Celebrating 50 years of Brother Martin High School and 150 years
of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans.
The Brothers of the Sacred Heart is a religious congregation of men founded by Father Andre’ Coindre, a diocesan priest, in Lyon, France, in 1821. Their mission is the evangelization of young people, especially through the ministry of education of young people. By 1847 it had grown and prospered to the point that five missionary brothers were sent to the United States at the request of the first bishop of Mobile, Alabama. The arrival of the brothers in America in 1847 signaled the beginning of the transformation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart from a strictly French congregation into a worldwide institution made up of many nationalities.LEARN MORE
The Brothers’ work did not remain limited to Mobile for very long. In 1854, they established St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and in 1869, St. Aloysius College in New Orleans. A school for boys originally located in the French Quarter at the corner of Chartres and Barracks, the enrollment soon grew to require much larger quarters. On May 10, 1892, the Brothers purchased a former Ursuline edifice on the corner of Esplanade and North Rampart Streets.
The next decades were not without challenges including the yellow fever epidemic of 1905 and the great hurricane of 1915 yet the Brothers persisted, the reputation of the school gained prominence, and many more students benefited from the education the Brothers provided.
A Times-Picayune article from October 31,1915 recounts a flattering summation of Brother Alphonse’s directorship: "The campus is in first class condition. Over 400 loads of gravel and dirt have had the effect of raising the playground considerably, and as the whole can be carefully graded, the students can use their basketball courts within a few hours of the heaviest rains. The campus has been enlarged by the removal of several large palms, rose bushes and jasmines; these have been transplanted in front of the residence of the faculty. The four classes of stenography are making good progress. The classes in elocution rapidly are rounding into form. Last week they were the recipients of many favorable comments and the president, Brother Alphonse, congratulated the orators on their showing. Next week the graduating class will render The Merchant of Venice. This being the first year that St. Aloysius is on the gridiron, the team is handicapped by lack of experience.”
The enrollment was 500 students in 1925 and would ultimately grow to 980 during the next forty-four years. Over 5,000 young men graduated from St. Aloysius during its 100-year history.LEARN MORE
St. Aloysius experiences incredible growth both in terms of facilities and in terms of enrollment during the 1930's and the 1940's. The Brothers purchased most of the city block at the corner of Esplanade and North Rampart, and the all-boys population in grades 7 through 12 peaked at 980 during this time. A very young 30-year old Brother Martin Hernandez began his term as principal in 1934 and witnessed the addition of a gymnasium and a three-story building that housed a cafeteria, new classrooms, and private rooms for the Brothers. In the 1930s, St. Aloysius won its first of several state championships in basketball.
St. Aloysius continued its great reputation for academics, athletics, and spiritual formation in the 1950's and the 1960's, but the school facilities were becoming woefully inadequate for the size of the student body and the types of programs the Brothers were beginning to institute, such as the unstructured period, a progressive concept for its time, and the first Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps in the South. As the school expanded, lay partners joined the Brothers on the faculty. Under the principalships of Brothers Andre Robichaux, Mark Thornton, Felician Fourrier, Lee Barker, and Flavian Udinsky, lay men became teachers and coaches. Notable influences include "Prof" Joseph Taverna, Johnny Altobello, and Jack Schommer. During the 1960's, the Brothers realized that the aging buildings and crowded facilities meant that a "new" school would best accomodate the continued mission of evangelizing youth in the city of New Orleans. Eyes turned to the Cor Jesu campus and its extensive grounds.
Eighty-five years after opening St. Aloysius, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened a second school in New Orleans. Cor Jesu was built in Gentilly at the request of Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel and was designed to meet the needs of the vastly expanding Lakefront and New Orleans East areas. In 1954, Cor Jesu High School opened with an enrollment of about 700 students. It was built on Elysian Fields Avenue and would serve ultimately as the location of Brother Martin High School. Its thirteen graduating classes produced over 1,300 alumni.
A large Brothers' residence and chapel were incorporated in the plan of the Gentilly school. With a modern edifice and the latest in educational improvements, the school grew quickly, as did its reputation for academic excellence. The drama, debate, and newspaper programs soon gained recognition. The lack of an interscholastic sports program was remedied in 1965 when the largest multi-purpose gym in the City was opened to the overwhelming approval of the spirited student body. The Cor Jesu Kingsmen's victory at their first interscholastic game in February, 1966 was viewed by over 1,200 appreciative fans.
