Gym Mass is a key part of the holistic education offered at Brother Martin High School.
Brother Louis Couvillon, SC, leads the students, faculty and staff of Brother Martin High School in the celebration of the Eucharist, Fall of 2009. Brother celebrates a “gym mass” – where the entire school gathers in the Conlin Gym. While my only date for the photo is the fall semester of 2009, it’s clear this liturgy happened later in the semester. Too many students and teachers wear sweatshirts for this to be in August or September. I see BC and Mr. Rando (who was principal at the time) sitting to the right.
Evolution of school liturgies
The school’s approach to religious education over the last fifty years reflects, in many ways, the evolution of the Church. I stepped into what is now the “Cor Jesu Building” in the fall of 1971 and went to Room 101. After Louisiana History and English 8A, Brother Warren Laudumiey, SC, stepped in for Religion 8. The curriculum was post-Vatican II material. In retrospect, it was pretty solid. The Religion Department’s approach to the Eucharist was for each religion class to gather for a Mass in the chapel of the brother’s residence next door, each semester. The school didn’t gather as a whole for Mass. The BOSH made their “Nine First Fridays” devotion by celebrating Mass in the Resource Center each first Friday. These liturgies were optional. Students who chose not to attend would come to school later (the day ran on a “morning assembly schedule”) or sit in the Mall. While there were no liturgies for the underclass grades, Seniors gathered for their Ring Mass and Graduation Mass at local churches that could accommodate them.
Transition to whole-school liturgy
As the Church swung back from the changes of the Second Vatican Council, the Brother Martin faith community did so as well. By the time my boys (classes of 2006 and 2012) arrived at the school, the Religion Department coordinated a regular schedule of full-school events. Unlike those class Masses from the 70s, and the First Friday Masses, gym mass involves the concert band, student council, and others. The school has a Student Minister group, as well as a cadre of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. While the Archbishop harbors concerns about Catholics moving away from supporting the neighborhood parish, I wish he would cut the schools a break. A faith community at a high school can help teens form solid, positive impressions about the Church.
A note on Brother Louis: Brother was the last in the line of “priest-brothers” at BMHS. The late Brother Farrell Lorio, SC, was an ordained priest, as was Brother Ray Hebert, SC. When Brother Farrell passed, Brother Louis came to BMHS. He’s since been assigned up to New Jersey. Now, Fr. Paul Hart, BMHS Class of 1970, augments his parochial duties by serving as the school’s chaplain.
Graduation 1970 took place in the Rivergate Convention Center on Canal Street.
Brother Jean Sobert, SC, Director of Student Activities, gives last-minute instructions at Graduation 1970. The Charter Class of Brother Martin High School graduated in May, 1970. The commencement exercises took place at the Rivergate. Brother Jean speaks to a member of the NJROTC Color Guard, who participated in the ceremony. Brother Mark Thornton, SC, presided over the commencement as the school’s first principal.
The Class of 1970 set the tone for the opening and initial growth of the school. There was a lot of disappointment and sadness at the end of the 1968-69 school year. The students at Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius closed their schools. The classes of 1969 moved on. The rising seniors, along with the underclassmen, gathered on Elysian Fields in August of 1969 to open the new school. Brother Mark worked hard to bring the student bodies together, moving back and forth between Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius, talking to those rising seniors. He brought students into the planning over that interim summer.
One of the biggest things that unified Brother Martin in those first years was success in athletics. The basketball team, led by Coach Andy Russo, brought state championships home that first year, and in the 1970-71 season as well. Those teams combined the athletes from both schools. The 1969-70 team not only won state, but was ranked at the top of several national polls at the end of the season. The gym, now named for Coach Bob Conlin, offered a great (if not a tad warm) facility for basketball games. The facility held the entire student body and faculty for Mass and other assemblies.
Athletic success blended the disparate faculties and student bodies almost completely by the Fall of 1971. That’s when the football team won the 4-A state championship. The final game pit the Crusaders against neighborhood rival, St. Augustine High School, at Tad Gormley.
