Monday, August 20, 2012

100 Years of Service

Early students of Notre Dame Institute, around 1914, Kerrville
Next Saturday, August 25th, Notre Dame School will celebrate its 100th birthday, and what a century it has been for the school.
I am thankful to Karen Herzog Klein for sharing some of the history of the school with me.
The school was dedicated on August 28, 1912, and classes were taught by three sisters of Charity of Incarnate Word, from San Antonio. Classes were offered from kindergarten through 12th grade.
On September 9th, 1912, 27 pupils were enrolled and by the end of the first month the student body had tripled. At the end of the first year, 87 pupils attended the school, of which a third were non-Catholic.
The school was a special project of Father Henry Kemper, a pioneering priest who arrived in Kerrville in 1911.
The arrival of Father Henry Kemper marked a large change for the Catholic congregation here. Fourteen visiting priests preceded him in Kerrville; Kemper, however, made Kerrville his home, and led the parish for 44 years.
He was no ordinary priest, either, holding bachelors and masters degrees from Notre Dame University, and having studied in Rome for the priesthood. He also taught for a time at the University of Chicago. The son of a wealthy Chicago family, Kemper seemed destined for big things in the Catholic Church.
But it seems his heavenly Father had other plans. In 1910, Kemper contracted tuberculosis. This changed everything, and ended the scholarly part of his life. He was ordained in Chicago and ultimately sent to a sanitarium in Boerne to recuperate. 
In those days the only treatment for tuberculosis was fresh, dry air. Many a family in Kerrville can trace their family's move to Kerrville to a relative who was ill with tuberculosis. Thus was the case with Father Kemper.
He came here for his health and decided to stay, becoming the parish's first resident pastor.
Notre Dame School that first year charged $1.00 per month tuition, though tuition was free to the poor. Tuition collected the first year was $165.00; Father Kemper balanced the new school's finances with his own money.
In 1915 the Guadalupe School was opened with approximately 100 Hispanic students. I can remember the old schoolhouse at the end of Jefferson Street, with a bell still in one of its towers.
The Guadalupe School was discontinued in 1933; the upper four grades at Notre Dame Institute ended in 1925.
In the 1950s, Notre Dame School athletic teams competed in the Hill Country Catholic School Conference, playing teams from New Braunfels, San Antonio, Fredericksburg, Bandera and Medina. In 1955, the school's football team was undefeated, and played for the CYO State Championship against Halletsville's Sacred Heart Braves. Notre Dame won the game and the state title in the final three minutes of the game on a pass from Joe Castillo to Alfred Villareal.
The 1956 team played in San Antonio before a television audience at the 8th National Milk Bowl. A later team played in 1957 in Antler Stadium, a game mainly remembered for having taken place in 11 inches of snow.
Among the many students attending the school, at least three students chose a further calling in the church: Louise Colbath became Sister Mary Lourdes; Marie Angelica Gonzales became Sister Mary Stephen, and Edwin Vigil became a priest whose brief life was a blessing to those around him.
Next Saturday, August 25th, a special 5:00 pm Mass will be celebrated at Notre Dame Catholic Church in honor of the school's centennial, with Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller joining current and former students, teachers, and supporters of the Notre Dame School to mark the occasion.
It's been a good first 100 years for the school, and its next century will see the school continue its legacy of service and scholarship.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 18, 2012.


  1. Very interesting article and most informative.

    Thank you.

  2. I concur.

    A kid once @
    600 Myrta/Clay Street


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