by Robert Gonzalez - Dr. Stan Green, Editor.
The date of the school’s founding is April 11, 1904. A two-story building as “solidly constructed” was erected by Luis Quintanilla, a local contractor, for $600.00.
As for the teachers, the Ursuline Sisters had been here since 1868, but in addition to their boarding school next to the International Bridge, were also in charge of the school at St. Peter’s Church. Thus Bishop Verdaguer invited the Sisters of the Holy Ghost to come.
During that time hey served the “poorest of the poor”. Most of the time the sisters shared their lunch with the children who were sent to school without any lunch, and in most cases, without any shoes. Despite teaching in a poor community, the number of both sisters and the students grew. At the end of their ninth year in 1913, the Diocese of Corpus Christi was established.
These Sisters served for 9 years. In 1913, Bishop Nussbaum who replaced Bishop Verdauger upon the latter’s death in 1911, sent the Ursulines to take charge of the school. The three assigned were Mother Mary, Sister Mary Francis, and the young Sister Mary Gabriel who would become a legend in Laredo parochial education.
Our Lady of Guadalupe School had, as one of its early chroniclers recounted, its ups and downs. Although the number of pupils rose to about 300 in those early years, this was one of the poorest neighborhoods in Laredo, and most of the boys and girls could not pay fees. Bishop Nussbaum sent help when he could, but is bishopric of South Texas was not much better off than the Guadalupe neighborhood.
The financial situation of the diocese improved somewhat under Bishop Nussbaum’s successor, Bishop Ledvina. The Ursulines were allowed o carry out a parish-wide fundraising. Bishop Ledvina invited the Oblate Superiors to help run the chapel and school. The Oblates were men of vision who saw faith and education as an integral part of the parochial school. The Oblates made the modernization of the church and school their goal.
Still in the 1920’s and 1930’s Our Lady of Guadalupe School went through a cycle common to schools on the border. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 had driven thousands of refugees across the border. Many of these, on their arrival in Laredo, preferred to send their sons and daughters to the familiar parish schools, with their traditional Catholic teachings, and where everyone spoke Spanish.
But in succeeding years, families came under the traditions of public schools, and then in the 1930’s came the Depression and hard times. Toward the late 30’s the student population had declined to about 50.
About that time a government program gave Our Lady of Guadalupe School a new lease on life. A housing project was carried out in the neighborhood, and given the name of Guadalupe too. The housing units of Colonia Guadalupe were modest, but they became the nucleus of a middle class neighborhood, which gave a new impulse to the school. by 1949, the number of students had risen to 225.
In 1944, under Father T. Cuevas, a fundraiser was started to build a new school and his successor, Father Balzola, “took up the idea with energy”. By 1948 there was $95,000 in the fund, enough to begin construction. The architectural firm of Julian and White from San Antonio was chosen to build the new school. The actual building contract was given to Antonio Medina and Peter Leyendecker from Laredo. Demolition of the old wooden building, which had served as parish hall, was begun on June 14, 1948, and a new two-story brick building was finished by February 1949. Bishop Mariano S. Garriga blessed it on March 27th.
The dream of the Oblates made in the 1920’s had finally come true. The new school saw an increase in the number of student enrollment; it now had 225 students. In 1956, as part of the school expansion program, an auditorium was added to the school complex. It became knows as Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Hall.
Since its founding, the philosophy of Our Lady of Guadalupe School has been to offer not only a good education but a good Catholic Christian Education. This philosophy has reminded constant throughout the years. This stability in philosophy has led to the loyalty and faith of the parents of this school community. Former students, now parents bring their own children to this school. They remember the stability they had as students. As part of its philosophy of stability, the school stresses sound religious and educational programs with emphasis on the personal concern for each student. Because there is only one class per grade level, the school’s philosophy is enhanced. The philosophy also stresses the incorporation of Hispanic culture in the formation of the Language Arts program. Children are taught to learn not only the word but also the deed. Each child is taught discipline and self-confidence. Christian values are integrated and taught to the students in the different subject areas. Our Lady of Guadalupe School, with this strong foundation, has continued to form the students both spiritually and intellectually.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is truly a shining example of the community. No longer a free school, there is a tuition charge for all students attending the school. Since it serves families with varying incomes, financial assistance is available. It has been a challenge to the church and community, but because of this “spirit” it continues to shine. Built in a poor area of the City of Laredo, Our Lady of Guadalupe School might have lasted but a few years. Perseverance by both Church leaders and the people of the community made the school what it is today.
It has and will continue to serve students of Los Dos Laredos.
In March 1999, the Lamar Bruni-Vergara Foundation graciously agreed to help Our Lady of Guadalupe School. Sepulveda Associates together with Leyendecker Construction took on the project of completely air-conditioning the school, lowering ceilings, and furnishing new lights. This will make Our Lady of Guadalupe School a place where students can study and work in comfort.
Sincere gratitude to Mr. J. C. Martin and the Honorable Judge Solomon Casseb, trustees for Lamar Bruni-Vergara Foundation for including Our Lady of Guadalupe School among the list of recipients included for contributions from the Foundation for the school year 1999-2000. Our thanks, too, to Mr. Ramiro Martinez for his interest and help in the renovation process at our Lady’s School.