Most people in the Treasure Valley know about Bishop Kelly High School, Idaho’s Catholic high school. But did you know that Catholic education in Idaho began 125 years ago with BK’s predecessor, Saint Teresa’s Academy (STA)? Many of BK’s current students are part of a much longer lineage and will celebrate the 125 years of Catholic education in Idaho together with Saint Teresa’s alumni Thursday at an All School Mass at Bishop Kelly.
In 1885, Bishop Alphonse Glorieux was appointed to the Idaho Territory, and quickly set to work building an infrastructure for the Catholic Church. This included establishing schools to “give Christian training to the young.” Bishop Glorieux was delighted when he received word that the Sisters of the Holy Cross from South Bend, Ind., would be coming to open a school at Boise.
In August 1889, five nuns arrived in Boise via stagecoach in the dark of night. Sister Mary Dominica, Sister Digna, Sister Edith, Sister Columbina and Sister Marcus immediately set to work to find a temporary location for an all-girls school. Within just a few weeks, the five founders christened their new school Saint Teresa’s, in honor of Saint Teresa of Jesus, whose 500th birthday is also being celebrated on Thursday at Bishop Kelly! Sisters Mary Dominica and Digna taught, Sister Edith gave guitar lessons, and the other sisters did the cooking and canning. Saint Teresa’s concluded its first year June 25, 1890, with approximately 60 pupils having attended. The iconic brick building was built 13 years later.
In 1933, the boys attending high school at Saint Joseph’s joined the student body at Saint Teresa’s, making the school co-ed for the first time. With the boys came a robust athletic program and increased interest in service organizations. Football was a particular favorite of the STA crowd. In fact, an exhibition game in 1933 gave the STA Saints unusual bragging rights — they bested Boise Junior College with a score of 6-0.
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In 1964, the sisters made the difficult decision to close Saint Teresa’s Academy. The building at State and 4th streets was 61 years old and badly in need of repair that the sisters couldn’t afford. The school closed that spring, and many of the nuns returned to the Mother House in Indiana. The building was sold to the state of Idaho and demolished to make way for new government buildings. Bishop Kelly opened the following fall, with most of the STA student body making a seamless transition to their new school.
Saint Teresa’s Academy and its alumni are part of the living history of the Treasure Valley! Today, 2,100 students are enrolled in our Treasure Valley Catholic schools. Five elementary schools: St. Joseph’s, Sacred Heart, St. Mary’s, St. Mark’s and St. Paul’s in Nampa — which serve 1,300 students from pre-K to eighth grade. Bishop Kelly High School serves 800 students in ninth through12th grades.
The mission in our Catholic schools today is similar to what Bishop Glorieux set out to do in 1885 — to “educate and develop the whole student in the Catholic tradition — spirit, mind and body.” This holistic approach focuses on creativity, critical thinking, reflective problem solving, collaboration, effective communication skills, moral decision making, physical balance, healthy relationships, spiritual growth and a commitment to the service of others. Along the way our students receive an exceptional academic foundation that prepares them for college and life beyond.
The Saint Teresa’s legacy lives on in the halls of Bishop Kelly and our elementary schools. One hundred and twenty five years later, our community still benefits from the fruits of the founding sisters’ labor.
Rich Raimondi is president of Bishop Kelly High School in Boise.