With the combination of Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius, class size exceeded 300 in grades 9-12. (Eighth Grade was about 100 students.) The school required a larger facility for commencement. While St. Frances Cabrini Church, on Paris Avenue, was a lovely place for Cor Jesu commencements, even that facility would be crowded. The Rivergate Convention Center opened in 1968. It provided a location large enough to accommodate faculty, student body, parents and guests.
The Cor Jesu prom favor for 1969 was a miniature senior ring.
Cor Jesu prom favor
Photo of the last prom favor for Cor Jesu High School in Gentilly. The school formally closed after the graduation of the Class of 1969. I don’t know the full story on this favor, perhaps someone from that year does. Schools usually offered these miniature rings as favors for the seniors’ ring dances. I suspect this was special because senior prom in 1969 was one of the last events.
Brother Martin High continued the tradition of these miniature rings as dance favors. I bought one for my date to the ring dance in the fall of 1975. I’m not sure how long after that the tradition continued. Another for the younger guys! I know this went out of fashion by the time my boys attended BMHS (classes of 2006 and 2012).
Speaking of dance favors, who had the big beer schooners as prom favors? While those lasted through the 1970s, they didn’t make it to my sons’ time. The class of 1970’s favors said, “Charter Class.” The favors in 1973 said, “First All-Martin Class.” At the time, they gave the title to 1973, since they attended BMHS from Freshmen to Senior. In 1974, Mark Romig wrote a short article for the student newspaper, arguing that 1974 was the first true All-Martin class. A number of graduates that year attended the school for five years, starting in eighth grade. The number of eighth graders was small at that time, less than a third of the graduating class. The trend of starting high school in eighth grade didn’t pick up until later. So, 1973 was All-Martin.
My class, 1976, was the next prom favor to have a special designation. We were the “Bicentennial Class.” At the time, most of us were experiencing Bicentennial burn-out. By prom, we figured, so long as they didn’t make the favor itself red-white-and-blue, it would be OK.
If you’ve got photos of prom and ring dance favors, please share them!
The main entrance at Brother Martin High School in 1971.
BMHS Main Entrance
From Yesterday 1972, this photo shows the main entrance to Brother Martin High School in its third year of existence. To the left is the oeriginal Cor Jesu building. To the right is the lobby and administration wing. The main entrance connected old and new. Over time, these doors were secured, and entrance and exit routed through other parts of the campus. The Cor Jesu building dates to the predecessor school’s opening in 1954. The building served as a Civil Devense “fallout shelter” in the late 1950s and 1960s. The iron-lettered “Brother Martin High School” sign said, “Cor Jesu High School” until May of 1969, when Cor Jesu was formally closed. The sign changed that Summer. Three years later, I walked through those doors, as an Eighth grader.
The Old Building
In 1971, the classrooms that fronted Elysian Fields Avenue didn’t have a specific name/designation. The first classroom to the left of the main entrance was Room 101. As Eighth graders, my class, 8A, had our first three classes in that room, Louisiana History, English 8A, and Religion. The 8B class was in room 102, and 8C in 103. That way the three teachers could move easily between the classes each morning. The hallway ended with the Physics Lab.
The interior side of the building contained the audio-visual storage room, faculty room, and a science lab, for 8/9th Physical Science. My 8A class ended the day in that lab, with Mr. Lloyd Brinker (SA65). Our lockers were right around the corner from that lab, in the stairwell. A simple covered walkway connected that side of the building with the Brother’s Residence next door.
Place Sacre Couer
In 1994, the BOSH changed the access layout of the school. While the main entrance was welcoming, it always had a significant design flaw. Visitors to the school could enter the campus unobserved. This also included the lake-side door of the old building. So, the school modified the traffic patterns. The main entrance remained unlocked, but students were discouraged from entering and exiting through it. The school transformed the front from a basic walkway to a formal plaza, “Place Sacre Couer.” All the BOSH school principals alive at the time gathered for a formal dedication.
Brother Leo Godin in the “Bursar’s Office,” in the late 1970s.
Brother Leo, SC
Working the Brother Martin High School bookstore was Brother Leo Godin, SC’s job in the late 1970s. Note the all-khaki uniform of the time. I can’t identify the student in this photo. If you can, please drop me a line or mention it in comments!
