no running water, electricity or gas. Sometimes there was a shortage of food. Students helped with chores around the school.
During the 1930s, St. Benedict began to accept boarders who stayed in the second floor of the school building during the week and returned home on weekends. There was an 11-horse stable at St. Benedict School to house horses and mules used by the commuting students. Often the children had to work on their family farm milking cows and feeding animals before coming to school in the mornings.
The current cafeteria was built in 1952 to add two classrooms, each serving two grades. With improved roads and the purchase of buses in 1953, the school ceased boarding students and became solely a day school. St. Benedict was officially described as an “inter-parochial school.” In 1958, the original school building was torn down to make way for the current school building which was dedicated in 1959.
In 1958, the frame structure was replaced by a brick building, and a new convent for the sisters was also built. These same structures service the needs of St. Benedict School students today.
The Benedictines completed their mission at St. Benedict School in 1992. Sister M. Cecilia MacDermott, O.S.B., was the last Benedictine principal at the school. The school remains under the guidance and direction of the Archdiocese of Mobile but will be forever influenced by its proud heritage.
St. Benedict School is now led by Dr. Kathleen McCool, who took over as principal in 2018 and whose own son previously attended St. Benedict. Dr. McCool is an esteemed educator in the Baldwin County School District with over 26 years of experience.
The faculty and staff are thrilled to be leading St. Benedict into its 100th year of operation, celebrating its Centennial during the 2020 – 2021 school year. St. Benedict has continuously grown and changed over the years getting better and better. Most recently, the school has added pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, a computer lab, bus service from six parishes and a gymnasium.
One thing has remained the same throughout the last 100 years: its commitment to provide a quality education and instill Christian values in all who walk through its doors.