In 1878, Most Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, D.D., Bishop of Little Rock, issued an appeal for clergy for his scattered flock, especially those of foreign birth or language. The following month, the Very Rev. Joseph Strub, a Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers in the U.S., met with the Bishop and was strongly urged to send laborers into the vineyards of Central Arkansas. After extensive inspection and prospecting, Father Strub eventually made Morrilton the center of his St. Joseph colony under which the Holy Ghost Father would care for the various colonies in the area.
On January 1879, Father Charles Steurer, C.S.Sp., and Brothers Gene and Leo arrived in Morrilton to serve the parish of Sacred Heart. In 1879, Father Strub invited a mission band of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, France to Morrilton. The Sisters wasted no time in erecting a gracious and imposing three story building of imported brick for service as convent/school/ and chapel. This structure was completed a cost of $12,000.
In 1898, the Sisters of St. Joseph returned to Cluny, France and, Father Charles Laengst, C.S.Sp., moved promptly to obtain a commitment from the Poor School Sisters of Notre Dame (as they were then called) from Ripa, St. Louis. On September 12, 1899, Mother Bonaventure, S.S.N.D, arrived with two teaching sisters and a novice to serve as cook. There were no class or grade divisions at that time so the records indicate there were 23 "large" pupils and 14 "small" ones. Enrollment, however, was far from complete because the good Sisters had arrived in cotton-picking season. Sessions were apparently desultory during that first year.
However, as anyone who has attended Sacred Heart School knows, the Schools Sisters of Notre Dame are not to be bested very long by anyone or anything. The second year opened August 7th with an enrollment of 21. Classes recessed in September as a concession to King Cotton, but reconvened in October and remained in session until June.
In 1908, the School Sisters of Notre Dame initiated the now-familiar September-June school year. By 1916, four teachers comprised the faculty and regular division of grades had been accomplished in 1910. By the end of 1915, modern school desks replaced the old benches and tables and extra classrooms had been fitted out.
Under the guidance of Rev. Henry J. Goebel, C.S.Sp., the first year of a high school curriculum was initiated in September 1919. The classical four year high school began with the fall class of 1921 which numbered 12 freshmen. High School graduation in 1925 marked the beginning of the fulfillment of a great dream shared by Father Goebel and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
On December 18, 1956, about 3:25 pm, a fire of unknown origin started in the attic of the building that was built by the Sister of St. Joseph in 1880. Its principal function at the time was to house about 80 grade school children, as well as a chemistry laboratory, a library, typing room, and parish hall. Most of the children had left for day and the rest were safely evacuated. The building was a total loss. The new grade school, still in place today, was occupied by November 25, 1957 and was formally dedicated by Bishop Fletcher on December 18, 1957 - exactly one year after its destruction. During the ensuing era, school construction would continue to dominate the parish history.
The new high school with gymnasium and cafeteria was dedicated on July 18, 1965.
In 1984, the School Sisters of Notre Dame departed from Sacred Heart. Led by dedicated lay teachers, the school remains a strong and vital part of the Morrilton community. As a small school in a small town, the school continues to face difficult economic challenges. However, it is clear throughout the years that the school and parish have faced challenges which seemed insurmountable - including the Great Depression - yet those who remain know that Sacred Heart Parish and School will receive whatever grace and strength that is required to face the unknown future.
Information was taken from the book Sacred Heart Parish: The First 100 Years (1879-1979)