The first community of Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel originated in Tours, France near the Loire River in 1824, where a young novice named Julie Thérèse Chevrel joined the order in 1825. They endured adversity and were plagued by financial crisis and religious persecution spawned by France’s July Revolution of 1830. Out of concern for their future, Mother St. Paul Bazire, one of the co-foundresses, predicted that Thérèse, who later became Superior at age 22, would cross the sea and the community would survive in a new country.
The Sisters arrived in Louisiana on Nov. 1, 1833. The bishop invited them to administer a free school for young ladies of color in New Orleans. Upon their arrival, however, Sisters Thérèse and Augustin Clerc were sent to Plattenville to re-open a school. They returned to New Orleans in 1838 to assume the administration of the school for free young ladies of color from the Ursulines. In 1840, the Sisters also opened a boarding and day school on Governor Nichols Street, the beginning of Mount Carmel Academy, which was incorporated into Orleans Parish in 1858 and the State of Louisiana in 1896. From 1869-1919, the Carmelite Sisters ran an orphanage at Royal and Piety Streets that grew into a major facility for Civil War orphans, yellow fever victims, and victims of abuse and poverty.
In 1926 the Sisters moved their congregation and school from the French Quarter to the Lakefront. Mother Clare Coady’s administration was set against the backdrop of the early twentieth century and encompassed the First World War, the changing social norms of the 1920s, and the downward economic spiral of the Great Depression. Her ability to respond to the evolving requirements of Catholic education built the foundation for the present-day Mount Carmel Academy, whose mission is to provide young women the opportunity to develop their God-given talents through academic excellence and co-curricular programs, as well as to empower them to develop zeal for their faith with a commitment to prayer and service. Among her many achievements, Mother Clare instituted professional training for teachers and accredited high school programs. In 1926, she chose the developing Lakeview area to build a four-story building, which provided a residence for the Sisters and housed a day and boarding school, a novitiate, and a Catholic Normal School to train teachers. The motherhouse remains home for the Sisters today and houses Cub Corner Pre School, a child development program that opened in 1987.
In the years following, there have only been four principals at Mount Carmel Academy: Sister Mary Angela Duplantis (1926-1955), Sister Mary Grace Danos (1955-1980), Sister Camille Anne Campbell (1980-2014), and Beth Ann Simno (2014-present). The school began to grow under Sisters Mary Angela and Mary Grace; it became accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (SACS) in 1959. In 1976, Sister Mary Grace built a three-story building with space for a library, the Fitzmorris Performing Arts Center, and the Instruction Materials Center and in 1980, began the LeBlanc-Savoy Fine Arts Building. Enrollment, which was 16 in 1926, grew from 800 in 1980 to 1246 in 2016 under the direction of Sister Camille Anne Campbell, who became principal in 1980 and continues to serve as president. Sister Camille Anne Campbell added a three-story classroom building in 1995 to accommodate increasing enrollment. In 2002, the school added an eighth grade program, and in 2004 built the four-story Mother Clare Coady Classroom Building. The 36,000 square foot Mother Thérèse Chevrel Assembly Center opened in May 2005.
When 10 feet of water flooded the school in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, it did not defeat the community. The school's administrators arranged for a well to be drilled on the campus enabling them to have water in the months of clean-up. Mount Carmel Academy cleansed buildings with clean, fresh water and planted grass and flowers in a desolated area. The school was opened in just five months, and became a beacon of hope in the storm-ravaged neighborhood.
Today, Mount Carmel continues the mission of the first Carmelite Sisters while under the direction of President Sister Camille Anne Campbell and Beth Ann Simno, the first lay principal. Ms. Simno successfully implemented at 1:1 Apple MacBook Air program and a Faculty Learning Lab. In the 2016-2017 school year, the Phyllis M. Taylor Maker Lab became the newest addition to the state-of-the-art school, providing a space where students are encouraged to collaborate, innovate, and create using the Design Cycle which encompasses all subjects.
Mount Carmel Academy is founded on the value of spiritual growth for each student, teacher, staff member, and parent. The school remains faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and continues to stay on the cutting edge of educational change in order to graduate young ladies who will promote a just and peaceful world relying on the grace of God.