Cor Jesu High School not only offered the best academic preparation in the core subjects, but it also offered its Kingsmen opportunities to develop in other ways through a variety of extracurricular clubs and sports. From the Debating Society to major sports like baseball and track, Cor Jesu sought to form the "whole" young man.
The St. Aloysius NJROTC was commissioned on October 27, 1967, on the Flight Deck of the USS Lexington. When Brother Martin's first class started, all students were enrolled as Cadets in the NJROTC program. The khaki uniforms, brass buckles, and black shoes would become the standard uniform components that stand to this day as the basis of our shared values of selfless service and commitment to excellence.LEARN MORE
As St. Aloysius’ centennial year approached, the Brothers studied options to merge their two New Orleans schools. With increasing enrollment, no room for expansion, and dated physical facilities, a solution was needed. Most feasible was an expansion of the Cor Jesu facilities to accommodate 1,300 students, but this consolidation was not without tension given the devotion of the alumni and current students to their respective schools. Minutes of the Brothers Council meeting on October 7, 1967, showed evidence of the unanimous vote to amalgamate St. Aloysius with Cor Jesu “to benefit the students of both schools” and the resulting “possibility of offering a more enriched curriculum if the schools are combined.” True to Andre Coindre's charism, the Brothers were determined to meet the needs of a changing world. May 23, 1969 marked the final commencement exercises of both St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu, but the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart continued confidently in the exemplary new school.
In September of 1969, celebrating the 100th year of their educational commitment to the youth of the New Orleans area, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart consolidated St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu High Schools under the title of Brother Martin High School.
Brother Martin High School was founded on the principle that in an extraordinary age, students must have teaching of extraordinary caliber. It was designed to meet this challenge with modern facilities, new programs, and an innovative concept of high school organization and scheduling. In selecting the name, the Brothers honored one of their confreres. His contributions to the Brothers and to education are inscribed on the plaque in the lobby of the school: Brother Martin High School honors Brother Martin Hernandez, S.C., a Brother of the Sacred Heart, whose lifetime of dedicated service to the youth of New Orleans is perpetuated by this building.
Religious vocations declined across the country in the 1970s, and the number of lay faculty, including women, increased significantly. In the 1980s, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart New Orleans Province published its landmark document, Educational Mission and Ministry, as a first step in forming lay faculty in the charism of Father André Coindre in order to ensure that his charism continued to be the driving force in the schools.
With 42 state championships overall since its inception in the 1969-1970 school year, Brother Martin's athletics program has provided student-athletes with the opportunity to continue to strive for excellence while embodying the courage and confidence of a Crusader. The rich tradition and history of Crusader Athletics extends beyond championships as it also contributes to the holistic formation of each student-athlete. Crusader Athletics celebrates our students' contributions both as individuals and as members of a team. Our Crusader Athletics program currently consists of 11 LHSAA teams including Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track & Field, and Wrestling.LEARN MORE
The Brother Martin High School Crusader Band has consistently been a military-styled organization, which has entertained and enriched all types of audiences and generations of students throughout its history. The Band strives to play current music and to participate in events designed to assess its degree of excellence. Band members receive training and reach a level of expertise that allows members to continue playing music long after they have graduated. The Band's strong alumni base maintain and support the continued legacy of the musicians and the school community.LEARN MORE
Dating back to 1970, this all-male choir has been recognized not only locally but nationally as one of the premier programs in the South and remains the oldest all-male choir in Louisiana. Brother Martin’s chorus program continues to serve Brother Martin and the New Orleans community at concerts, liturgies, and celebrations.LEARN MORE
Beginning in the Christmas holidays of 1966 until today, Brother Neal Golden has directed the New Orleans area Academic Games league. In the spring of 1967, Brother Neal traveled with five players from St. Aloysius to the second Academic Games national tournament. From that year on, students at Aloysius and Brother Martin have attended the annual national tournament and won scores of individual and team championships—most recently, the Brother Martin team earned the title of 2017 Senior Division Sweepstakes Champions.LEARN MORE
From the founding of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in 1821 in Lyon, France, they have always relied upon partners, men and women, lay and religious, who shared devotion to their educational mission. In the 1970s, the faculty of Brother Martin continued to thrive in part because women joined the academic faculty.
