History & Traditions


List of 3 items.

  • Founding of Sacred Heart Academy

    In order to fulfill the growing need for young women seeking a strong college-preparatory education in the Catholic tradition, Sacred Heart Academy was founded September 9, 1946, by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, at that time known as the Missionary Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MZSH).

    The school was established by Sr. M. Antonine Signorelli, a visionary leader who recognized the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the young students who would go on to become leaders in the local area and beyond. Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien of Hartford and Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Rev. Francis Heffernan approved the founding of the school.

    SHA started out with 17 students in New Haven on Greene Street in the provincial house of the MZSH. Each subsequent year brought increasing enrollment and expansion of facilities. In 1953, the congregation, by this time renamed The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, moved to a new location in Hamden: Mount Sacred Heart on Cherry Hill, a property acquired from the estate of a local businessman by the name of Manley Chester. SHA also moved to the same property in 1957.

    For many years, the new facility served the needs of the growing school. However, subsequent principals have followed in the visionary steps of Sr. Antonine, evidenced by the growth of the facility. Please continue to Legacy of Leadership.
  • Sr. Antonine Signorelli

    Though only a small percentage of Sacred Heart Academy alumnae can say that they knew Sr. Antonine, there is no doubt that her influence has endured long beyond the years she spent as Principal. Sr. Antonine was born in Missouri in 1915, making her barely 31 years old when SHA opened its doors on Greene Street in New Haven in 1946. In a 1976 article in The Catholic Transcript (the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Hartford) it states, "Armed with courage, genius, and grace, Sister Antonine was able to convince bishops, mayors, and others that her work—God's work—was not only important but necessary to the spiritual and intellectual formation of thousands of young women." Sr. Antonine spent 21 years as Principal before her death from cancer at the age of 51. While it is easy to wonder "what might have been" had Sr. Antonine lived, it is clear that SHA was already on track for continuing to develop its reputation as a premier Catholic girls' high school; "excelsior" was already entrenched.

    A Remembrance of Sr. Antonine

    Another name familiar to more than half of all SHA graduates is Sr. Ursula Bongiovanni, who taught at SHA from 1948 until 1980. The following is a remembrance of Sr. Antonine written by Sr. Ursula in 2005.

    A Rememberance of Sr. Antonine (PDF)
  • The Apostle Tradition

    The motto of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, "Caritas Christi Urget Nos," means The Love of Christ Impels Us. Since their founding in 1894 in Italy, the Apostles have served the people of God wherever they have been called, in fulfillment of their mission to "make the compassionate heart of Christ better known, loved, and served." (Mission statement) This calling led the sisters, at that time known as the "Apostolic Sisters of the Sacred Heart" across the ocean to Brazil in 1900, and then to Boston two years later. Those first missionaries were sent to serve the immigrant population in the Boston area. The original 6 sisters were joined by 9 more within two years. They ran a day nursery and convalescent hospital in addition to offering catechism, sewing, and Italian language classes. The sisters also opened a Novitiate for the formation of new sisters who entered the congregation. In 1905 there were 30 sisters.

    By 1906, the sisters were making preparations for their second mission in the U.S. at St. Michael's Church in New Haven, CT, establishing a convent on Olive St. By 1908, however, circumstances outside their control caused the sisters to leave Boston entirely and establish their novitiate at 295 Green Street in New Haven. At that time, the Greene Street mission was not yet known as the Provincialate because the United States was not recognized officially as a "province" of the institute until 1931.

    In those early years in New Haven, the Sisters ran a day nursery st St. Michael's parish and operated the Sacred Heart Orphanage on Greene Street. The sisters' second mission was the establishment of a grammar school for St. Michael's in 1936, with the first classes conducted  at the Sacred Heart Convent until a school building was completed in 1940.

    By the mid-1940s, with the placement of orphans in foster homes, plans were made to close the orphanage and utilize the Greene Street building for the establishment of the first all-girls high school in New Haven, Sacred Heart Academy.

    From New Haven, the sisters expanded their works to six other states by the 1950s. At this time the sisters were known as the "Missionary Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart" (MZSH). With the growth of the province, both in sisters and in works, the Greene Street convent and school were no longer suitable. Ground was broken for the new provincialate on Cherry Hill in nearby Hamden in 1950. Mount Sacred Heart was dedicated in 1953. Construction began on the new Sacred Heart Academy within a few years, with SHA moving to the property in 1958.

    The love of Christ has impelled the Apostles to serve God's people, from the humble calling of the first young women over 100 years ago, to the visionary leaders throughout the years who saw a need and filled it, to the present-day Apostles who continue the tradition. At Sacred Heart Academy, "Caritas Christi Urget Nos" has given rise to "Excelsior"—Ever Higher!

    The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus presently serve on five continents and have their Generalate in Rome, Italy. The present Superior General is Mother Clare Millea, ASCJ, an American and a Sacred Heart Academy alumna. Extensive information on the Apostles' history, charism, and present ministries is available on the website of the United States Province, www.ascjus.org.


