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Hurricane Katrina and Ursuline Academy: 10 Years Later

Message from Academy President Karen McNay

St. Angela calls us to “Act, move, believe, strive, hope, cry out to God with all your heart, for without doubt you will see marvelous things.”  For the past decade Ursuline Academy of New Orleans followed St. Angela’s call in recovering and moving forward in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Through the action and support of the Ursuline community tethered in great faith, we watched as our campus and programs not only recovered but flourished moving on to “marvelous things.” We give great thanks for the Ursuline of 2015 and all our supporters.  Poised for the future, we look forward to the marvelous things around the corner into our next decade as we prepare for our 300th birthday.


Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina became one of the largest disasters in US History. When the flood waters began to rise and submerge many parts of New Orleans, Ursuline Academy was not spared. The damage to our campus was enormous. Trees were down, electrical systems were flooded, and not one of the Academy’s buildings was left unscathed. Buckled floors and moldy walls dominated the Ourso Athletic Center which, at the time, was only one year old. The auditorium, the old gym, the building that is now the Early Childhood Learning Center, and the convent had been ravaged by water and were completely unusable.

A massive clean-up began. The main building reopened for school on January 3, 2006 with the Shrine following soon after on January 8, the feast day of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. In the 10 years that followed, the Academy would grow and flourish in ways that may have seemed impossible during those hot, humid days in 2005.

Hurricane Katrina may have caused a series of obstacles and challenges, but none were insurmountable. The storm ultimately served to strengthen and better the Academy. In the last decade, Ursuline has experienced many exciting changes including:

•    A new roof consisting of hundreds of squares of Greenstone Slate, copper gutters, flashing and downspouts;

•    The fourth floor art studio renovation complete with central air and heat, a beautiful skylight, and new furniture and fixtures;

•    A renovated, state-of-the-art auditorium that seats 818 and provides the perfect space for the Academy’s extraordinary theatrical performances;

•    Resurfaced and repainted tennis courts for practices and competitive game play;

•    Transformation of our 100-year-old laundry building into the Soeur Teresita Rivet, OSU Early Childhood Center, a creatively designed space that encourages young minds to explore, discover, question, and develop their intellectual curiosity;

•    The Fitness and Wellness Center, a renovation of our historic 1935 gymnasium along with the construction of a new addition that includes a dance/yoga studio, indoor elevated track, practice volleyball and basketball court, fully-equipped weight room, extensive cardio room, multi-media classroom, and athletic conference room;

•    A new softball field and batting cage named after beloved coach, alumna, teacher and administrator Pat Taylor;

•    Renovated courtyards including newly paved sidewalks and fountain restorations

•    A brand new science lab providing elementary students their own space for hands-on learning and experiments;

•    Formation of a new immersion program, Beyond Our Borders, that encourages high school students to model Serviam in a foreign country of great need;

•    Implementation of a 1:1 technology program designed to engage students, offer powerful collaborative and in-class possibilities and enhance twenty-first century skills;

•    Formation of Lions on the Loose, a comprehensive after-school program; and

•    A revamping of the cafeteria into the Legacy Dining Hall, along with a new lunch program providing our students with fresh, whole, and healthy foods.

The difficulties and successes that were born from Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters are now a part of our nearly three-centuries-old history. We will never forget, and we will never stop working for the brightest future for Ursuline Academy. It is with great pride and anticipation that we look forward to the next decade and beyond.

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