The influence of the NJROTC program was prominent on campus as the school uniform in the 1970s and 1980s was based on the military attire of this training corps: khaki pants, a khaki shirt with nametag, web military belt, black socks, and military-style dress shoes. In the 1996-1997 school year, the current school uniform was implemented: 'bright white' collared shirt with the shield on the pocket and nametag, dark khaki pants, and black socks with black dress shoes.
The late 1980s witnessed significant changes in leadership structure, personnel changes, and the configuring of the school as a legal entity. These changes and the decrease in vocations to the Brothers marked the school's acknowledgement of the needs of our changing world. In 1988, science teacher John Devlin became the school's first lay principal in charge of the school's education program, while Brother Ivy LeBlanc, S.C., became the first president of the school, overseeing the school's financial, legal, and fundraising efforts. These changes allowed Brother Martin High School to more effectively carry out the school mission on a daily basis and to plan for a future of growth and facilities improvements.
1969: Brother Mark Thornton, S.C.
1970: Brother Brice Hendrick, S.C.
1975: Brother Donnan Berry, S.C.
1980: Brother Ivy LeBlanc, S.C.
1988: Mr. John Devlin - first layperson to serve as principal
In 1988, Brother Ivy LeBlanc, S.C. became first President of BMHS.
1999: Mr. Gene Tullier
In 2000, Mr. John Devlin became second President and first layperson to serve as president.
2006: Mr. Greg Rando
2017: Mr. Ryan Gallagher;
In 2018, Mr. Greg Rando became third President and first BMHS alumnus to serve as president.
“As educators in the faith, we model for our students faith in action as a necessary response to the Gospel." This value of the charism of Andre Coindre is evident by the integration of faith and life throughout our history. The service work of our Brothers, students, and partners in mission extends beyond local contributions to the influence of our presence at the Navajo mission of St. Anne in Klagetoh, Arizona. Under the supervision of Br. Charles Schilling, S.C., many service-learning teams share the first-hand experience of the culture, traditions, and lifestyle of the Navajo. Through prayer, mission drives, and volunteer work on the reservation, students and faculty have the opportunity to learn, serve, and sow hope in this community.
In 1994, an outdoor band performance and student parade on Elysian Fields in front of the school marked the 125th anniversary of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans. "Place Sacre Coeur," the newly redesigned entry plaza to the school on the grand avenue, represented the physical sign of this milestone. The anniversary was an opportune time for school leadership to begin preparing for a Master Plan for the school and the capital campaign that would inaugurate twenty years of a tradition of building.
Phase I resulted in the Thomas F. & Elaine P. Ridgley Fine Arts and Athletic Center, which was dedicated in 1999. The Ridgley Center includes an art room, the St. Aloysius Class of 1944 Gymnasium, athletic facilities, band and choral rooms, classrooms and the Brother Mark Thornton Terrace, a large multi-purpose room.
From 1980 through 1983, Brother Martin High School purchased land from the Farley Family which was bordered by Mandeville Street, Gentilly Boulevard, St. Aloysius Drive (formerly Stephen Girard St.) and Cor Jesu Drive (formerly Marigny St.) for use in their athletic and extracurricular programs. In 2004, the field underwent a renovation as part of Phase II of the Capital Campaign during which a baseball field was constructed and additional athletic storage and restrooms were added. The playing surface was redone and drainage and a sprinkler system were installed.
The resurrection from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina required the strength and inspiration in the Brothers’ historical tradition and charism: “We have endured the Civil War, yellow fever and influenza epidemics, fires, floods, hurricanes, and economic depressions. In each case we survived major damage of one sort or another and remained faithful to our mission to evangelize young people through education. We fully intend to do the same in the face of the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina.” The Provincial Council quickly set these priorities: “First, we are making every effort to re-establish our schools and to return them to the level of operations they enjoyed prior to August 29, 2005. Second, we are trying to establish viable, active communities of Brothers to minister in those schools. And third, we are committed to provide the living situation that will insure the care and attention our elderly and infirm Brothers most certainly deserve.” (Annuaire 100, p. 216) Weeks after the storm, Brother Martin relocated to Baton Rouge and resumed classes thanks to the generous Catholic High community, allowing around 500 displaced New Orleans students to continue their education under the guidance of many faculty.
