A Brief History of Saint Catherine Academy

Saint Catherine Academy had its beginning in the little school that was started on the first floor of the Sisters of Mercy Convent the day after their first arrival in Belize on January 20, 1883. Those first missionaries were accomplished women from New Orleans, Louisiana, who provided quality education from the start, a tradition that faculties down through the century have continued to preserve. Their pupils did well in the “Exhibition,” public oral examinations of the early days. Besides the regular school subjects of religion, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, and nature study, there were also lessons in fine sewing, drama, and music—instrumental and choral.

In the 1912-1919 era mention is made of the senior and junior classes. As early as 1910, there were lessons in typewriting on the new Oliver machine and an entry in the Annual speaks of Mother Stanislaus again resuming her stenography class.

From the turn of the century, Saint Catherine Academy had been taking boarders, girls from the districts and the neighbouring republics. There were fifty boarders when all the buildings at Saint Catherine Academy campus were demolished in the devastating hurricane of 1931. Miraculously, no lives were lost. When classes could be resumed, they were held in a nearby house that had survived the hurricane. By January 1934, the sisters had moved into a new wooden building that had classroom space. The convent school was reorganized into Saint Catherine Academy, a high school that had an emphasis on preparation for the Cambridge exams and Saint Catherine Elementary. During the latter part of World War II, external exams were discontinued, as examination papers were being lost in torpedoed ships.

When the three-story high school building was completed in 1960, it included a biology lab, and a home economics room, two subjects that were added to the curriculum. The institution kept growing, and a new building containing three more classrooms, and well-equipped biology and Chemistry labs was constructed in 1970.

Today Saint Catherine has a student body of approximately 500 students. The administration of the school passed on from Sr. Maria Caritas Lawrence, RSM in 1995 to its first lay principal, Mrs. Alice Castillo. The current principal is Mrs. Salome Terry Tillett. The faculty includes sisters of mercy, as well as lay teachers and staff. All are dedicated to promoting the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical welfare of each student.

This academy exists to assist young Christian women to achieve their potential. Ever mindful of the ultimate goal of humankind, Saint Catherine Academy prepares her students to live and spread the gospel message, and to make a positive contribution to society.

The College operates under a Board of Governors, which is responsible for the management of its business and academic affairs in accordance with the mission of the Sisters of Mercy.

Philosophy of S.C.A.

The philosophy of Saint Catherine Academy is founded on the truth that a truly sound Christian education is the greatest service to be offered to youths. In true Mercy tradition and in keeping with the history of Catherine education, the aims and goals of this institution are best captured in the following excerpt from the Vatican II Document “On Christian Education.”

“…a true education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to his/her ultimate goal, and simultaneously with respect to the good of these societies of which as a woman/man, she/he is a member, and in whose responsibilities as an adult, she/he will share.”

The Administration and Faculty of Saint Catherine Academy is committed to providing the best possible opportunities for the spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and emotional development of the students, and to their growth in personal responsibility and social awareness. In a climate of mutual respect, understanding and dialogue, each student is encouraged to discover her giftedness and to achieve in accordance with her personal potential.

In essence it is the aim of the school to help the students cooperate with divine grace so that they will become true and whole Christian women. Saint Catherine Academy takes seriously her responsibility to prepare the students for surviving here on earth as well as fitting them in both desire and action for eternal life. This “takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical, spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and civic, not with a view to reducing it in any way but in order to elevate, regulate, and perfect it, in accordance with right reason and the example and teaching of Jesus Christ.” In short, Saint Catherine Academy desires in her teaching, her example and her discipline, to fashion a life that is worth living. She recognizes that if this is to be done with any degree of success she must constantly be on the guard that both what is taught and those who teach will meet not only the present day needs in Belize and our world, but also offer realistic solutions to the problems of poverty, disease, war drug abuse, social injustice in its manifold forms, and the plight of women and children in our society. In the past, right up to the present, Saint Catherine Academy has had abundant success in transmitting knowledge, development, developing skills, and preparing our young women for living.

Our success to fashion a life that is worth living has not been as spectacular. The competition that exists between spiritual and material values, the cultural lag between the ideal and the reality, and the pressures that have been brought on by the greed and ambition of a “get rich-quick-mentality” continue to minimize and thwart these efforts.

Nevertheless, Saint Catherine Academy will continue both in its philosophy and academic options to face the challenge to restructure for her students a value system where spiritual values will clearly have priority over material ones, and so help create a system of education that is free, open, spiritual, merciful, just, and productive.