The “Bursar’s Office”
At a college or university, the Bursar was the school’s financial manager. While the financial and accounting operations at BMHS were in the “Business Office,” at the beginning of the Administration hallway, the bookstore stood in the Mall, next to the (original) Library and behind the Auditorium. The Bursar’s Office serviced students. The Business Office didn’t want to deal with students, beyond accepting tuition payments from home.
Since a college bursar’s office interfaced directly with students, I suspect this is why the Brothers labelled the bookstore this way. In reality, it wasn’t a financial office. It was where you grabbed a candy bar or a new t-shirt for P.E. class.
The selection of crimson-and-gold merchandise increased dramatically after my time (1971-1976) at school. We were just getting team- and club-specific shirts and sweatshirts by my junior and senior year. By the late 70s and into the 80s, parents were more willing to open up their wallets to buy their sons that spirit tee, or that Crusader cap.
Managing the bookstore
Responsibility for the bookstore fell upon a more-or-less “retired” Brother. There were more of those men around, back in the day. The older brothers lived in the residence next to the original Cor Jesu building. Even though these brothers weren’t in the classroom, they still helped out. Brother Marion in the downstairs resource center, Brother Eugene in the upstairs resource center, and Brother Leo in the bookstore.
Brother Leo taught me Algebra I in 8th grade. The whole four-courses-in-three-years for Math was in place since the start of the school, but all three 8th grade sections, A, B, and C in 1971-72 got “regular” Algebra I. Brother Leo was an old-school teacher. While I moved on to “regular” Geometry, rather than Brother Neal’s Geometry A, the foundation Brother Leo gave us was solid.
It doesn’t surprise me that Brother Leo was one of the teachers who didn’t want to let go of the school experience. Teaching can be a grind. Spending some time talking to the boys, even over the counter and that glass barrier was a great way to keep going.
Andy Bourgeois becomes the first football coach at Cor Jesu.
Mr. Andy Bourgeois was the first head football coach at Cor Jesu High School. The school announced it would compete in Catholic League athletics in the fall of 1964. So, Cor Jesu’s administration named its first athletic staff in January, 1965.
From its opening in 1954 until 1965, Cor Jesu High School’s defined its mission as a college prep school. While the other BOSH school in New Orleans, St. Aloysius, had athletics, Cor Jesu focused on academics. St. Aloysius High School operated as a holistic school. Cor Jesu, on Elysian Fields in Gentilly, went for the “smart boys.”
By the mid-1960s, the BOSH changed Cor Jesu’s mission. The BOSH looked ahead at the viability of the St. Aloysius campus at Esplanade and N. Rampart. Since the Aloysius building opened in 1925, it aged poorly. The Institute decided their future was on Elysian Fields, with the newer facilities.
Athletics at Cor Jesu
If the BOSH were to consolidate their efforts on Elysian Fields, the campus needed an athletic department. They had the land for this. They needed the staff. On January 30, 1965, Brother Roland, SC, Cor Jesu’s principal, introduced Andy Bourgeois at a meet-and-greet dinner. The school cafeteria provided the setting for the event.
Bourgeois was known to New Orleans, and specifically to the BOSH faith community. He graduated from St. Aloysius in 1956. As an undergraduate at LSU, Bourgeois was one of the “Chinese Bandits” that won the football national championship in 1958.
About 400 boys from the school attended the dinner event with their parents. Brother Roland introduced Coach Bourgeois. Brother presented Coach with the first “letterman” sweater for Cor Jesu. Bourgeois drove around to elementary schools in Gentilly. He introduced himself and kicked off the school’s recruiting.
Brother Roland introduced two coaches at that 30-January-1965 dinner. While Bourgeois and football received top billing, Brother also introduced Cor Jesu’s first basketball coach. Robert Conlin, a graduate of De La Salle and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, led the Kingsman’s basketball program. He also assisted Bourgeois with football. When the two schools combined in 1969, Bourgeous left. Conlin became Brother Martin’s first head football coach. So, that’s how Conlin’s legend began. Andy Russo, moved from head basketball coach at St. Aloysius to Brother Martin.
The decision to add athletics sparked new development on Elysian Fields. Cor Jesu built the massive gymnasium building. Brother Martin later named the gym for Coach Conlin.