The first Sacred Heart school in Maryland, 1871–1873
Excerpt from House on the Hill, by Mary Schaller '61
It may come as a surprise to learn that the Religious of the Sacred Heart first came to the Washington metropolitan area in the nineteenth century. In 1871, when the United States was still recovering from the ravages of the Civil War, a Sacred Heart convent school was opened at Rosecroft in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Mother Mary Ann Hardy had been born in St. Mary’s County. During her childhood, she attended the Sacred Heart School in Louisiana where she was taught and inspired by St. Philippine Duchesne. Mary Ann entered the convent following her graduation. One of her most cherished desires was to establish a Sacred Heart school in her home state. After a good deal of prayer and petition, Mother Hardy finally received permission to open a small school in Maryland. Mother Hardy used her family’s home of Rosecroft on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay as the convent.
Mother Hardy and her four companion nuns dreamed that their little school would take root and grow like the other Sacred Heart schools in St. Louis, New York and New Orleans, but fate was against them. The timing for establishing a school in Maryland was off. The War Between the States had ended just six years earlier and the people in those states that had experienced first hand the destruction of that bloody conflict were in the throes of rebuilding their lives and their homes. Even though Maryland was not part of the Confederacy and therefore not subject to the rigors of Federal Reconstruction, the countryside had been ravaged by the soldiers of both sides. Times were hard and lean.
Also, the location proved to be too remote to attract many students. The only remaining Jesuit priest was at St. Inigoe’s, five miles away, and he was often unable to come and celebrate Mass for the cloistered nuns. Furthermore, wrote Mother Hardy, “the [supply] boat only comes once a week from Baltimore.”
In 1873, after less than two years, Rosecroft School of the Sacred Heart was forced to close its doors because of “overwhelming hardship. The difficulties involved in obtaining supplies forced Mother Hardy to close the school.”
“The nuns were told to move to Providence, Rhode Island where they did establish a school which flourished for over ninety years.” [“From the Headmistress,” INTERCOM/ALUMNAE NEWS, Vol. 28, No. 7, page 1; and the 1947 RIDGEWAY. Archives.]