The Roland H. & Macy Paton Meyer Science and Mathematics Building opened for the 2007-2008 school year on August 17th. The Meyer Building is located at the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Sumpter Street, the former site of the Brothers’ Residence (circa 1955). This 35,000 square foot building houses a chemistry lab, a biology lab and the Brother Maurus Bordelon Physics Lab, eight science classrooms adjoin the three lab spaces on the second floor. The first floor has seven math classrooms and a computer lab. Labs and classrooms are equipped with ceiling mounted projectors, new lab equipment, and interacitve teaching technology. The classroom windows with manual solar protection and room darkening systems control varying daylight conditions while promoting student comfort, productivity, and energy efficiency.
After years of hearing suggestions from alumni and parents of about the need for formation experiences for boys in middle school, Brother Martin reintroduced a seventh grade level, gone since the days of St. Aloysius. The program lasted for four years and ended only with the reconfiguration of grade levels for all Catholic schools as mandated by the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools. Several hundred young men, in these five school years, were blessed to have six years of formation in the educational tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
In 2011, the Brothers forged into another missionary endeavor when Brother Chris Sweeney, S.C. and three Brothers from Canada, Brazil, and Zambia respectively accepted the challenge of establishing a school in Amatongas, Mozambique, resurrecting an abandoned Maryknoll enclave devastated by that country’s civil war. Classrooms and dormitories were roofed and repaired, fields plowed, a well dug, and a rudimentary sanitation system established to create a home for more than 300 male high school boarding students. The mission’s enrollment has expanded to now include village students who walk miles daily to attend the school. In 2017, the conversion of a former storage warehouse into a girls dorm has allowed a few dozen young women the chance to obtain a high school education. Some Brother Martin faculty have been privileged to visit Mission Amatongas, delivering supplies and funds raised through our annual Mission Drive. We have financed the purchase of dairy cows and milk processing equipment and the ‘Brother Martin Dairy’ now generates income as the mission tries to become more self-sufficient. Our students are extremely proud of the solidarity shared with our African counterparts and the demonstration of the charism of our founder in a region of the world where our efforts truly change lives.
With the highest peak on campus as befitting its spiritual importance, the James B. Branton Chapel anchors the backyard quad. Seating over 240--a typical grade level size--the intimate chapel tells the story of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and its devotion to Christ's Sacred Heart in its architecture and religious symbolism. Open daily to students and faculty, the chapel serves as a quiet place of prayer as well as site to the most important sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church: the eucharist. As the venue for weddings, vow renewals, and funerals, the Branton Chapel welcomes the Brother Martin family, from young to old, as they come together to celebrate and pray.
A 1944 graduate of St. Aloysius, businessman and philanthropist Tom Benson generously "gave back" to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart as he made a $10 million gift to the school in recognition of and gratitude for the Brothers and the school that gave him and his brother a chance and "formed" them to good. The Brother Nick Geisenberg endowment, named after the Brother who had a profound influence on a young Benson, allows the school to prepare for the future.
Because of the unselfishness of our benefactors and supportive alumni, Brother Martin has now embraced Phase III of its capital campaign, continuing the commitment the Brothers made to the youth of the New Orleans area 150 years ago. Projects nearing completion include a complete renovation and expansion of Food Services and the refurbishing of the Tom and Gayle Benson Mall and the Robert M. Conlin Gymnasium entrance. In the last year, completed improvements include the establishment of our future-ready Library, redesign of the Formation Center, second-floor classroom renovations, sprinkler system improvements, and air conditioning modifications. The Advancement Team maintains relationships with our more than 20,000 alumni whose generosity enables the Brothers and their partners in mission to continue to meet the needs of our changing world.
Loving and forgiving God,
We thank you for the charism of Andre Coindre, the selfless service of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, and the sanctuary that is Brother Martin High School.
Please continue to bless us with leaders, teachers, and students of wisdom and compassion who love us, form us, challenge us, and inspire us.
Enlighten our minds, sanctify our hearts, strengthen our wills, and grace us with courage and confidence to meet the needs of our changing world,
We ask all of this through your son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ametur Cor Jesu! Ametur Cor Mariae!