History of Nazareth Schools
Shortly after the Civil War, Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid asked the Sisters of Saint Joseph to help establish a system of parochial schools in the newly formed Rochester Diocese. The congregation responded by opening Nazareth Academy in 1871 and Nazareth Hall in 1884, both named for the town where Jesus spent his youth.
The histories of the Nazareth Schools clearly demonstrate the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s unwavering commitment to providing quality Catholic education to all children regardless of faith heritage, ethnicity, or financial circumstances. For 150 years — through times of prosperity and depression, peacetime and world wars — Nazareth has responded to the times.
Owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph since 1871, Nazareth Academy began in the former home of Major John Williams on Jay Street. Thirty female students in Grades 2-10 attended the first year. Since its very beginning, Nazareth has stayed true to the ideals of its founders: Create and maintain a fine academic institution with the highest standards of educational excellence, without making distinctions for race, ethnic background or social class.
In May 1884, an opportunity to purchase more land led to the establishment of another school under the Nazareth name. Nazareth Hall began as a school for young boys, and evolved to become a coeducational learning center for students from Preschool through Grade 8.
In 1915, a new Nazareth Academy campus opened on Lake Avenue to accommodate the education of more young women than ever before. In 1992, the Hall and the Academy combined under one organization: The Nazareth Schools, a Preschool-Grade 12 system.
In 2009, as many Catholic schools across the diocese struggled with decreasing enrollment and others had closed their doors, the Sisters of St. Joseph realized that once again it was time to take an unbiased look at both schools and determine a course of action.
In 2010, the Sisters closed Nazareth Academy, and Nazareth Hall moved into the Nazareth Academy building. The name changed to Nazareth Elementary and served children in Preschool through Grade 6. The Sisters of St. Joseph partnered the elementary school with neighboring Aquinas Institute. Grades 7-12 were at the Aquinas Institute on Dewey Avenue until 2015-2016 when Aquinas added Grade 6 to their campus. Nazareth Elementary continued to be a PK-6 school. Although these two institutions had separate governance and finances, there was collaboration between the two in a few areas.
In 2015, the Sisters of St. Joseph sold the Academy campus to Education Success Network. ESN’s goal was to lease to charter schools. In 2017, another chapter began when Nazareth Elementary moved to the former Sacred Heart Cathedral School on Flower City Park and started leasing the building from Sacred Heart Parish.
Nazareth Elementary remains owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. It continues to be a presence of hope in the city and the Maplewood neighborhood, while also serving children from the city and several surrounding districts. The spirit of Nazareth lives on!