About

History

The Academy of Saint Elizabeth, founded in 1860, is the oldest Catholic all-girls high school in the State of New Jersey. The Academy not only carries a history of academic excellence, but also a legacy of developing and educating thousands of successful young women. Their story is our story.
Based first in Newark, New Jersey, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth moved to Convent Station under the guidance of Mother Mary Xavier Mehegan. Afterwards, she founded our beloved Academy of Saint Elizabeth. Since its inception, the Academy has been a model institution of secondary learning for young women.

Over its 162 years of existence, the Academy has experienced many pivotal historical, social, and spiritual revolutions which shaped us into the school we are today. The Academy has always faced such tumultuous times by remaining ever present, yet timeless in its approach to educating and empowering her students.

A History of The Academy

List of 20 items.

  • 1825

    Catherine Josephine Mehegan was born on February 19, 1825 to an Irish farmer and his wife. Catherine was the youngest of a large family and grew up in County Cork.
  • 1847

    In February 1847 – just three days before her 22nd birthday – Catherine entered the newly established Sisters of Charity of New York and was given the religious name Sister Mary Xavier.
  • 1853

    James Roosevelt Bayley, first Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, finds and sends five young women, including Margaret Ann O’Neill, to Cincinnati to be trained in becoming members of the Sisters of Charity. O’Neill would one day become Sister Mary Agnes, the first Directress of the Academy of Saint Elizabeth.
  • 1860

    On July 2, 1860, Mother Xavier and nine young sisters traveled to Morris County to establish a new Motherhouse for the Sisters of Charity in the Diocese of Newark. On that day, Mother Xavier carried the statue of the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus to Convent, where it has been treasured for the last 160 years.
  • 1860

    Mother Xavier and the sisters immediately set to work opening a school for young ladies. By September 1860, six girls were enrolled as the first students of the Academy of Saint Elizabeth. Sister Mary Agnes O’Neill was appointed its first Directress and held the position for seventeen years.
  • 1862

    Mother Xavier had a building constructed for the Academy, adjacent to the Motherhouse, and in 1862 the 100 girls and their teachers moved into it.
  • 1865

    From 1865 to 1880, Mother Xavier purchased 225 acres of land, from Park Avenue to the top of the hill near the railroad tracks. She convinced the Lackawanna Railroad to stop at our gates by constructing a small station, building a road from the top of the hill to the station and paying the station master’s salary.
  • 1899

    With the founding of the College of Saint Elizabeth in 1899 a new academic building was needed and classes for both the academy and college students began in Xavier Hall in winter 1901. It wasn’t until Santa Rita Hall, a dormitory, opened in 1906 and Santa Maria Hall, a classroom building, opened in 1913, that the Academy had Xavier Hall to herself, the current location of the Academy.
  • 1909

    In 1909, Holy Family Chapel was dedicated during the 50th anniversary of the community so that the Academy students, the college students and the Sisters would have a suitable place to worship God.
  • 1910s

    The Academy not only promoted academic excellence, but also encouraged its students to be well-rounded in other aspects of their high school experience, including athletics. Softball was one of the first competitive sports offered for students at the Academy.
  • 1915

    On June 24, 1915, Mother Mary Xavier Mehegan died at the age of 90 after spending nearly 70 years in professed, consecrated life with the Sisters of Charity.
  • 1928

    The Academy’s first yearbook, titled The Tower, was published by the Class of 1928. Ten students staffed the editing team, beginning the tradition of our school’s yearbook, fondly known today as The Beth. Many of the Academy’s yearbooks can be found in our library on the 3rd floor of Xavier Hall.
  • 1950s

    After the end of World War II, as women began to enter the workforce in large numbers, the Academy was leading the way in educating women, especially in the fields of science and mathematics. Science labs were well-equipped with various instruments and equipment to place our students at the forefront of the women’s movement.
  • 1960

    The Academy celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its founding with great pomp and circumstance. Over those 100 years, numerous traditions had been established which helped created the unbreakable bonds of SEAsterhood. One such tradition was a candlelit class dinner, used as a way for the students to learn social etiquette and create lifelong friendships.
  • 1980s

    Shifting from a boarding school to a commuter school, the Academy began to place an even stronger focus on its academic offerings. Research found, during this time, that students who attended an all-girls school like the Academy were two to three times more likely to earn their Ph.D. than their counterparts in co-educational high schools.
  • 1985

    For the 125th Anniversary of the Academy, St. Pope John Paul II imparted an Apostolic Blessing on the Sisters of Charity, lay faculty and staff, and students.
  • 1991

    The 1990’s saw a period of rejuvenation and renovation around the Academy building, including the donation of the statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, which greets our students as they enter into the front entrance of the school. Donated by the Alumnae Association, the statue marked the 130th Anniversary of the Academy’s founding.
  • 1992

    The McMullen Auditorium, named after Sister Patricia Mary McMullen, a former principal of the Academy, was dedicated in her honor in 1992. The renovated auditorium, located on the fourth floor of Xavier Hall, hosts the Academy’s annual plays and musicals.
  • 2014

    Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, S.C., a former teacher at the Academy of Saint Elizabeth, was beatified in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ. Blessed Miriam Teresa's beatification was the first beatification to ever occur on American soil. The cause for her beatification was approved by Pope Francis and the Mass of Beatification was celebrated on October 4 by Angelo Cardinal Amato, (former) Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.
  • 2015

    For the first time in the history of the Academy, the position of principal was filled by a lay leader, Mrs. Lynn Burek. With the ever-changing world around us, Mrs. Burek has been guided by the goal of blending the Academy’s 162-year-old traditions with contemporary ideas concerning education and development of our young women.