There are three events that have taken place every year since the first students enrolled at SHA in 1946: the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, the May Crowning, and the Musical production, known as the "Operetta" into the 1970s.

List of 3 items.

  • Enthronement

    Each October, and often on that First Friday, the Sacred Heart Academy community gathers at Mass to enthrone Jesus as the King and Center of our hearts and lives and make an Act of Consecration to His Sacred Heart. In doing this we are reaffirming the commitment of our baptismal vows, which is a lifetime commitment of faith and love.

    A senior is elected each year by her classmates to crown the statue of the Sacred Heart at this Mass. Other seniors are also are also selected as attendants or as part of the Honor Guard. The seniors are asked to consider seriously the following criteria before casting a vote: Christian values such as honesty, sincerity, kindness, caring, service, and respectfulness and womanly qualities of gentleness, courage, conviction, and compassion.
  • May Crowning

    Each May the Sacred Heart Academy Community gathers together to crown an image of Mary, the Mother of God, our Mother and the Queen of Peace and to consecrate ourselves to God through her prayers. All students, faculty, and staff participate in yhis paraliturgy which includes a prayerful Living Rosary with scriptural meditations and beautiful hymns.

    A senior is usually selected by her classmates to crown the Blessed Mother. Other seniors are also selected as the crowner’s attendant or as part of the Honor Guard. The seniors are asked to consider seriously the following criteria before casting a vote: Christian values such as honesty, sincerity, kindness, caring, service, and respectfulness and womanly qualities of gentleness, courage, conviction, and compassion.
  • The Musical / Operetta

    Originally called the “operetta,” the musical has taken place each year since the first students enrolled here in 1946. Present day SHA musicals are offered in the Fall, but it hasn't always been that way. Through 1989, the show featured two different casts and the curtain opened for 6 performances over the course of two weekends. The show moved to the Fall in 1989 when the annual Live and Silent Auction hit the scene as a major spring event. Starting with the fantastic 50th Anniversary year production of Show Boat in 1995, held in fittingly dramatic fashion at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, the musical enjoys a run of 3 performances. Today, musical productions have returned to the historic Shubert Theater and are performed to sell-out crowds. The musical theater program has been recognized with awards from the Broadway High School Theatre Guild and the prestigious HALO awards.

    Complete Musical/Operetta Roster
    2019 | Peter Pan
    2018 | Leader of the Pack
    2017 | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
    2016 | The Little Mermaid
    2015 | West Side Story
    2014 | Singin' in the Rain
    2013 | Annie
    2012 | White Christmas
    2011 | The Wiz
    2010 | Hairspray
    2009 | Fiddler on the Roof
    2008 | Les Miserables
    2007 | Beauty and the Beast
    2006 | Annie
    2005 | The Sound of Music
    2004 | Anything Goes
    2003 | Guys & Dolls
    2002 | West Side Story
    2001 | 42nd Street
    2000 | Hello, Dolly!
    1999 | Bye Bye, Birdie
    1998 | No, No, Nanette
    1997 | The Wizard of Oz
    1996 | Crazy For You
    1995 | Show Boat at the Shubert Theater
    1994 | Carousel
    1993 | Hello, Dolly!
    1992 | Fiddler on the Roof
    1991 | Annie
    1990 | Annie Get Your Gun
    1989 | Oklahoma Fall shows began
    1989 | The King and I
    1988 | The Boy Friend
    1987 | The Sound of Music
    1986 | Fiddler on the Roof
    1985 | The Music Man
    1984 | Annie
    1983 | Once Upon A Mattress
    1982 | Hello, Dolly!
    1981 | Annie Get Your Gun
    1980 | The Wizard of Oz
    1979 | No, No, Nanette
    1978 | Peter Pan
    1977 | The King and I
    1976 | Irene
    1975 | Bye Bye, Birdie
    1974 | The Sound of Music
    1973 | Oliver
    1972 | Fiddler on the Roof
    1971 | Plain and Fancy
    1970 | Carousel
    1969 | Oklahoma
    1968 | The King and I
    1967 | My Fair Lady
    1966 | The Sound of Music
    1965 | The Music Man
    1964 | Peter Pan
    1963 | The Wizard of Oz
    1962 | Our Hearts Were Young and Gay
    1961 | First Impressions
    1960 | Little Women
    1959 | Finian’s Rainbow
    1958 | Love From Judy
    1957 | In Old Vienna
    1956 | M’lle Modiste
    1955 | Babes in Toyland
    1954 | The Fortune Teller
    1953 | The Mocking Bird
    1952 | Meet Arizona
    1951 | In Old Vienna
    1950 | In Gay Barcelona
    1949 | Bitter Sweet Anne
    1948 | The Royal Way and Home to Mother